Practice for No. 18 USC was a little bit louder than usual on Thursday morning. In fact, “Mighty Oregon,” the university’s fight song, blared as the offense and defense took the field to take part in the Trojans’ last practice before Saturday’s huge matchup with the Ducks.
The Trojans have been emulating the loud Autzen Stadium all week in an effort to simulate what it will be like playing in such a loud environment. Senior defensive tackle Christian Tupou knows it will be hard to hear his teammates, even those standing right next to him.
“As close as [he was standing next to me as I interviewed him] we’d have to be screaming to hear each other,” Tupou said. “It says a lot about their crowd.”
The loud crowd of around 59,000 at Autzen Stadium will not be the only thing the Trojans have to worry about; the Ducks own the fifth-best running game in the country, averaging almost 300 yards per game. As an offense, they average close to 47 points per game.
“[They’re] just fast paced. They’re [going to] come out, no huddle, they feed off their crowd. They’re just explosive,” Tupou said.
Coming off a big win against Washington, the Trojans are feeling confident in their defense.
“In terms of what went well … we kept it all about us,” Tupou said. “It was a big game for us, but our mentality wasn’t set on that; it was set on doing things right on the practice field.”
Tupou said that the key to slowing down Oregon is to play sound, mistake free football.
“You just gotta play good football. There’s no ‘stop that one guy’,” Tupou explained. “You gotta play well on all three levels: D-line, linebackers and [defensive backs] … You gotta be assignment perfect.”
Tupou explained that to stop Oregon’s explosive offense that includes quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James at its core, all the key components he listed must be performed in tandem.
“If you wanna call yourself a great defense, that’s what you gotta do,” he said.
Though this is another nationally televised game for the Trojans, they are not caught up in the hype surrounding the contest. To Tupou, this is another game, and every game is to be treated the same: as a “must-win.”
“Just like Minnesota was in game one, this is game 11,” Tupou said. “It’s a must win; every game’s a must win.”