For the first time since training camp, No. 13 USC conducted a full practice on a Sunday afternoon.
USC plays Thursday at 6 p.m., so the practice schedule has been a little bit different the past few days, with no practice Thursday but one on Friday.
USC coach Lane Kiffin maintains that, despite the time off because of the bye week, the intensity at practice has been at a high level.
“We’ve done our best to really coach extremely hard and really get on them,” Kiffin said. “[We] wanted to make sure they really felt our intensity here and I think our staff did a good job of that.”
Kiffin said that Sunday’s practice was highlighted by the defense, specifically by the defensive front, which was especially stout in its contest against Cal on Sept. 22 after being exposed against Stanford the week before.
“I thought the defense practiced really well today,” Kiffin said. “After having a day off [which is] unusual, it was good. I thought we really came out, especially the defensive front … because any time you go on the road for a conference team, you’re going to need that.”
The coaching staff and players acknowledge that Thursday’s game is going to have a lot of spotlight on it, as it will be the only Football Bowl Subdivision game going on that day. Kiffin also knows that Utah has highlighted the game, with reporters at Pac-12 media day citing it as one of the school’s biggest games of the year.
“I think that anytime when no other game’s going and everybody’s going to watch you, it becomes more of a statement game for the team that’s considered the underdog,” Kiffin said.
With the weekend off, coaches and players had the chance to catch football from around the country, including Saturday’s West q game, which featured nearly 700 passing yards and eight scoring tosses from West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith.
“I kind of saw the numbers as it was going on,” Kiffin said. “I don’t know how you do that. It’s just amazing. I was talking to [junior wide receiver Robert Woods and sophomore wide receiver Marqise Lee] and said ‘It’s hard to do that [against] air or a service team.’”
Woods was also impressed by the efforts of the West Virginia offense when he watched the game’s highlights.
“A great offense putting up great numbers,” Woods said. “Back and forth on both sides, a great job to them.”
The Trojans’ opponents to date have had a rough go of it this season, sporting a combined 6-11 record, with three of those victories coming from Stanford. Kiffin does not compare the teams USC has already played to those that appear later on the schedule and pays the comparisons no mind.
“I think that comparing games, and who you play … I just don’t think that that means very much,” Kiffin said. “We shouldn’t go play Washington then because we’re going to lose to them because they beat Stanford and we lost to Stanford.”