The Trojans had their most physical practice of the week on Tuesday, according to interim head coach Ed Orgeron, as they continue to prepare for Friday night’s showdown with the Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis, Ore.
Though the team has a shorter amount of time to prepare for the Beavers, Orgeron believes that having a shorter week of practice could actually benefit the team because of its lack of depth.
“It is what is,” Orgeron said of the team’s numerous injuries. “We are going to have to accept the challenge.”
Orgeron has not wasted any time in simulating the hostile environment in Corvallis, as he brought out the speakers to project the loud crowd noise the players expect to hear Friday night at Reser Stadium.
“These noise simulations are especially important for the offense and getting snap counts right, but it also gets the guys fired up,” Orgeron said.
The main focus for defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and the USC defense this week is to find a way to stop Beavers quarterback Sean Mannion and the Beavers’ passing attack, which leads the nation in passing yards per game. Mannion leads the nation with 30 passing touchdowns and has only three interceptions through eight games.
Perhaps equally as impressive as Mannion this season has been OSU wide receiver Brandin Cooks. USC redshirt junior safety Dion Bailey gave most of the credit for the Beavers’ prolific passing attack to Cooks, who has 13 receiving touchdowns so far this season.
“Cooks is really good at catching balls down the field,” Bailey said. “We need to focus more about him than any of the other receivers.”
The Trojans’ passing defense ranks third in the Pac-12, and the team is ranked first in total defense, meaning the Beavers will have their work cut out for them.
“Something’s got to give,” senior safety Demetrius Wright said of Friday’s matchup. “It’s a tough, hostile environment that we are going to have to overcome.”
Perhaps the most notable moment from USC’s victory over Utah was Bailey’s return in the second half. Originally ruled inactive for the game, Bailey, who watched the first half in street clothes, decided to suit up and play in the second half after freshman safety Su’a Cravens left with a strained groin. Orgeron praised Bailey for overcoming adversity and stepping up for his teammates.
“It is tough for a player to skip practice and play at a level like Bailey did last week,” Orgeron said.
Bailey expects to suit up this Saturday as well, though he admitted that he felt hindered by his injury during the Utah game.
“I’m going to play as much as Coach [Pendergast] allows me to play,” Bailey said.
Bailey’s decision to play in the second half had a lot to do with his dedication to Orgeron, who has done many things in the way of inspiring his players following former head coach Lane Kiffin’s dismissal.
“Coach O has done a lot for us, and this has been a season to remember,” Bailey said. “Playing [on Saturday] was the least I could do.”
A big concern for Orgeron and his coaching staff against Notre Dame two weeks ago was the performance of junior kicker Andre Heidari, who missed two costly field goals in the 14-10 loss in South Bend, Ind.
Against Utah, Heidari was much improved, making four for five field goals in the 19-3 win over the Utes, garnering a nomination for Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week.
Heidari attributed his success to the help of a sports psychologist he often works with, and a general “on to the next one” attitude.
“I put it in the past,” Heidari said of his disastrous performance.
One thing USC wishes it could put in the past is the plethora of injuries the team has suffered lately. For this week’s game against the Beavers, senior outside linebacker Morgan Breslin and redshirt junior tight end Randall Telfer are not expected to play, while junior wide receiver Marqise Lee and redshirt junior tight end Xavier Grimble are questionable but expected to participate.
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