Head coach Steve Sarkisian called Tuesday’s practice a “thinking day,” as the Trojans polished their game plan for Washington. He appeared pleased, remarking that the team looked focused, and where they need to be.
Tuesday morning, Sarkisian showed his players a video of the Seahawks’ Kam Chancellor to express the importance of punching the ball out and never ending the play. USC has stressed creating turnovers all year, and they hope to build off their successful outing against Arizona State, where they had four.
“We think we can be unique in that way — at creating turnovers,” Sarkisian said. “I just don’t want to back off it. I want to make sure we are attacking the football defensively, and we are doing everything we in our power to take care of the ball on offense and on special teams.”
Thursday’s game dramatizes the paradoxical problem that is being a student-athlete.
Sarkisian said that some players are being bussed from the team hotel to campus to take midterms, and then being taken back to join the team before the game.
“I think that it is a great venue for us. We take pride in playing there,” Sarkisian said. “I think that people were trying to figure out: What is this new offense? When are we supposed to cheer? When is the band supposed to play after a first down? But I think that everyone is starting to catch on and that our students have been tremendous. I know everybody is excited about tomorrow night’s ball game.”
Sarkisian understands the plight his players withstand for the better of the team, on and off the field.
“We’ll handle it really well. We’ve got really good people in place to take care of our guys to make sure they are getting everything done, whether it is on field or off the field,” Sarkisian said. “I think that this is just another cool opportunity for us to show who we are and what we are about, and how we can handle more than just playing the game between the lines.”
At this point in the season, Sarkisian said the Trojans have figured out a few things about themselves. Though he admits that he expected “growing pains,” as a result of playing younger players as much as possible early in the year, he anticipates the in-game experience will develop the team’s depth going forward. And though they suffered a loss to Stanford, the college football landscape has shaped itself in a way so that USC just needs to keep winning to reach its ultimate goal of winning a championship.
“The best way to get better is if you have game experience and sometime through game experience we are going to have to live with some mistakes,” Sarkisian said. “But that is how we should get better. And over time, we should improve as a team, and I am more than optimistic that is what we are going to see here.”
Sarkisian said that though it is easy to want to celebrate after wins, players must keep learning and building from their game experiences.
“One of the themes we’ve been really hammering is ‘sharpening our sword’ because you can come out of a game and feel like you just beat a good Arizona State team and you can relax,” Sarkisian said. “But we have to continue to sharpen our sword. It has to happen every single day in practice so that we can use the sword on gameday, and we can perform to the best of our abilities.”
Sarkisian also said that cornerback Kevon Seymour will play his first game of the season Thursday.
Defensive lineman Claude Pelon was walking in a boot during practice. He has a high ankle sprain and X-rays came back negative. Sarkisian says he will be tested significantly tomorrow.
Darreus Rodgers is a game-time decision. Sarkisian says that he was running today, but he will also be assessed tomorrow.