When the football team comes out of the tunnel on Saturday against Utah State, its entrance will likely be subdued — at least compared to last week.
USC’s shenanigans coming out of the tunnel prior to playing Alabama last Saturday was a topic of discussion during Wednesday’s practice at Howard Jones Field as the team continued preparations for its home opener against Utah State.
New Day, Different Controversy
Junior JuJu Smith-Schuster made headlines when he sparked an inter-squad scuffle during USC’s practice on Tuesday, but the wideout was back on the field with a more level head come Wednesday. Instead, the buzz shifted to the team’s unusual pre-game entrance onto the field at AT&T Stadium last weekend, when a few Trojan players drew attention to themselves with some dramatic posturing at the mouth of the tunnel.
Head coach Clay Helton said the staff was less than impressed by Saturday’s display and had addressed the issue with the squad.
“We had a couple kids who decided to let the pageantry mean more than the game,” he said. “It’s a learning lesson for us. Like I said, we’re not only building a team here but also a program and a culture.”
Sophomore linebacker Cameron Smith said he didn’t even see the entrance until he logged onto social media after the game, but he didn’t anticipate a repeat performance this weekend at the Coliseum.
“Some of the coaches said some stuff,” he said. “So I don’t know if that’ll be happening again.”
Returning to issues on the gridiron, the Trojans have spent the week digesting their mistakes against the Tide and preparing for their newest challenge against Utah State. It isn’t easy simultaneously gleaning lessons from a season opener against the defending national champions and getting ready for another game in three days, but the team is raring to go and rising to the challenge.
“No one’s feeling sorry for us, so we can’t feel sorry for ourselves,” Smith said. “We have to move on and play the next game.”
Junior cornerback Adoree’ Jackson echoed his teammate’s comments and remained bullish on the rest of USC’s football season.
“We’re pretty hungry to get out there and play,” he said. “A lot of people think this is the end of the season for us, but we’ll come out stronger. One game doesn’t define you.”
Utah State will arrive in Los Angeles hunting for an upset over unranked USC, who dropped out of the AP Top 25 this week after starting the preseason at No. 20. Helton described his upcoming opponent as a “good coverage team,” and the Trojan defense has been preparing for the Aggies’ dual-threat quarterback, junior Kent Myers.
Of course, it was a fleet-of-foot signal caller who wreaked havoc against USC in Arlington last week, and Trojan defenders are keen to put their mistakes against Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts behind them.
“They beat us on missed communications and missed assignments—you know, busted coverages and things like that,” safety Chris Hawkins said.
Junior center Toa Lobendahn remained out of practice with a knee injury, and Helton said the team was awaiting the results of an MRI before proceeding any further. Redshirt junior defensive tackle Khaliel Rodgers was also sidelined with a hamstring issue. Sophomore wide receiver Deontay Burnett had his practice cut short with a shoulder sprain, and junior safety John Plattenburg continued to move through concussion protocol. Sophomore Noah Jefferson was still out with a shoulder injury.