After dropping an early season game to an unranked Pac-10 opponent for the second consecutive year, the Trojans are looking to right ship this week at the Coliseum against the Washington State Cougars.
Although the status of freshman quarterback Matt Barkley and senior All-American safety Taylor Mays are still day-to-day, USC coach Pete Carroll liked what he saw out of his team at practice yesterday.
“We came out and had a good day,” Carroll said. “We’ll do it one day at a time and get ourselves on track. The sense of urgency of doing things right is more obvious than ever in all phases, and we’re going to see if we can get going again.”
Barkley split throwing reps with redshirt sophomore quarterback Aaron Corp Monday as the freshman is trying to work his way back from a shoulder injury he suffered against Ohio State. While Barkley is still not 100 percent healthy, Carroll was encouraged what he saw in practice from his young quarterback.
“I’d love to see him get back out here and get back his spot,” Carroll said. “I don’t have any problem playing him if he’s OK this week. The fact that he could practice [Monday] was a great sign.”
Mays rested during most of practice Monday, as was planned by the coaching staff. He did participate in some running and back peddling drills, but he has still yet to go at full speed since injuring his right knee against the Buckeyes.
Even if both stars return to the Trojans this week, USC still has plenty of holes to fix both offensively and defensively if it hopes to win its remaining nine games of the regular season.
And Carroll is looking at himself and the coaching staff to address those issues.
“It’s more than just talk,” he said. “It’s habits, the sense of urgency and taking care of the ball. That’s why it’s my responsibility because it’s more than one guy.”
Carroll did emphasize that unlike last season’s loss against Oregon State where his team looked sluggish in the first half, the Trojans came out ready to play against the Huskies. But, he said, there are some parts of the game that can’t be controlled.
“Sometimes it’s the game, and as much as we work at it, it’s a great challenge to win every game. It’s a fantastic challenge,” he said.
After USC running backs combined for four fumbles Saturday at Washington, it was a mystery to some why redshirt junior running back C.J. Gable didn’t get any playing time.
Carroll revealed Sunday that Gable had the flu and he didn’t want to push him. But Monday’s at practice, Gable said he would have been ready to play if Carroll called his name.
“He said it looked like I wasn’t ready,” Gable said. “So I guess how I looked determines how I play I guess, but … if I say I’m ready to go, I’m ready to go. I know when my body is not ready to go.”
Gable also said it was frustrating to stand on the sideline and watch his fellow running backs lose the ball four times.
“If they fumble, and they get back in, then I guess those are the guys that can do that,” the running back said.
“Whenever I get my opportunities, I’m holding onto the ball, because it might be the last one I ever get,” he added.
Carroll said Gable has a chance to reclaim his spot in the rotation against Washington State.
Although he hasn’t started a game, redshirt freshman defensive end Nick Perry has made a strong case for a starting role early this season.
During USC’s first three games, Perry has racked up a team-high four sacks in a backup role and has recorded 10 tackles.
“He needs to play more for obvious reasons,” Carroll said. “He’s been so productive … Those are remarkable stats for a guy who hasn’t played very many snaps, so we’ve got to get him in the game more and see if he can keep going.”
Carroll also said if Perry has a good week at practice, he may start Saturday against the Cougars.
While four sacks in three games may seem tough to accomplish for a backup defensive end, Perry has an easy explanation for his success so far this year.
“Basically, I like getting at the quarterback a lot because I like making sacks. So, I have to just play to the best of my ability,” he said.