USC hopes to build upon narrow win

With no game scheduled for Saturday, USC’s first bye week of the season, the Trojans began using the additional practice time Tuesday to refresh and work on technique as they prep for California.

Second look · Freshman quarterback Max Wittek (left) took reps during Tuesday’s practice. Wittek has been with the team since the spring. - Chris Pham | Daily Trojan

USC is fresh off a 48-41 win over Arizona, which featured record-breaking performances for the Trojans.

Junior quarterback Matt Barkley surpassed Carson Palmer’s mark of 454 passing yards for the most passing yards in a single game by a USC quarterback with 468. Barkley also earned honors as the Pac-12 Player of the Week — the second time Barkley has been chosen in the last three weeks.

Sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods was five yards short of breaking the school single-game record for most receiving yards after notching 255 receiving yards.

On Tuesday, however, USC coach Lane Kiffin decided to give Barkley a short rest, opting to give freshman quarterback Max Wittek more reps.

The offensive line played a vital role in allowing Barkley to find his receivers on Saturday as the signal caller was not sacked. After a dismal game against Arizona State, offensive tackle Kevin Graf went back to the film room to correct his mistakes. Graf admits he was not focusing entirely on the opposing team.

“Instead of focusing on the other team for the first couple of days, I focused on myself and what I needed to change,” he said.

Graf plans to use the bye week to keep working on his technique to refine his game.

“Since we have so much time, it is a really good time to freshen up on the technique and everything I need to work on,” Graf said.

Junior safety T.J. McDonald believes the bye week has come at a perfect time for the Trojans.

“Coming off of a team like Arizona, we know that they had an explosive offense,” McDonald said. “We bent a little bit, but we didn’t break and we came out with the ‘W’.”

McDonald had two interceptions against Arizona, his first two of the season.

“It was a great feeling,” he said. “They finally came at the right time and against a quarterback that hadn’t thrown any for the whole year.”

With a week off before playing California on Oct. 13, the Trojans are using the extra time to rest and recover.

“It has come at a great time for us, especially with our issues on defense,” Kiffin said. “We have spent some extra time, so hopefully we can get Torin [Harris] and Lamar [Dawson] back.”

USC’s depth on the defensive side of the ball has been lacking. As senior linebacker Chris Galippo had to play every snap against Arizona State and Arizona, the coaching staff was also forced to mix and match players. Redshirt freshman Anthony Brown, as a result, got his first career start to replace Harris.

McDonald stressed the importance of utilizing the bye week effectively.

“The biggest thing is that we don’t take this time and just rest,“ he said. “Of course we need to rest our bodies and get healthy, but at the same time we’re going to stay in shape and actually get more conditioning.”

The Trojans will face the Golden Bears in familiar terrain: AT&T Park. The Trojans last played there in the 2009 Emerald Bowl against Boston College.

Graf said he is excited for the match-up.

“It’s different but it is going to be fun,” he said. “We are going to play in the Giants’ stadium so it should be a lot of fun.”

Kiffin emphasized the need to not let games like Saturday’s, in which the USC defense gave up a school-record 37 first downs and allowed quarterback Nick Foles to throw for 425 yards and four touchdowns, cloud the players’ collective mindset.

“We’ve got to be careful that we are not overreacting to a game or two,” Kiffin said. “We have to take it all in and look at who we are playing.”