No. 21 USC looks to rebound from a triple-overtime loss to Stanford as it prepares to travel to Boulder, Colo., to face Colorado, marking the teams’ first meeting since 2002. It also marks the first meeting between the two schools since the formation of the Pac-12.
Though the Buffaloes are winless in Pac-12 play, USC coach Lane Kiffin has told the team not to overlook its opponent.
“Colorado has played well at home and have done that for years,” Kiffin said. “[Its] blowouts, with the exception of Oregon, have been on the road.”
With the possibility of snow and inclement weather during the game, the Trojans aim to not let the forecast affect their mindset as they head into Friday’s game.
“Everyone will probably be in long sleeves but besides that, you can’t think about it,” junior defensive end Devon Kennard said. “If you don’t make it a factor, it won’t be a factor.”
Coming off a loss, junior quarterback Matt Barkley said USC should be ready.
“I think it will be an opportunity for us to dominate rather than just coast through,” Barkley said.
After a standout game against Stanford, junior tailback Curtis McNeal is looking for a repeat performance against Colorado. McNeal admitted his fumble in the third overtime offset his strong play earlier in Saturday’s game.
“It took a lot away from me,“ McNeal said. “It just really hit me hard because we played our hearts out in that game.”
Barkley said he has told McNeal to remain positive and focus on the game ahead.
“I know what’s going through his head,” Barkley said. “Right now, he is the best back we have and I have told him that [he] can’t pin [the loss] on [himself].”
Kiffin noted the team’s improvement of the defense and the team as a whole since the beginning of the season, especially in its last two contests against Notre Dame and Stanford. The Irish were limited to just 41 rushing yards and 2.9 yards per carry. The Cardinal, meanwhile, was limited to 3.9 yards per carry after coming in to the game averaging over five yards per carry. Though Stanford put up 56 points, the Trojans managed to sack Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck twice and sophomore Nickell Robey picked off the top Heisman candidate for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
“I think the impact of Nickell [Robey] playing well has been a big part of our improvement on defense,” Kiffin said. “He’s playing at a really high level, which is great to see from a kid that is only a true sophomore.”
Injuries have increased for the Trojans in recent weeks. Kiffin announced redshirt junior defensive end Wes Horton, redshirt sophomore cornerback Torin Harris, redshirt freshman linebacker Dion Bailey, freshman tailback George Farmer, senior tailback Marc Tyler and senior fullback Rhett Ellison did not practice.
Junior safety Jawanza Starling was limited in practice. Kiffin does not believe that Tyler will play on Friday.
Kiffin announced that redshirt junior safety Drew McAllister will be starting in place of junior safety T.J. McDonald during the first half against Colorado. McDonald is serving a first-half suspension after incurring a penalty for unnecessary roughness in last week’s game.
“[McAllister] has practiced really well and has more interceptions than anyone else in our practices,” Kiffin said. “It will be a great opportunity for him to step up.”
McDonald was penalized for targeting for the fourth time this season, with three coming against Arizona State in late September.
“I accept the penalty and I apologize to my team, Stanford’s team and to our fans,” McDonald said. “I’m going to figure out a way for this to not happen in the future.”
McDonald said he believes his first-half suspension is fair because he has been penalized before for harsh hits.
Kiffin was also fined $10,000 after publicly criticizing the officiating after Saturday’s game.
“I am sorry that all this happened and I have learned from this,“ Kiffin said. “Regardless of questions, I can’t answer anything that has to do with a call during a game or any conversation that an official has with me.”