After grinding out one of its most impressive victories of the season against Oregon State, USC has some of its most important pieces of the puzzle come together again.
Junior wide receiver Marqise Lee appeared closer to full strength on the practice field, and sophomore tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick and freshman safety Su’a Cravens were also back on the field. Cope-Fitzpatrick is listed as probable to play on Saturday after missing Friday’s game.
Things are definitely headed in the right direction for a team that, after starting 0-2 in conference play, remains a contender in the Pac-12 South. With a game against last-place California on the horizon, players know the perils of taking their opponent too lightly.
“I don’t think anybody is overlooking them,” Lee said of the Golden Bears. “As far as mindset goes, we are all positive, and we know that we’ve got to go handle our business and play smart football.”
Interim head coach Ed Orgeron once again surprised his team this week, this time opting to serve In-N-Out burgers on Monday, much to the players’ delight.
“People enjoy that, and Coach O makes that happen, and we feel like as players in order to repay him, we got to give it all back,” Lee said.
The team appears to be responding well to Orgeron’s coaching techniques, as the Trojans are 3-1 since he took over for former coach Lane Kiffin following their loss to Arizona State.
USC’s positive attitude has been ramped up ever since Orgeron instilled a new sense of freshness into the team with his high energy level, and he doesn’t expect the Trojans to let up against Cal this Saturday.
“I would be concerned with a potential letdown if I didn’t trust this team as much as I do,” Orgeron said. “I’m confident that we are focused.”
Cal Prep Work
The biggest challenge for the USC defense, according to Orgeron, will be the Golden Bears’ spread offense. He also put an emphasis on stopping Cal’s many no-huddle looks.
USC offensive players acknowledge that Cal’s gameplan could be difficult to keep pace with.
“Cal has a very explosive offense and they move the ball with passing and play action very well,” Lee said.
After USC hired defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, who coached at Cal from 2010 t0 2012, Orgeron acknowledged that the Bears’ defense has appeared to have some “growing pains,” as they moved from the 3-4 scheme back to the 4-3.
The Golden Bears have allowed slightly more than 42 points per game through nine games, which ranks 122nd in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Cal defense is also giving up nearly 530 total yards per game and letting up just under 341 yards per game through the air.
They Call Him Buck
With freshman running back Justin Davis out for the season and redshirt sophomore running back Tre Madden not 100 percent while nursing a sore hamstring, redshirt sophomore running back Javorius “Buck” Allen stepped up for the Trojans against Orgeron State, rushing for 133 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries.
“I trust my speed, trust my technique and good things happen,” Allen said. “I thank the coaching staff for believing me and trusting me. The offensive linemen and my fullback did a great job, and we are out here continuing to get better.”
Orgeron reported Tuesday that Madden and senior outside linebacker Morgan Breslin will not play this Saturday against the Golden Bears.
According to Orgeron, both players could be out for an “extensive period of time,” though he would not comment on their status for games beyond this weekend.
Madden will see doctors on Wednesday to determine when he can expect to return to action.
Redshirt junior cornerback Anthony Brown and redshirt junior tight end Randall Telfer have also been ruled out for the Cal game. Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jordan Simmons and senior offensive tackle Kevin Graf are listed as questionable.
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