Football looks ahead to hosting Colorado

Junior wide receiver Michael Pittman has recorded 209 yards on 11 receptions. (Emily Smith | Daily Trojan)

Following the bye week, USC held its first practice of the week as they prepare for No. 19 Colorado. The players and coaches felt this was one of their strongest practices yet.

“Today was one of our better practices of the season,” offensive coordinator Tee Martin said. [I’m] really excited about the way they approached today.”

The bye week helped freshman quarterback JT Daniels recover from the brutality of college football, something his body isn’t used to.

“I was tired and sore, ” Daniels said. “Now I’m not as tired and not as sore.”

Daniels has demonstrated poise in the past couple games, an improvement he hopes to carry against a tough Pac-12 South opponent this Saturday.

The team made sure to make use of the bye week to smooth out the connection between the Daniels and his receivers, which junior wide receiver Michael Pittman said is improving.

“I think the bye week was good to get us fresh, but it kind of did get us off beat,” Pittman said. “But I felt like today we got back.”

The offense has worked on the small things, attempting to fine-tune the details. In spite of two early losses, the team still has the same goal it did at the start of the year — win the Pac-12.

“[The Colorado game] is a chance to … get a win,” Pittman said. “Help us get to the next game, [and] next game until we get to the championship, [then] the playoff, until we get to the College Football Championship.”

Last year, the team didn’t have a bye until the last week, which made scouting difficult. Martin felt the extra time helped him pour through and break down the film.

“The secondary looks good with the two veterans that we played again a year ago,” Martin said. “The safeties are active up front. Overall, I think they’re a solid team [with a] solid defense. We’ll challenge our guys as much as we can to go out and identify the looks and communicate.”

Colorado leads the Pac-12 South standings at 5-0, but has not played a ranked opponent so far. Regardless, USC will have the challenge of containing sophomore wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., who already has over 700 yards and 10 touchdowns in five games. USC will have to defeat Colorado to keep its hopes of making a third consecutive Pac-12 Championship appearance.

“They are really a balanced offense,” head coach Clay Helton said. “Between the quarterback that can create and throw, a talented receiving core, and a running game. That’s one of the reasons they’re putting up 39 points a game.”

After collecting 18 penalties for 169 yards against Arizona in their last game, the Trojans are prioritizing a clean game this weekend.

“When you’re playing a team that’s 5-0, you cannot waste a possession,” Helton said. “You have to be able to get them off the field. They’ve been very good at keeping drives alive, spreading the ball around. But you’ve got to get off the field on third down. You cannot give them the opportunity with a penalty to get a first down.”

The coaching staff is taking responsibility as they look ahead realistically at the rest of their schedule.

“We had important talks in the office about the missed opportunities we’ve had [throughout the season], for whatever reason, and how we’re going to fix it,” Martin said.

Helton confirms Bolden’s departure

Helton confirmed that sophomore safety Bubba Bolden is no longer a member of the team. According to a post on his Instagram account, Bolden said he withdrew from the University following an incident at a party. His departure has been missed on the defense, as he was named the starter preseason but was suspended before the season began.

“I wish him nothing but the best,” Helton said. “[He’s a] good player, [and a] good kid. Hopefully it will be a very bright future for him. I know it will be.”

Injury report

Redshirt senior defensive lineman Malik Dorton is working through an ankle injury. Senior linebacker Porter Gustin has been holding back with an ankle injury, but participated in practice. Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Jay Tufele was involved in a car accident, and the team is taking precautionary measures before clearing him. The staff will reevaluate him later this week. Freshman safety Talanoa Hufanga is back from a quad injury. Sophomore linebacker Levi Jones is still dealing with illness. Freshman wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is back from a shoulder injury.