2014 Trojan Tip-Off

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The 2014-15 USC men's and women's basketball teams will be introduced Sunday at the annual Trojan Tip-Off event at Galen Center, which is FREE to the public.  The fun starts at 11:30 a.m.!


Peaking at the Right Time

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Just like football, USC women's soccer is headed up to the Pacific Northwest this weekend to battle Washington (Friday at 4 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks) and Washington State (Sunday at 1 p.m.).  The road finale pits Keidane McAlpine against his old team with which he won Pac-12 Coach of the Year last season.

The Trojans are coming off back-to-back double overtime victories leading the head coach to say, "We finally saw what we've been wanting to see all season. We played two games with great intensity, showed unbelievable fight in some tough conditions against some tough opponents, so I was really pleased with the weekend."

Here is McAlpine's entire weekly update:

Trojans Live - Washington State Week

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This week on Trojans Live head coach Steve Sarkisian discussed the Trojans' heartbreaking loss to Utah, what it takes to finish games and facing the conference's best passing offense at Washington State this Saturday.

Click here to watch Sarkisian on Trojans Live.

The always entertaining USC women's basketball head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke stopped by the show to give us a preview on the upcoming season.

Click here to watch Cooper-Dyke on Trojans Live.

"The Big Cat" aka USC DE Leonard Williams also joined the show to talk lions, preparing for Washington State's potent pass attack and leading the Trojans in 2014.

Washington State Wednesday: Notes

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With injuries piling up, several players will get increased opportunities to shine this week.
  • DE Leonard Williams (shoulder) and DT Antwaun Woods (illness) did not actively participate in practice, but both are expected to play. WR George Farmer (hamstring) and S Gerald Bowman are positively on the mend, while WR Ajene Harris (hamstring) and FB Soma Vainuku (hamstring) could take more time.
  • After evaluating his practice film, Toa Lobendahn is the projected starter at left tackle. "He looked really good. He looked athletic," said head coach Steve Sarkisian who suggested this could be Lobendahn's future position. "We've always thought his strength were his feet at guard, and at tackle, I thought it really showcased his feet."
  • With Lobendahn vacating his left guard spot and Damien Mama (knee) dealing with an injury, Khaliel Rodgers is in line for his first career start. "Khaliel is really back 100% healthy again," Sarkisian said. "He's an excellent puller. That's one of his strengths to his game."
  • Senior Aundrey Walker will fill a Swiss Army role backing up at four different positions.
  • Connor Halliday attempted an astounding 79 passes last week against Arizona. "They might throw the ball 85 times on Saturday," said Sarkisian. "That could conceivably happen, which is hard to even say never mind watch. We just have to be patient. We can't get hung up if they complete some balls."
  • The defensive backs know they are in for a busy day. "We've just got to be ready and when the ball is in the air, we've got to make plays, win our one-on-ones and come down with the ball," said CB Kevon Seymour.
  • With another tough offense on deck, Su'a Cravens spoke with urgency about the USC defense, "Grow up. Do your job. That's all you have to worry about. We haven't been doing that, especially in the fourth quarter, and that's why we've been losing games."
  • Cravens is one of the leaders of this team that continues to set the tone by bringing high intensity to practice despite the heartbreaking losses. "Our guys, 'the marquee guys,' they probably practice harder than anyone else and that sends a great message to their teammates," Sarkisian said.
  • In place of J.R. Tavai, Charles Burks and Quinton Powell will get opportunities this week because they are "natural pass rushers," so they have a chance to "play to their strengths," said Sarkisian.
  • While Utah did not test the Trojans young secondary much, the Cougars will make John Plattenburg, Jonathan Lockett and Chris Hawkins show what they can do. "When you get thrown in the fire, you've got to make plays," said Seymour. "We trust each other and we trust the freshmen, they've come a long way from camp. We're confident in each other."
  • If the Trojans end up in another close game, they have to fight the "here we go again" feeling. "It's going to take one of these games for us to really do it the right start to shift the thought process there," said the head coach. "We're all at our best when we play with belief and not hope."
  • Here is Sarkisian's morning press conference...


Graduation Rate Data Released

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The NCAA today released the latest Graduation Success Rate data, which measures how many student-athletes in the classes of 2004 through 2007 graduated within six years of their enrollment.

USC student-athletes who entered Troy in those years had an overall GSR of 80%, up 3 percentage points from last year.  Of USC's 21 sports, a third had a team GSR above 90%, including 100% for women's golf and women's volleyball.

The Trojan football team's GSR of 58% was up 5 percentage points from the previous year.  That number is projected to rise into the 70% range in the next few years' GSR announcements. 

Of the 65 football players in the current 2004-07 cohort, 33 played in the NFL and 17 of those NFLers (including Mark Sanchez, Malcolm Smith, Jordan Cameron and Jeff Byers) got their USC degrees within the six-year GSR calculation period.  The other 16 NFL Trojans from that cohort left school after their final fall season in order to prepare for the NFL and didn't finish their graduation requirements in that six-year window.  But four of those 16 have since returned to campus and graduated while another will graduate this fall, bringing to 66% of the cohort's football players to get a USC degree.  And five others likely will re-enroll at USC in the spring to complete their degree work, which means that 74% of the 2004-07 cohort will be USC graduates.

The USC men's basketball team's GSR rose 12 percentage points from last year to 67%, just shy of the national average of 71%.  The Trojans turned out a number of NBA players during that 2004-07 era, including Nick Young, Taj Gibson, O.J. Mayo and Gabe Pruitt.  Every USC men's basketballer in that cohort who didn't play in the NBA has graduated.

"The 2004-07 period was a golden era for football and men's basketball at USC, with many future professionals on those rosters," said Dr. Magdi El Shahawy, USC senior associate athletic director in charge of Student-Athlete Academic Services.  "Our GSR in those sports is somewhat a victim of our athletic success during that time frame. 

"To get a true snapshot of our academic performance then, one needs to look at our sports programs across the board.  Our overall 80% figure is very close to the national rate, which is at 82%.  And if you take football and men's basketball out of the equation, our GSR would be 87%, which would place us among the Pac-12's top four schools if every school's GSR was calculated without those two sports."

2014 NFL Week 8

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The Best

Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals - 20/42 for 329 yards and 2 TDs

Carson-Palmer3.jpgEver since his days at USC and maybe even before, Palmer threw one of the best deep balls the sport has ever seen.  He has a natural talent to use his arm cannon to launch footballs high into the air and drop them softly in a receiver's hands without the pass catcher having to break stride.  If any further evidence was needed, the veteran pulled off the trick again Sunday to beat the Eagles.  Down late in the fourth quarter, Palmer hit John Brown for a 75-yard game-winning touchdown pass to move Arizona to 6-1 on the season.

Best of the Rest

Robert Woods, WR, Bills - 3 catches for 50 yards and a TD

Troy Polamalu, DB, Steelers - 6 tackles (5 solo) including a sack

Everson Griffen, DE, Vikings - 4 solo tackles including two for loss and a sack

Jordan Cameron, TE, Browns - 3 catches for 40 yards

Nickell Robey, CB, Bills - 7 tackles (5 solo)

Malcolm Smith, LB, Seahawks - 8 tackles (4 solo)

T.J. McDonald, S, Rams - 7 tackles (6 solo)

Shareece Wright, CB, Chargers - 4 solo tackles and 2 passes defended

Clay Matthews, OLB, Packers - 2 tackles including a sack

Jurrell Casey, DT, Titans - 5 solo tackles plus a QB hit

RB Silas Redd enjoyed Washington's victory on Monday Night Football.

The thrill of victory. #WASvsDAL (@tapiaphoto/NFL)

A photo posted by @nfl on

Pullard Named Butkus Semifinalist

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USC senior LB Hayes Pullard is one of 15 linebackers to make the semifinal cut for the Butkus Award.  Pullard leads the Trojans with 59 tackles on the season.

Click here for the complete list.

The Pac-12 accounts for a third (5/15) of the Butkus Award semifinalists. 


Extending the Legacy

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Freshman point guard Jordan McLaughlin chose USC over UCLA, Kansas and Indiana among many others. Instead of joining a traditional power, he chose to be the foundational piece of a basketball rebirth at USC under Andy Enfield.

But the Trojans are not without tradition.  Among the retired jerseys hanging in the Galen Center rafters, Bill Sharman's No. 11 lives in suspended perpetuity.

Sharman had the most successful professional basketball career of any Trojan. He was a four-time NBA champion as a player with the Boston Celtics and also coached the Los Angeles Lakers to the 1972 title.

Sharman died a year ago this month. But before he departed, he gave his consent to Pat Haden that his No. 11 could be passed down to McLaughlin, the bright future of the USC basketball legacy that Sharman helped build, and he was looking forward to seeing him play.

For his part, McLaughlin is honored to wear the number, which he donned in high school, and would have worn another uniform if No. 11 was not made available. While a lot of expectations are being heaped on the youngsters shoulders, he has embraced the responsibility every step of the way.

"He came to USC to be relied upon as a freshman, and he'll get that opportunity," Enfield said about McLaughlin at Pac-12 Media Day.

The Trojan Family can meet McLaughlin and the team this Sunday at the Trojan Tip-Off beginning with Fan Fest inside Galen Center at 11:30 a.m. Scrimmages start at 12:30 p.m. and admission is FREE.


Polish Up for the Women of Troy

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Merle Norman, the world leader in women's beauty products, and OPI, the world leader in the professional nail care industry, are the first corporate sponsors dedicated solely to the Women of Troy.  As part of the announcement, OPI is releasing two new USC nail lacquers, Trojan Fever and We pLAy for the Gold, which were named and designed by the Women of Troy.

The Cardinal and Gold colors will be available for purchase at the USC Bookstore, online at or by phone at 213-740-1636. The revenue generated will help support Women of Troy athletics.


Washington State Tuesday: Notes

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The Trojans are showing their resiliency once again with a spirited practice after a tough loss.
  • The injury list is not a pretty picture these days. In case you missed it, LT Chad Wheeler (torn ACL) is out for the season, and OLB J.R. Tavai (sprained knee) is out 3-4 weeks.  Plus, FB Soma Vainuku (hamstring) remains doubtful. OL Damien Mama aggravated his early season knee injury in practice today.
  • WR George Farmer (hamstring) and WR Ajene Harris (hamstring) were able to get in some practice work. S Gerald Bowman is also back on the practice field.
  • Without Wheeler, freshman Toa Lobendahn moved out to left tackle, which slots Khaliel Rodgers or Mama in at left guard.  Aundrey Walker is still a candidate to start at left tackle, and Nathan Guertler could be back in the rotation. "Chad went down, I'm going to miss him, but we've got to fill in the spot so coach let me know I was going to play tackle this week," said Lobendahn. "It might change by game time."
  • Lobendahn played left tackle throughout high school, but he needs to get back into rhythm having mentally switched to the interior line spots this year. "It felt good, high school memories," said Lobendahn. "It was fun being out there. It's a lot more thinking just because I haven't been playing there all year but it's going to be fun."
  • If Walker is going to hold off the freshman, he needs to find more "consistency" in his game, explained Sarkisian, who talked to the senior about that today. "He's got a great opportunity this week."
  • On the outside, the Trojans are relying on freshman as well, and JuJu Smith has rewarded that faith with touchdowns in back-to-back games. "I've been growing throughout the season very well as a young freshman coming," Smith said. "I'm just doing anything I can to help in any way possible."
  • As a team, the Trojans are still in search of the "killer instinct" it takes to finish off opponents. "I have not done a good enough job of developing that yet," Sarkisian took the blame. "We found a way not to win those two games, and that falls solely on me."
  • Again, despite a depleted roster, Sarkisian makes no excuses, "We are good enough to win. I feel like we should be a 7-1 football team right now and undefeated in conference play."
  • Since the game ended, Sarkisian has been searching in his motivational bag of tricks for ways to inspire the team to play a complete game. "I need to be creative. I need to find ways to reach these guys better than I have," he said.
  • Here is Sarkisian's full press conference...