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2014 Game 9: USC vs. WSU

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USC Trojans (5-3, 4-2) at Washington State Cougars (2-6, 1-4)

Martin Stadium at 1:30 p.m. PT on Pac-12 Networks

Cougar to Watch: Senior QB Connor Halliday

Halliday-USC.jpgHalliday's numbers are ridiculous, although they do not often equate to winning.  He leads the nation in passing (479.1 yards per game) by a wide margin (69 yards per game more than anyone else), but the Cougars have only two wins.  He threw for 734 yards and 6 TDs with 0 INTs against Cal, but still lost the game.  Nevertheless, he remains a clear and present danger to the young USC secondary, which will be tested over and over and over again.

Click here for more on the Cougs.

3 Keys

No Holiday for Halliday

If Connor Halliday is going to throw it 80 times, and Mike Leach would like nothing more, the Trojans must find a pass rush, which is no easy task without J.R. Tavai.  Leonard Williams is always an interior force, but this game provides an opportunity for the rarely used duo of Charles Burks and Quinton Powell.  Neither player sees the field much because they are undersized at their positions, but against a one dimensional offense, Steve Sarkisian predicted that their skill sets could be put to good use.

Aim High

The Cougars give up 38 points per game on average, but the Trojans need to think bigger than that.  The winning score in this game could well be north of 50.  Wazzu has given up 59 and 60 in two of its last three games, although the Cougars held Oregon to 38 and Stanford to 34.  Nevertheless, rain or shine, the Trojans will see opportunities to exploit WSU's defense through pounding Buck Allen and going over the top to Nelson Agholor and JuJu Smith.  No matter how many points are on the board, the Trojans cannot afford to let up knowing the potency of Leach's attack.

Bye, Bye, Bye

The injury report lengthens by the week as the Trojans have not had a break since mid-September.  However, a modified bye week looms, so USC needs to find some way to go into the time off with positive momentum for the closing stretch.  The Trojans do not leave Los Angeles in the month of November, so whatever it takes, they need to grind out a win in Pullman leaving the rivalry triumvirate of Cal, UCLA and Notre Dame to define this season. Fight to the finish.

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One Week from Coliseum Soccer

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USC women's soccer will take over the Coliseum one week from tonight for a primetime (7:30 p.m. PT) kickoff against UCLA in the regular season finale.  Along with saluting the senior class, the Women of Troy want your help to break the attendance record, and they are giving away 2,500 Beat the Bruins scarves as incentive.

Click here for tickets!

Plus, 10 points will be on the line in the pursuit of the SoCal BMW Crosstown Cup.  Tickets are only $5.


Happy Halloween

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We had a USC Athletics pumpkin carving competition this week to celebrate Halloween.  Here are some of the best entries:

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SC Classics - USC vs. WSU in 1970

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On this Throwback Thursday, relive USC's drubbing of Washington State in 1970 when the Trojans hung 70 in the Palouse. It took another 35 years for USC to put 70 on the scoreboard when the Trojans lit up Arkansas in the 2005 season opener at the Coliseum.


Washington State Thursday: Sarkisian Presser

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USC head coach Steve Sarkisian provided some updated injury news and a weather report in his final press conference before the trip to Pullman to play the Cougars.


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.!

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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 way...to 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...


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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."