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October 2009 Archives

Game time

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EUGENE, Ore. -- A week full of hype is about to reach its pinnacle.

The Trojans are just minutes away from departing their Eugene hotel and traveling with a police escort for the two-mile trip to Autzen Stadium. Kickoff is set for 5:12 p.m., and the game will be televised nationally on ABC or ESPN2, depending on your location (it'll also be broadcast on several other platforms).

Immediately after the game, the Trojans will head to the airport and fly back to southern California, with an estimated arrival set for around 12:30 a.m. tonight. We'll have a full report from the game, including behind-the-scenes photos, after returning to L.A. late tonight, but in the meantime, we'll be posting occasional updates on USCRipsIt's Twitter. Here's the team's schedule for the rest of game day:

3:35 p.m. • Arrive at Autzen Stadium
4:03 p.m. • Warm-ups begin
4:30 p.m. • Stretching begins
4:52 p.m. • USC returns to locker room
5:08 p.m. • Trojans take the field
5:12 p.m. • Kickoff

Media presence

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Here's how you can watch, listen to or otherwise follow tonight's USC-Oregon game:

Captain watch

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EUGENE, Ore. -- Joining the four player-elected team captains (Jeff Byers, Damian Williams, Taylor Mays and Josh Pinkard) for today's game will be two additional players selected by coaches. Tailback C.J. Gable will represent the service teams and utility man Garrett Green will represent the special teams.

Gable turned in an outstanding performance on the scout-team offense this week, while Green continues to show his all-around value, as he is on five of the six special team units, plays service-team quarterback and also takes reps at wideout.

Back and forth

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EUGENE, Ore. -- This sure is a quick business trip.

Immediately after tonight's game, the Trojans will bus from Autzen Stadium to Eugene's Mahlon Sweet Field, where their charter flight is scheduled to depart at 10:15 p.m. That'll put them in L.A. around 12:30 a.m., just 34 hours after leaving LAX on Friday.

Friday night highlights

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EUGENE, Ore. -- Don't miss this awesome highlight video that the Trojans watched during their team meeting on Friday night. Containing Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and several Halloween references, this highlight was magnificently produced by the USC Video Production department.

Almost there

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EUGENE, Ore. -- The preparation is now complete.

The Trojans just wrapped up their final set of pre-game meetings after a wild pump-up session, a special teams roll call and offensive and defensive walk-thrus. The players are now eating the pre-game meal before getting almost two hours to rest and relax, with departure from the team hotel set for 3:20 p.m.

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The coaches gather for a staff meeting in a hotel meeting room.

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The Trojans come together at the end of their special teams roll call.

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The USC defense conducts its walk-thru in the hotel parking lot.

Closing time

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EUGENE, Ore. -- USC's final block of pre-game meetings is about to commence in a hotel meeting room, which will tie a bow on the week of preparation. First up is a chaotic wake-up call that sees the players jump around, sing and get pumped, and that's followed by a special teams roll call and walk-thrus for the offense and defense.

The pre-game meal, the last food the Trojans will eat until after tonight's matchup, is at 1:15 p.m.

Coverage map

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Tonight's USC-Oregon game, set to kick off at 5:12 p.m., will be broadcast nationally on either ABC or ESPN2, depending on your location. All areas shaded yellow will have the game on ABC, while the blue areas will have the game on ESPN2:

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'Fatman' fun

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EUGENE, Ore. -- RipsIt reader John Pings e-mailed in asking about the results of Friday's "fatman football" game at Autzen Stadium. For the fourth time in five games (the matchup is only played at walk-thrus before road contests), the defensive line won, this time on an overtime extra-point kick by nose tackle Averell Spicer.

The "fatman football" game pits the offensive and defensive linemen against each other in a two-hand touch gridiron battle where no running is allowed (only walking) and the teams have four downs to get from one sideline to the other, between the goal line and the 20-yard line. As you can imagine, it's often a very hilarious sight seeing 300-pounders make deep passes, catch balls and rumble downfield.

On the big stage

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EUGENE, Ore. -- By all accounts, tonight's game against Oregon is a big-time matchup.

And it's exactly why players want to be Trojans.

"When you signed to come to SC, you did it knowing you'd be playing in big games," Coach Carroll told the team on Friday. "You've been waiting for an opportunity like this game.

"So let's have a blast -- we're ready to rock and roll."

Seeing zebras left and right

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EUGENE, Ore. -- You can make your own jokes, but the Pac-10 referees for tonight's game are staying at the same Eugene hotel as the Trojans.

Happy Halloween

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With this carved (fake) pumpkin that was stationed among USC's trophies in Heritage Hall all week, the Trojans would like to wish you a happy and safe Halloween.

Positive forecast

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EUGENE, Ore. -- The weather for tonight's game has drastically turned for the better.

After looking all week like it would almost certainly rain and be in the low-40s at kickoff, the forecast for tonight now calls for a very small chance of precipitation and temperatures in the 50s. Even this morning, it's in the high-50s in Eugene with overcast skies, a remarkable turnaround from what forecasters were calling for.

Good morning

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EUGENE, Ore. -- Players are rustling out of bed after a long night's sleep, with a full breakfast buffet waiting for them. Position group meetings, scattered around the team hotel, are the day's first order of business at 11 a.m.

RipsIt Minute

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EUGENE, Ore. -- In case you couldn't follow us live, "The RipsIt Minute" gives you a quick rundown of the must-read Blog entries from the previous day:


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Goodnight

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EUGENE, Ore. -- That'll do it for tonight.

After a night full of meetings, the Trojans are moving toward bed check, with a full night's sleep ahead of them. Wake-up call isn't for almost 12 hours, so the players should wake up rested on game day. Take a look at the schedule for Saturday:

10 a.m. • Wake-up call
11 a.m. • Position group meetings
12:45 p.m. • Special teams meeting; offense/defense walk-thrus
1:15 p.m. • Pre-game meal
3:10 p.m. • Clap session
3:20 p.m. • Depart Eugene hotel
3:35 p.m. • Arrive at Autzen Stadium
4:03 p.m. • Warm-ups begin
4:30 p.m. • Stretching begins
4:52 p.m. • USC returns to locker room
5:08 p.m. • Trojans take the field
5:12 p.m. • Kickoff

Sophisticated foodies

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EUGENE, Ore. -- This weekend's trip to Oregon has already been a resounding success on at least one front.

The cuisine front.

From the moment the Trojans left Heritage Hall all the way through bed check tonight, they've been eating. And eating some more.

It all started with Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwiches before boarding the buses on campus, and then immediately after arriving at LAX for their charter flight, another bag lunch -- filled with a roast beef or turkey sandwich, chips and dessert -- was waiting for them. The two-hour plane ride itself was essentially a flying buffet line, as flight attendants were constantly serving cheese, crackers, fruit, candy, ice cream and Gatorade.

The Trojans had to wait a whopping two hours before eating again though, as they were famished while they drove to and conducted their walk-thru at Autzen Stadium. But don't worry, 100 large pizzas and hundreds of chicken wings were ready for mass consumption right when the team arrived at its Eugene hotel. Then about two hours later, after meetings, a snack -- the understatement of all understatements -- was made available. The abundant buffet feast consisted of pastas, chicken fingers, burgers, pizza (yes, more pizza), desserts, sandwiches and various snacks.

Fortunately, no one's counting calories on a football team.

Meet the press

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EUGENE, Ore. -- Here's Coach Carroll's address to the media following the walk-thru this afternoon at Autzen Stadium. Included in it is his highly entertaining and very raving review for Michael Jackson's "This Is It" movie. The video is courtesy of USCTrojans.com.

Sharp focus

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In a small hotel meeting room, Coach Carroll speaks to his players during tonight's team meeting, delivering his main homily of the week in typically passionate and deep fashion as he talked about confidence, trust and focus. "Can we hold onto this focus no matter what comes at us?" he said. "Let's be warriors tomorrow -- Trojan warriors."

Two good reads

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EUGENE, Ore. -- Here are a pair of excellent USC-related articles that you've got to read:

Returning to business

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EUGENE, Ore. -- With dinner in their bellies, it's time for the Trojans to get back to work.

The traditional Friday night block of meetings is starting now in a cozy hotel meeting room. Special teams are up first before the usual slate of meetings and activities follow. Take a look at USC's agenda for the rest of the evening:

7:30 p.m. • Special teams meeting
8 p.m. • Offense/defense meetings
8:15 p.m. • Position group meetings
8:30 p.m. • Team meeting
8:45 p.m. • Snack
9 p.m. • Optional chapel and mass services at the team hotel
10:30 p.m. • Bed check

Dispatch from Autzen Stadium

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EUGENE, Ore. -- Check out some photos from USC's lighthearted walk-thru at Autzen Stadium, where the Trojans played games and otherwise got acclimatized to the road venue for about an hour on Friday afternoon:

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The Trojans arrive at Autzen Stadium for their walk-thru on Friday afternoon.

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Mountains rise on the horizon over Autzen Stadium.

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Matt Barkley throws downfield during the Friday walk-thru at Autzen Stadium.

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Coach Carroll patrols the field during the walk-thru.

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A view of Autzen Stadium from the corner.

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A view of Autzen Stadium from the end zone.

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Players compete in a form of hacky-sack at the 50-yard line.

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With fall colors all around, the ESPN "College GameDay" set is ready to go just outside of Autzen Stadium.

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ABC's Brent Musburger talks with safety Taylor Mays on the field during the walk-thru.

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The USC locker room, with its doors open on the left, is just feet from the Autzen Stadium field.

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Coach Carroll speaks to the team at the end of the walk-thru.

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Coach Carroll gets interviewed by ESPN's Shelley Smith in the Autzen Stadium tunnel.

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As dusk settles in on Friday night, the goal posts rise up.

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The Autzen Stadium lights turn on at the end of USC's walk-thru.

Settling in

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EUGENE, Ore. -- The Trojans have arrived.

After a two-hour flight up the coast, the USC team charter touched down at Eugene's Mahlon Sweet Field at 4:30 p.m. The Trojans then went directly to Autzen Stadium for a walk-thru before busing to their team hotel, where they'll conduct meetings and final preparations for Saturday night's game against the Ducks. Here are some photos from the journey to Oregon:

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Matt Barkley goes through security at LAX prior to the Trojans' team charter on Friday afternoon.

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Players walk across the tarmac and toward the team plane at LAX this afternoon.

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Under overcast skies, players deplane at Eugene's Mahlon Sweet Field.

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On the tarmac at Eugene's airport, workers unload the plane's cargo into the USC equipment truck on Friday afternoon.

Heading to Eugene

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With a little more than a day to go before kickoff, the Oregon trip begins now.

Having just wrapped up their meetings and practice, the Trojans are now departing campus and heading to LAX, where they're scheduled to depart for Eugene at 2:15. Arrival at Mahlon Sweet Field is set for 4:30 p.m., and the team will then bus directly to Autzen Stadium for a walk-thru.

We'll have a full report from the journey and trip to Autzen upon check-in at the team hotel tonight, but in the meantime, you can follow the Trojans through occasional updates from the road on USCRipsIt's Twitter. Here's the team's agenda for the rest of Friday:

2:15 p.m. • Depart LAX for Eugene's Mahlon Sweet Field
4:30 p.m. • Arrive at Eugene's Mahlon Sweet Field
5 p.m. • Walk-thru at Autzen Stadium
6 p.m. • Check in at team hotel in Eugene
7:30 p.m. • Eve-of-game meetings begin
10:30 p.m. • Bed check 

Dispatch from Howard Jones

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Check out some photos from this afternoon's brief practice, a walk-thru of sorts that reviewed 15 key offensive and defensive play calls, all special teams situations, the two-minute drill and the Hail Mary play:

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Matt Barkley lets a pass fly during this afternoon's practice.

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Coach Carroll watches as the first-unit defense goes up against a offense mimicking Oregon.

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The Trojans go up for a Hail Mary attempt in the end zone.

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Former Trojan defensive end Kyle Moore (black shirt), whose Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on a bye this week, speaks to the team in the huddle after the practice.

Working on Friday

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The Trojans just began their usual Friday practice on Howard Jones Field, so we'll return with a report after the short workout.

Media presence

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Here's how you can watch, listen to or otherwise follow the USC-Oregon game on Saturday:

Trojans in NFL action

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Twenty-seven Trojans will be playing over 12 NFL games this weekend. Check out the full slate of USC alumni in League action during Week 8:

Houston Texans (4-3) vs. Buffalo Bills (3-4)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (CBS)
Texans: Linebacker Brian Cushing, defensive lineman Shaun Cody

Cleveland Browns (1-6) vs. Chicago Bears (3-3)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (CBS)
Browns: Linebacker Kaluka Maiava

Seattle Seahawks (2-4) vs. Dallas Cowboys (4-2)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (FOX)
Seahawks: Linebacker Lofa Tatupu, defensive lineman Lawrence Jackson
Cowboys: Kicker David Buehler

St. Louis Rams (0-7) vs. Detroit Lions (1-5)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (FOX)
Rams: Defensive lineman LaJuan Ramsey

San Francisco 49ers (3-2) vs. Indianapolis Colts (6-0)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (FOX)
49ers: Offensive lineman Chilo Rachal
Colts: Defensive lineman Fili Moala

Miami Dolphins (2-4) vs. New York Jets (4-3)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (CBS)
Dolphins: Wideout Patrick Turner
Jets: Quarterback Mark Sanchez

New York Giants (5-2) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (4-2)

Sunday at 10 a.m. (FOX)
Giants: Wideout Steve Smith, cornerback Terrell Thomas
Eagles: Offensive lineman Winston Justice, defensive lineman Mike Patterson

Oakland Raiders (2-5) vs. San Diego Chargers (3-3)
Sunday at 1:05 p.m. (CBS)
Raiders: Tailback Justin Fargas
Chargers: Safety Kevin Ellison

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3) vs. Tennessee Titans (0-6)
Sunday at 1:05 p.m. (CBS)
Titans: Tailback LenDale White

Minnesota Vikings (6-1) vs. Green Bay Packers (4-2)
Sunday at 1:15 p.m. (FOX)
Packers: Linebacker Clay Matthews

Carolina Panthers (2-4) vs. Arizona Cardinals (4-2)

Sunday at 1:15 p.m. (FOX)
Panthers: Wideout Dwayne Jarrett, offensive lineman Ryan Kalil
Cardinals: Quarterback Matt Leinart, tight end Dominique Byrd, offensive lineman Deuce Lutui

Atlanta Falcons (4-2) vs. New Orleans Saints (6-0)
Monday at 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Falcons: Offensive lineman Sam Baker
Saints: Tailback Reggie Bush, defensive lineman Sedrick Ellis

- By Ricky Cambier, USCRipsIt student assistant

Stafon stops by

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Stafon Johnson just gave his teammates another perfect sendoff.

Only a month after his tragic weightlifting accident, Johnson visited USC's team meeting this morning in Heritage Hall, his third appearance at a team function since the serious throat injury, following his pre-Notre Dame surprise visit two weeks ago and the pre-game locker room appearance last weekend.

While he's still restricted to no verbal communication, his presence -- complete with his trademark smile and personal handshakes with almost every player -- did all the talking. Johnson, who gave two thumbs up when asked how he's feeling, even played along when his teammates teased him about the "Christmas sweater" he was wearing in the meeting.

Check out a few photos from Johnson's appearance:

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Stafon Johnson, sitting next to running backs coach Todd McNair, smiles as he participates in this morning's team meeting.

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Stafon Johnson (far left) sits in on today's team meeting in Heritage Hall.

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Stafon Johnson watches as quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates introduces the script for Saturday's game at Oregon.

Turning the corner

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To kick off this morning's meetings, the Trojans jubilantly bounced through a wild adrenaline-infusing session in Heritage Auditorium, shuffling through their traditionally crazy chants and songs.

But then it was time to get serious, with meetings and a straight-faced practice coming up before the team heads to the airport.

"Let's flip the switch," running backs coach Todd McNair told the players as they transitioned from chaos to business. "Start thinking right now how you're going to bring it tomorrow."

Get pumped

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It's about that time.

The energy is about to rise to a crescendo in Heritage Hall, as the Trojans are gathering now for their morning block of meetings. It all starts with a rambunctious special teams meeting that'll see the players jump around, chant, sing, dance and scream in a show of their excitement for tomorrow's game.

Team, offense/defense and position group meetings follow prior to a no-pads, 45-minute practice at 11:45 a.m.

Walking it out

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Upon arrival in Eugene this afternoon, the Trojans will conduct a brief, lighthearted walk-thru at Autzen Stadium, where they'll throw the ball around, play some mindless games and walk around, all in an effort to get a good feel for the venue they'll play in on game day.

In light of that, RipsIt reader Jeff Collins sent in this interesting question: "Do the visiting teams get to do a walk-thru at the Coliseum the day before the game like SC does when they are on the road? Also, does SC ever do a walk through at the Coliseum before a home game?"

Most visiting teams conduct a walk-thru at the Coliseum, said John Henderson, USC's assistant athletic director of game management and the man in charge of coordinating the walk-thrus. The on-field sessions, which Henderson describes as "real light," usually consist of some special teams work and basic drills, somewhat similar to what the Trojans do while on the road. Occasionally, the teams are limited to where they can be on the field because workers are putting the finishing paint touches on the end zone and midfield logos, Henderson said.

Some teams, like Oregon State last weekend, decline a walk-thru at the Coliseum because of the challenges of navigating L.A. traffic on a Friday afternoon, Henderson said. To save time, some programs will fly in and head straight to their L.A.-area hotel (some visiting squads stay near the airport, some stay downtown and some stay in Pasadena).

And in terms of the Trojans conducting a walk-thru at the Coliseum, it would be an unnecessary addition to an already eventful Friday schedule. Walk-thrus only serve the purpose of acclimating a team to the foreign environment, and since the Trojans play six games and have several scrimmages and practices per year at the Coliseum, it would be an unwise use of an hour on the day before a game.

Latest from Project Trojan

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The newest episode of "Project Trojan: Making of the 2009 USC Football Team" has been posted, so check it out here. It's for USCTrojans.com All-Access members only, so become one here if you're not a subscriber.

And to whet your appetite, watch this awesome four-minute teaser video that gives you a preview of the episode, which focuses mainly on the memorable win at Notre Dame two weeks ago.

The day before

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In the team huddle after almost every Thursday practice, Coach Carroll excitedly exclaims at the top of his lungs, "Can you believe it's already Thursday?"

Well, now can you believe it's already Friday?

Game day is now just a day away, with today filling in the final pieces of the Trojans' preparation for the Oregon game tomorrow night in Eugene. This day's activities include meetings and practice on campus, a flight to Eugene, a walk-thru at Autzen Stadium and more meetings tonight at the team's Eugene hotel.

It's a busy "day before" for the Trojans, as kickoff ticks closer and closer by the moment. Check out USC's schedule for today:

10 a.m. • Meetings begin at Heritage Hall
11:45 a.m. • Practice
1:15 p.m. • Depart campus for LAX
2:15 p.m. • Depart LAX for Eugene's Mahlon Sweet Field
4:30 p.m. • Arrive at Eugene's Mahlon Sweet Field
5 p.m. • Walk-thru at Autzen Stadium
6 p.m. • Check in at team hotel in Eugene
7:30 p.m. • Eve-of-game meetings begin
10:30 p.m. • Bed check

RipsIt Minute

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In case you couldn't follow us live, "The RipsIt Minute" gives you a quick rundown of the must-read Blog entries from the previous day:


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Pictures from Thursday's practice

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The punt team drops back as the snap flies toward the punter.

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Wideout Brandon Carswell soars for the catch.

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Defensive end Wes Horton and his fellow linemen go through position-specific drills.

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The Trojan offense goes through service team period under the moon.

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The offensive service team runs a play against the first-unit defense.

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Matt Barkley calls out assignments at the line.

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The Trojans finish up practice under the setting sun.

USCRipsIt staff photographer Po-He Tseng has the day off.

Dispatch from Howard Jones

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Thoughts from Thursday's practice, through the eyes of USCRipsIt...

- On a cool afternoon, the Trojans conducted a brief half-pads workout to close out their week of practice and send them into the final stage of game preparation. "It's championship football time," Coach Carroll said in the post-practice team huddle. "We love going on the road -- we've been road warriors all year long. Let's crank it up again."

- Wideout Damian Williams (bruised glute) and fullback Stanley Havili (shoulder) will make the trip to Oregon, while tight end Anthony McCoy (ankle) will not, Carroll announced after practice.

- During team period, linebacker Shane Horton snagged an interception off a pass deflection by safety T.J. McDonald.

- Football, apparently, is all about the details. On one play during 11-on-11 drills, offensive coordinator John Morton told wideout Ronald Johnson to scoot one foot farther outside than he had originally lined up. Johnson went on to be wide open and score a touchdown on the play.

- As is the norm for Thursday practices, the special teams units got extended reps.

- The Trojan Marching Band practiced on an adjacent field, providing the perfect soundtrack for USC's Thursday workout.

Going to the field

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The Trojans just took the field for their No Repeat Thursday workout on Howard Jones Field, where precision and perfection are the emphasis today. We'll return with a report following the half-pads practice.

Halloween spooks

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Last season, Coach Carroll and Will Ferrell teamed up for an epic Halloween prank.

This year, Carroll went a little more low-key -- and a whole lot more spooky.

During this afternoon's team meeting, Carroll showed a video of a massive anaconda, setting up the story like the snake had been found on the roof of Heritage Hall. He showed the below video, with an ending that had the players jumping out of their seats and screaming in fear. Watch it yourself -- at your own risk:

Business meeting

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Coach Carroll addresses his players during this afternoon's team meeting in Heritage Auditorium. "We've got one practice left -- let's make this week a perfect preparation," he said. The Trojans will conduct a half-pads practice at 4:15 p.m.

From the sources

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Hear what Taylor Mays, Matt Barkley, Ronald Johnson, Armond Armstead and coach Pat Ruel think about the Oregon game on Saturday in this free video from USCTrojans.com.

Khaki man

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1022pcthrow.jpgRipsIt reader Brandon Buehler e-mailed in asking why Coach Carroll wears khaki pants at practice instead of gym shorts or other traditional coaches' practice gear.

For one, Carroll said he likes being warm during practice so he can sweat -- "that way it feels like I'm working out."

Also, and the bigger reason for his attire choice, Carroll calls the khaki pants "utility trousers." He can wear them to meetings, on the practice field and around campus, since they serve multiple purposes all in one pair of pants.

Loving Thursdays

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Thursdays are fascinating days in the USC football office.

On one hand, kickoff is just 48 hours away, so game mode and its accompanying excitement are in high gear. But on the other hand, there's a calmness that settles in, since the game plan is installed and the two hardest days of practice (Tuesday and Wednesday) are in the books.

Today, coaches are putting the finishing touches on the game plans, as Saturday's matchup comes into clearer focus. Thursday signals the beginning of the end of game week, so the frantic early-week preparation transitions into a pensive, tranquil and serious demeanor for the coaches from here on through kickoff on Saturday night.

Have you voted today?

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Be sure to vote daily for Coach Carroll for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award, and if Carroll wins, $50,000 will be donated to A Better LA, the inner-city charity he helped found.

Adjusting by not adjusting

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RipsIt reader Dan Segall sent in this weather-related question: "After reading about the weekend's weather forecast, it got me wondering... How does SC prepare for conditions that they aren't used to? I'm guessing a lot of these kids can count on both hands the number of times that they have played/practiced in the rain, having grown up in the area. Are there drills to simulate the wet conditions, or do they only get the practice on the rare occasions that it rains?"

Other than occasional, small-scale wet-ball drills, the Trojans don't do too much weather-specific training other than dealing with what Mother Nature sends their way. So this week, they've had chilly, blustery weather during practices, which will surely come in handy Saturday in Oregon. Also, the team practiced in steady rain for two days prior to the Notre Dame game, so the players are used to playing through precipitation, another experience that'll probably be needed this weekend.

But all in all, the Trojans don't make a big deal about the weather -- no matter if it's cold and rainy or hot and dry -- because it's something they can't control.

And anyway, as Coach Carroll always says, "as long as it rains on both sides of the field on game day, we'll be fine."

Weekend agenda

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Check out the Trojans' minute-by-minute schedule for their weekend business trip to Eugene, peaking with Saturday night's USC-Oregon game (5:12 p.m. on ABC/ESPN2):

Friday
10 a.m. • Meetings begin at Heritage Hall
11:45 a.m. • Practice
1:15 p.m. • Depart campus for LAX
2:15 p.m. • Depart LAX for Eugene's Mahlon Sweet Field
4:30 p.m. • Arrive at Eugene's Mahlon Sweet Field
5 p.m. • Walk-thru at Autzen Stadium
7:30 p.m. • Eve-of-game meetings begin
10:30 p.m. • Bed check

Saturday
10 a.m. • Wake-up call
11 a.m. • Position group meetings
12:45 p.m. • Special teams meeting; offense/defense walk-thrus
1:15 p.m. • Pre-game meal
3:20 p.m. • Depart Eugene hotel
3:35 p.m. • Arrive at Autzen Stadium
4:03 p.m. • Warm-ups begin
4:30 p.m. • Stretching begins
4:52 p.m. • USC returns to locker room
5:08 p.m. • Trojans take the field
5:12 p.m. • Kickoff
10:15 p.m. • Scheduled departure from Eugene's Mahlon Sweet Field
12:30 a.m. (Sunday) • Scheduled arrival at LAX

Bringing the noise

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Like they did prior to the Ohio State game -- and every road game, in fact -- the Trojans practiced Wednesday with high-powered speakers surrounding the field, spewing out artificial crowd noise at 130 decibels, roughly the same level as a jet engine and referred to as the "threshold of pain."

It was perfect practice for Saturday night's game at Autzen Stadium, where the noise record for a college football game was set the last time the Trojans played at Oregon. In October 2007, a decibel reading of 127.2 was recorded, and that's been widely accepted as the highest volume mark for a college football game.

Protecting the homefront

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Much has been made in the media this week about Oregon's daunting home-field advantage, and while Autzen Stadium is undoubtedly one of the loudest and most intimidating venues in the country, the Ducks' record at home doesn't compare to the Trojans' mark at the Coliseum.

It's not even close, actually.

By record alone, USC might have one of the best home-field advantages in the country. Take a look at how the recent home records for USC and Oregon compare:

  • Since 2002: USC is 44-1 at home; Oregon is 37-12 at home
  • Since 2001: USC is 48-3 at home; Oregon is 42-13 at home
  • This decade: USC is 50-8 at home; Oregon is 48-13 at home

Trojan helmets

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RipsIt reader Torin Roher e-mailed in asking about USC's helmets: "Are the helmets the players wear in practice the same as they wear in the game? It would seem to me that the players would wear the same helmets, as they probably are fit to each head to some degree. But then the turnaround each week to clean and decal all those helmets between the final practice and game (especially road games) would be a monumental task. Can you enlighten me?"

Players wear the same helmet all season, through all practices and games, so there is no musical chairs going on with the team's headgear. The student equipment managers reapply the Trojan decals and clean and polish the helmets for several hours on the Thursday night before every game, which gives them a glowing shine and fresh feel for the players on game days.

Some programs use different helmets for practices and games, but for USC, the one-helmet plan works perfectly because players can get used to the fit and break it in so they're not uncomfortable on game days.

Able Gable having big impact

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1029gablephoto.jpegC.J. Gable has found a new role this week.

And he couldn't be impressing the coaches more.

Gable, a 6-0, 205-pound redshirt junior, has been playing scout-team tailback this week, giving the first-unit defense a strong look to prepare for the high-powered rushing attack it'll see on Saturday against Oregon. His experience and skill-set are providing the defense with some exceptional preparation for this weekend's matchup.

"C.J.'s been doing great for us all week and he's been so helpful for the defense," Coach Carroll said. "All the defensive coaches are raving about what he's been doing in practice."

Color blind

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If a highly publicized rumor comes true, Autzen Stadium could be blacked out on Saturday -- from head to toe.

Oregon fans are organizing an effort to collectively wear all black, and word on the street says the football team will follow suit with completely black uniforms.

Not that the fashion statement will intimidate or otherwise affect the Trojans.

"Has it ever mattered what jerseys the other team is wearing, what their crowd is wearing or any of that stuff?" Coach Carroll said during Wednesday's team meeting, echoing a sentiment he continually emphasizes. "It hasn't ever been a factor for us, and we won't let it be this weekend."

Stepping up in the spotlight

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In light of Tuesday's post about USC's recent appearances on ESPN's "College GameDay," here are the last 10 regular-season games the Trojans have played when "GameDay" has set up shop prior to the matchup:

Oct. 9, 2004 • W 23-17 vs. Cal
Nov. 27, 2004 • W 41-10 vs. Notre Dame
Oct. 1, 2005 • W 38-28 at Arizona State
Oct. 15, 2005 • W 34-31 at Notre Dame
Dec. 3, 2005 • W 66-19 vs. UCLA
Sept. 16, 2006 • W 28-10 vs. Nebraska
Nov. 25, 2006 • W 44-24 vs. Notre Dame
Sept. 15, 2007 • W 49-31 at Nebraska
Sept. 13, 2008 • W 35-3 vs. Ohio State
Sept. 12, 2009 • W 18-15 at Ohio State

For a good read

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Check out this very insightful Q&A with Matt Barkley, published this morning on LATimes.com. It's one of the most in-depth looks at the freshman quarterback you'll ever read.

Must-see TV: Geeter unplugged

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Charismatic TV personality Geeter McGee checks in from Howard Jones Field with another highly entertaining video report, this one dealing with the Oregon game, Halloween costumes and more "random thoughts" and exploits with players and Coach Carroll. Don't miss it!

RipsIt Minute

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In case you couldn't follow us live, "The RipsIt Minute" gives you a quick rundown of the must-read Blog entries from the previous day:


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Wednesday's photo album

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Check out this slideshow of images from Wednesday's practice, brought to you by USCRipsIt staff photographer Po-He Tseng:

Photos by Po-He Tseng, USCRipsIt staff photographer

Pictures from Wednesday's practice

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Coach Carroll joins kicker Jake Harfman (left) and linebacker Michael Morgan (middle) on kickoff coverage drills.

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C.J. Gable lines up in the backfield as the sun goes down.

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Tailback Allen Bradford and the USC offense line up for a goal line play.

Dispatch from Howard Jones

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Thoughts from Wednesday's practice, through the eyes of USCRipsIt...

- In one of the most one-sided practices in recent history, the USC offense dominated from start to finish and in almost all phases, winning the final team period, 10-1, and pitching a shutout on Turnover Wednesday for the all-around practice victory. Besides not giving up the football all day, the offense also glided to the blowout victory that had offensive coaches chiding their defensive counterparts and offensive players jokingly asking, "Is there a mercy rule?"

- On the final play of the practice on a chilly afternoon, Matt Barkley threw to wide open wideout Brandon Carswell for a touchdown, causing the offensive coaches and players to run to the end zone to celebrate.

- To prepare for Oregon's no-huddle offense, the defensive coaches spent most of practice calling plays from the sideline to not give the players a chance to regroup.

- Coach Carroll said tight end Anthony McCoy, who sat out for the third straight day with a sprained ankle, will have to practice Thursday in order to have a chance to play Saturday.

- Fullback Stanley Havili (shoulder) participated in some drills Wednesday and "really wants to play," Carroll said. "We'll see if he can do it."

- Wideout Damian Williams (bruised glute) was held out of most of practice for the second consecutive day but will play Saturday. "He knows he's going to play this weekend," Carroll said. "We're not worried about that."

- Safety Drew McAllister, who has been on crutches for the last few days, has a serious hip flexor injury and will be unavailable this weekend, Carroll said. His long-term prognosis will be determined later.

- The Trojan offense practiced with artificial crowd noise blaring for all of service team period, acclimating the players to the din they'll be hearing at Autzen Stadium on Saturday.

- Famous TV producer, writer and actor Stephen Cannell attended practice.

Going for the ball

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The Trojans just started their weekly turnover-themed practice on Howard Jones Field, so we'll return with a report following the full-pads workout.

Recovery issues

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The Trojans are forcing fumbles at an impressive pace this season.

It's the recovery part that's a little troubling.

Through seven games in 2009, the USC defense has forced 17 fumbles, but it has only recovered six. The 35 percent recovery rate is lowest among the last eight seasons, as the Trojans have been recovering around 50 percent of forced fumbles since 2002. For some reason, the rate in '09 just isn't up to par.

"That's worth lots of points per game if we could get just a few more fumble recoveries," Coach Carroll said.

One positive is that through seven games this season, the Trojans have already matched their entire total of forced fumbles in 2008. And they're on pace to have roughly the same number of forced fumbles as the previous several seasons (2002-07).

"Now it's about recovering those fumbles," Carroll said.

Take a look at the USC defense's ratio of fumbles recovered to fumbles forced since 2002:

Season    FR-FF      % recovered
2009        7-16          35        (**thru 7 games)
2008        10-16        63        (13 games)
2007        16-31        52        (13 games)
2006        11-23        48        (13 games)
2005        16-35        46        (13 games)
2004        16-33        48        (13 games)
2003        20-35        57        (13 games)
2002        19-36        53        (13 games)

Big-time photo

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An inside-the-locker-room photo by USCRipsIt's Jon SooHoo is in the "Leading Off" section of this week's edition of Sports Illustrated (pages 6 and 7). The image is one of SooHoo's classic high-angle pictures above the team huddle in the Coliseum locker room.

All about the ball

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It's Turnover Wednesday at USC today, but you might as well rename game day "Turnover Saturday," too.

As always, "it's all about the ball" for the Trojans, and it might be even more so this weekend in Eugene considering the way the coaches are talking.

"This game is going to come down to turnovers," offensive coordinator John Morton said during this afternoon's meetings.

So far this season, USC is minus-3 and Oregon is plus-5 in the all-important turnover margin stat.

Special sale

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The shop at PeteCarroll.com is having a special Halloween sale, during which you get $10 off every time you spend $30. Enter the code "SpookyPete" at checkout to receive the discount.

One month later: Stafon Johnson 'fighting on'

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Unbelievably, Stafon Johnson's tragic throat injury was one month ago today.

But his progress and recovery since the weightlifting accident might be even more incredible.

In the last 30 days, Johnson has undergone several major reconstructive surgeries, been released from the hospital, joined Twitter, attended a team meeting by surprise and even gone to the Oregon State game at the Coliseum last weekend.

While complete recovery is still some time from now, Johnson's continued progress and positive attitude has made the last month uplifting, inspiring and encouraging for his family, friends, fans and teammates.

"We are fighting on!" Kim Mallory, Johnson's mother, said today.

Sourena's Sentiments

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0908soureanasentiment.jpgBy Sourena Vasseghi
With Rich Finley
USCRipsIt Guest Bloggers



Well, it's time for Halloween and people are scrambling all over the place to get just the perfect costume. I will not be participating this year, as much as I would love go as the BCS and just drive my chair around in circles and bump into things with no rhyme or reason. No, this Saturday night, I'm locked in, as many of you will be for THE matchup of the year in Pac-10 (or for this week if you ask Pete) -- Oregon hosting USC.

Did you know the Oregon quarterback has only completed 59 passes on the season?!? That's a crazy stat, though not quite as crazy as USC giving up 47 second-half points to Notre Dame and Oregon State combined. That's been a troubling stat, but, it comes at a time when the offense has really been clicking. I'm actually kind of glad we go into this game with things to improve upon, because Coach Carroll will have the complete attention of the guys going into this game. Fight On this weekend USC and let's beat the Ducks!

Since this is Halloween Week, I wanted to point out something I saw this past week on the TV show "Mad Men." If you haven't watched, it's a truly great show, and in this week's final scene, the main character was taking his kids trick-or-treating with his wife, when a neighbor complimented the kids on their costumes and then turned to the father (who had just been exposed as having a double life) and said "And who are YOU supposed to be?"

It was an innocent comment, but a powerful moment in the show. Now, am I trying to get you to watch "Mad Men?" Maybe a lil. But, my bigger thought was, during this time of the year when everyone is trying on masks, and figuring out who to masquerade as, don't we already do this enough?

Don't we put on false personas, false attitudes, based on what the world thinks we are "supposed" to be? My thought for the week is for you to focus on who you are supposed to be. Not to the outside world, but to yourself. We all have a path. But it's up to each and every one of us to determine whether we follow that path, or whether we allow ourselves to be discouraged by the journey, the obstacles, and the doubts. When you have a quiet moment this week, and get time to yourself, truly ask yourself, "Who am I SUPPOSED to be?"

Before I go, and speaking of "Mad Men," my partner Rich Finley is in an online contest to be on "Mad Men" next year! He is currently in the top 10 and the top 10 finishers face the show creator to be on the show, and any acclaim brought to Rich increases our collective reach for speaking, writing, etc. Please if you can, click here to register your vote, he's actually quite good (although don't ever tell him I said that), and remember, add us to Twitter and keep in touch with us! Go Trojans this weekend! Waiter, I'll have the duck!


• Sourena Vasseghi, a motivational speaker and writer, has addressed the USC football team on several occasions over the years. His book, "Love your life and it will love you back," is available here.

On the radio

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Coach Carroll will appear on AM-570's "Petros Money Show" at 5:30 p.m. tonight. You can listen through a live internet stream here.

High resolution

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Check out these two "gigapan" images -- one from the first half and the other from halftime -- during Saturday's game. You can zoom into these high-quality photos and find yourself in the crowd if you attended the game.

Booty signed by Titans

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John David Booty has been signed to the Tennessee Titans practice squad today, putting the former USC quarterback on the team coached by ex-USC defensive back Jeff Fisher.

Hitting the road

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The Trojans will depart for Eugene on Friday afternoon and return immediately after the game on Saturday night, making this weekend's business trip a very quick one. Here are the basics of USC's travel itinerary for the Oregon game:

  • Friday: Depart from LAX at 2:15 p.m.; Arrive at Eugene's Mahlon Sweet Field at 4:30 p.m.
  • Saturday: Depart from Eugene's Mahlon Sweet Field at 10:15 p.m.; Arrive at LAX at 12:30 a.m. (Sunday)

We fight on

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Check out this cool tune, featuring a remix of the university's fight song, produced by several USC students in a group called Souls of Troy. The song is called, "We Fight On."

Media presence

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Here's how you can watch, listen to or otherwise follow the USC-Oregon State game on Saturday:

Football weather

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One thing's for sure -- the weather forecast isn't improving.

The chance of rain in Eugene on Saturday has increased to 70 percent, though at night it drops down to 10 percent. And temperatures will add to the autumn feel, as they're expected to max out at 58 and bottom out at 42 for Saturday's game at Oregon.

Vote again

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Be sure to vote daily for Coach Carroll for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award, and if Carroll wins, $50,000 will be donated to A Better LA, the inner-city charity he helped found.

National coverage

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Saturday's USC-Oregon game, set to kick off at 5:12 p.m., will be broadcast nationally on either ABC or ESPN2, depending on your location. All areas shaded yellow will have the game on ABC, while the blue areas will have the game on ESPN2:

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Good returns

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RipsIt reader Tom Butler sent in this interesting question: "Why are there different players for punt returns and for kickoff returns? It seems that if they are good, couldn't the same players do both?"

Long-time special teams coordinator Brian Schneider said that many times in his career he has used the same player for both return duties, but it all depends on the players available. For USC, Damian Williams is a prototypical punt returner, while C.J. Gable and Ronald Johnson are ideal for the kickoff return duties.

But it is possible for one guy to do both jobs, even though Schneider said the tasks are "a little bit different."

"On kickoff return, you've got to hit it with no hesitation," Schneider said. "The best kickoff return guys are always the ones that just go."

While kickoff returners have 10 to 15 yards of open running room to find a hole, punt returners have to react with bodies flying around and a small amount of room to wiggle and juke free.

"With very little space to move, punt returns require a different element for the returner," Schneider said.

Other than the returners, only a small handful of players are not the same on the two return units. Schneider said usually the same six or so players will play on both squads.

Sitting in enemy territory

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The USC ticket allotment will be in sections 38 and 39 in the southwest corner of the 54,000-seat Autzen Stadium.  The Trojans received 2,000 tickets, the Pac-10 minimum for a visiting team. The cardinal-colored sections are where the USC cheering section and Trojan Marching Band will be for Saturday's game against the Ducks:

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Vote for the Pro Bowl

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Dozens of Trojans are on the NFL Pro Bowl ballot, so show your support for the USC alumni by voting for them here.

Happy birthday

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Defensive graduate assistant Kris Richard is celebrating his 30th birthday today.

Fashion statement

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Oregon has 80 different uniform combinations this season.

Like always, USC has two -- home and away.

So more than football will be on the line on Saturday; it'll be a battle of modernization vs. tradition as well. And Halloween makes the fashion storylines even more interesting, as the running joke around Heritage Hall this week is that the Trojans will be dressing up in costume on Saturday night.

As USC football players, of course.

Head of the class

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Defensive end Everson Griffen leads the Pac-10 with eight sacks.

Ready for anything

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1028schneidercooperwater.jpg
To prepare for the potentially wet weather in Oregon this weekend, special teams coordinator Brian Schneider brings out the water cooler during Tuesday's practice to drench the ball that long snapper Cooper Stephenson is lining up to use for a punt snap.

RipsIt Minute

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In case you couldn't follow us live, "The RipsIt Minute" gives you a quick rundown of the must-read Blog entries from the previous day:


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Tuesday's photo album

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Check out this slideshow of images from Tuesday's practice, brought to you by USCRipsIt staff photographer Po-He Tseng:

Photos by Po-He Tseng, USCRipsIt staff photographer

Pictures from Tuesday's practice

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Tailback C.J. Gable hops through running back drills under the watch of coach Todd McNair.

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The Trojans run a short screen play under a majestic sunset.

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Matt Barkley lines up for the snap during 7-on-7 period.

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The USC offense goes through the final team period.

Dispatch from Howard Jones

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Thoughts from Tuesday's practice, through the eyes of USCRipsIt...

- With blustery, cool weather sweeping in at Howard Jones Field, the defense stormed through the full-pads workout with a dominant performance, winning the three main periods to capture a long-awaited victory on Competition Tuesday. Down 6-4 in the final team period, the defense won the last four snaps to take an 8-6 victory, its first triumph on Competition Tuesday in seven weeks.

- Following a 16-6 loss in last Tuesday's 7-on-7 period, the defense rebounded with a 12-4 demolition this week. The defense also won the 9-on-7 rushing-focused period.

- Coach Carroll in the post-practice team huddle: "This is championship football time. We've got to bring it all week long -- not just Saturday, but every day this week."

- Wideout Damian Williams sat out with a bruised gluteus maximus but is expected to return to practice Wednesday, Carroll said.

- Tight end Anthony McCoy (ankle), fullback Stanley Havili (shoulder) and wideout Brice Butler (back) remained out of practice. "We've got guys ready to play," Carroll said. "As always, it's about the guys who will step up for us, not the guys who are out."

- The play of the day came during team period when Matt Barkley rifled a bullet into the chest of Ronald Johnson, who shed the near-perfect coverage, caught the pass in stride and darted up the middle of the field. "That a way to battle, Ronald!" offensive coordinator John Morton exclaimed.

Continuing or ending the streak

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As the Trojans take the field for this afternoon's practice, the USC offense is riding quite an impressive winning streak on Competition Tuesday.

The offense has a six-week unbeaten streak on the competition-themed day, capturing a victory or tie in the final team period every Tuesday since the second week of the season. Unless you count the tiebreaking Jethro Franklin slip-and-slide victory two weeks ago, the defense's last win on Competition Tuesday came on Sept. 8, when it took home a 13-11 win in the final team period.

Coach Carroll is making a big push for the defense to break that streak during this afternoon's full-pads workout on Howard Jones Field.

"Hey defense, it's about time to turn this around," Carroll said during the team meeting earlier today. "Are you going to answer the call?"

We'll return with a full report after the practice.

Highlight-worthy plays

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Week 7 of the NFL season saw numerous highlights by USC alumni, so check out this reel of big-time plays, the same video that the Trojans watched during this afternoon's team meeting:

Starting off on the right foot

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Two offensive players who stepped up to start in Saturday's win over Oregon State are continuing to receive praise from coaches.

D.J. Shoemate played fullback in lieu of 31-game starter Stanley Havili (out with a dislocated shoulder) and Butch Lewis filled in at the starting guard spot voided by Jeff Byers, who moved to center. Both players greatly impressed the coaches and are in line to start again this weekend at Oregon.

"D.J. didn't get the opportunities in the passing game but he was on his assignments and he blocked his butt off," running backs coach Todd McNair said. "He'll be ready to roll this weekend if Stanley's not back. We'll be missing Stanley's experience but D.J. brings a hard-nosed attitude, great effort and excellent work ethic."

Meanwhile, Lewis played so well that Coach Carroll said he was "one of the players of the game."

"Butch couldn't have risen up and surpassed expectations much more than he did on Saturday," Carroll said. "He was overpowering guys in the running game and his pass protection was awesome."

Always competing

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Competition Tuesday is underway.

The Trojans are gathering now in Heritage Auditorium for a special teams meeting, this one focused on the punt and punt return units, before the players shift to team, offense/defense and position group meetings. A full-pads practice will begin at 4:15.

Tuesdays are also the first full day of looking at the coming opponent, so the Trojans will get a complete picture of Oregon in the meeting rooms and on the practice field this afternoon. Playbooks and the game plan are distributed as well, so game week definitely kicks up a notch on Tuesdays at Heritage Hall.

Big finish for a busy weekend

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Here's an addendum to an already jam-packed weekend for the Trojans in the NFL:

  • Tight end Fred Davis (Washington Redskins) had a team-high eight catches for 78 yards and his first career touchdown in Monday night's 27-17 loss to Philadelphia.
  • Defensive lineman Mike Patterson (Philadelphia Eagles) had four tackles in his team's win on Monday Night Football.

See it again

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If you missed Coach Carroll's press conference today, you can see a full replay of it here for free.

Streaming live

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Along with being televised nationally on ABC or ESPN2 (depending on your viewing location), Saturday's USC-Oregon game will be broadcast internationally via ESPN360.com.

Barkley tops the conference

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Matt Barkley leads the Pac-10 in both passing yards per game (256.7) and pass efficiency (148.7).

GameDay fun facts

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In the last six seasons, ESPN's "College GameDay" has appeared at 10 regular-season games involving USC, so Saturday's show from Eugene will mark the 11th time the Trojans have been a featured part of the hoopla.

USC is undefeated in those 10 regular-season games that featured a "College GameDay" appearance.

Talking to the media

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Coach Carroll is about to begin his weekly press conference in Heritage Hall's Varsity Lounge, so watch it live for free here.

Conditioned for what's to come

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So far this season, the Trojans have played in some pretty daunting settings.

They've gone from the 106,033 earsplitting fans at Ohio State to the wild atmosphere at California to the epic situation at Notre Dame -- in the first half of the season alone.

So preparing to play Saturday at Autzen Stadium, regarded as one of the loudest venues in the country, isn't putting the Trojans into a state of panic.

Far from it, actually.

"We've been through it all," Coach Carroll told his players during Monday afternoon's team meeting. "It's no big deal."

Hockey and football together

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L.A. Kings star Jack Johnson attended a recent USC practice, and his experience was documented through this cool profile video feature produced by the Kings:

Watch it

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Coach Carroll's weekly press conference, scheduled for noon today, will be streamed live for free, so watch it here.

The anatomy of a return

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Get an inside look into USC's punt and kickoff return units

1027damiancalreturn.JPGBy Ben Weiss
Special to USCRipsIt



Ask USC receiver Damian Williams or tailback C.J. Gable what's the toughest part about returning kicks. Despite an onslaught of large men careening toward them at Usain Bolt-like speeds, a maze of blockers that they must navigate through and tacklers coming at them from every possible angle, they will tell you running with the ball isn't the problem.

Catching it is.

"That's actually the most difficult part," said Williams, USC's first-string punt returner who is ranked fourth in the country in yards per return at 18.0. "When the ball gets up in the air and the wind is with it, it moves a lot. Against Cal, there was a couple times where I thought I was under it and I had to go 10 yards back."

Fielding the ball isn't only the most challenging part of a kick or punt returner's job. It's also the most crucial. The Trojans struggled last year in the punt return game primarily because of fumbles and muffed kicks. In an effort to simply find someone who could secure the ball, the team tried its luck with three different players before settling on Stafon Johnson. First-year special teams coordinator Brian Schneider made it an off-season priority to cut down on such mistakes by employing the age-old mantra: practice makes perfect.

"When you can't catch the ball, you can't do anything," Schneider said. "So we put in a lot of work, got a lot of reps throughout camp and they were all great. They caught a lot balls from the Jug machine and caught a lot of punts off the punter's foot. It's all about repetition."

Williams' consistency and dependability earned him the starting spot returning punts, while Gable's tenure as a productive kickoff returner over the past three seasons made him a shoe-in at the position. Both players share a versatility and speed that, combined with their respective sizes (both stand 6-foot-1, with Gable listed 10 pounds heavier at 205) make them ideal for their positions.

 Both idolize Chicago Bears return specialist Devin Hester and take note of how he uses his vision and athleticism to make highlight reel plays. Gable admires Hester's north-south return style, which features less lateral motion in favor of advancing the ball straight down the field.

"I look at him and how he sets everything up, and when he gets an opening, he hits it," Gable said. "That's what I like about him."

1027cjreturnstan.JPGHester is often referred to as a "game-changer" because of the scoring threat he poses on special teams. Often a special teams score can change the momentum of the game or permanently solidify the momentum in a team's favor.

Last year against Stanford, with the Trojans back on their heels after a Cardinal drive that put USC at a seven-point deficit, Gable reenergized his team with an electrifying return. Taking the ball at the 7-yard line, he sidestepped a tackler at the 20-yard line and sprinted 93 yards into the end zone to tie the game at 17.

"I knew I could do it (return a kick for a touchdown), but I just didn't know when it was going to happen," Gable said. "I was just thinking, 'I'm actually returning this kickoff right now.'"
 
This year, Williams was the first to snatch up the special teams spotlight. His spectacular punt return against Cal, which ended in a fully outstretched dive for the pylon, put the Trojans ahead 17-0 at the start of the second quarter.

"It kind of sucked the life out of them. Any time the defense works so hard to get the (opponent's) offense off the field, it's rewarding to score for them. Even though you have to put them right back out there," Williams said, laughing.

Williams became the first Trojan since Reggie Bush in 2004 to return two punt returns for scores when he raced 63 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter Saturday in USC's 42-36 win over Oregon State. His TD turned out to be the deciding points in the game.

Behind the scenes, and sometimes overlooked, are the blockers that allow Williams and Gable to bust open big returns. Offensive tackle Alex Parsons is part of "the wedge" on kickoffs, which is a set of four or five players who block directly in front of the kick returner. For the 6-foot-4, 300-pound Parsons, blocking on a kickoff is a nice change of pace to his typical 300-pound assignments.

"For the most part, the guys that we're usually blocking on kick returns are somewhere between 175 and 205 pounds," Parsons said. "It's nice to hit a smaller guy for once."

Starting cornerback Kevin Thomas plays a crucial role on the punt return squad by blocking one of the opposing team's "gunners." Unlike Parsons, Thomas must continuously push and block his counterpart away from the returner for the entire length of the punt.

"I'm the first line of defense," Thomas said. "It's a lot of pushing and shoving, but you just can't let up."

1027damianreturnosu.JPGIn order to evade the initial blocks, Gable and Williams utilize an arsenal of ankle-shattering, head-turning moves. However, both prefer to use the juke move, in which the player will jab step in one direction before taking off in another. For Williams, the move isn't solely reserved for the gridiron.

"Sometimes I just juke my couch," he said. "I juke everything in my house. Sometimes when I walk to class and see people, I juke around them just to stay polished."

Returning punts presents Williams with a unique opportunity that he typically can't get at the wide receiver position. While he has much less control over whether or not quarterback Matt Barkley will throw him the ball, during a punt Williams holds the ball -- and the fate of the play -- in his hands. Although he is in the driver's seat, Williams acknowledges that he can't do it alone.

"The best part is being able to make plays for your team," he said. "But I can't take credit for it because I have 10 guys in front of me making excellent blocks. They make it very easy for me."

Occasionally when the punter hangs a beauty, or someone misses a blocking assignment, Williams doesn't have to fend for himself. As the imposing defender flies toward him like a runaway train, he has the option to deploy his safety net.

"Fortunately for me, I have a friend called the fair catch," Williams said. "So if I feel like people are a little too close, I can wave it off and just make sure I catch it."

Good to know the man has his punt return priorities straight.


• Ben Weiss is a guest contributor to USCRipsIt. A version of this feature originally appeared in the Oregon State game program.

Barkley going national

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Matt Barkley will appear on the nationally syndicated "Jim Rome Show" at 10:15. It's on AM-570 in L.A.

Down to the minute

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Kickoff of Saturday's game is set for 5:12 p.m. The game will be televised nationally on ABC and ESPN2, depending on what part of the country you live in.

For a good read

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Here's a great feature on Damian Williams' special punt return ability, from today's L.A. Times.

Road warriors

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Saturday's game at Oregon will be the Trojans' fourth road contest against a ranked opponent this season.

Punt it and return it

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USC's punt return team ranks sixth in the nation with an 18-yard average, and the punt return defense is seventh in the country with a 2.3-yard average.

"That's huge," special teams coordinator Brian Schneider said. "This game is all about field position."

RipsIt Minute

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In case you couldn't follow us live, "The RipsIt Minute" gives you a quick rundown of the must-read Blog entries from the previous day:


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Pictures from Monday's practice

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The offensive line goes through drills under the instruction of coach Pat Ruel.

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Ronald Johnson prepares to receive a kickoff.

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Garrett Green follows through on a pass.

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Matt Barkley hands off to tailback Joe McKnight.

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As everything around him turns into a blur, Matt Barkley watches as his pass soars downfield.

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The offense finishes up practice under the lights and moon.



USCRipsIt staff photographer Po-He Tseng has the day off.

Dispatch from Cromwell Field

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Thoughts from Monday's practice, through the eyes of USCRipsIt...

- On a warm late-October afternoon, the Trojans sprinted through a quick helmets-only workout on Cromwell Field, where they could get accustomed to the same artificial FieldTurf they'll see on Saturday at Autzen Stadium.

- Tight end Anthony McCoy, who suffered a sprained ankle in Saturday's game, sat out of practice with a protective boot on his right ankle. Coach Carroll did not give a timetable for his return but said Rhett Ellison would start in McCoy's place on Saturday if he's not ready to go.

- After sitting out more than a week to nurse a dislocated shoulder, fullback Stanley Havili participated in parts of Monday's practice. His status for Saturday's game at Oregon remains up in the air, Carroll said.

- Wideout Brice Butler didn't practice Monday because of tightness in his back, an injury suffered in the 42-36 win at the Coliseum over the weekend.

- Carroll announced that Ronald Johnson will resume kickoff return duties.

Living in the moment

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The Trojans don't have to wait until Saturday night in Eugene to beat Oregon.

Winning the game starts today.

What happens on the Autzen Stadium field in five days is determined by how the team prepares this afternoon, Tuesday, Wednesday and so forth, as every piece adds up to the finished product this weekend.

"We take care of business today, tomorrow, the rest of the week and we'll make this a hell of a ballgame on Saturday," Coach Carroll said during this afternoon's team meeting.

We'll return with a report from the field following the half-pads workout.

Third time's a charm

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Coincidentally, the USC offense has converted exactly six third-downs in each of the last four games.

But it's their relation to third-down opportunities in those games -- and the consequently increased conversion percentage -- that's creating some positive vibes around Heritage Hall. The Trojans went 6-for-9 (67 percent) in Saturday's win, continuing a recent upward trend of third-down conversions in the last quartet of games. Take a look at USC's improving third-down numbers:

  • Vs. Oregon State: 6-for-9 (67 percent)
  • Vs. Notre Dame: 6-for-13 (46 percent)
  • Vs. California: 6-for-15 (40 percent)
  • Vs. Washington State: 6-for-18 (33 percent)

The fewer third-down opportunities means the USC offense is making first downs earlier -- always a positive sign -- and that even when faced with a third-down, the Trojans are converting.

All this comes on the heels of the 0-for-11 outing at Washington more than a month ago. USC is now at 36 percent on third downs this season.

Ball control

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One of the more hidden positives from Saturday's victory has the coaches raving today.

The Trojan offense got the ball with 5:41 remaining in the fourth quarter and never gave it up, running nine plays and chewing up every last second to seal the win.

Matt Barkley went 3-for-3 for 23 yards and Allen Bradford ran for 14 yards as the Trojans converted both third-down opportunities and added another first down on the helplessly debilitating drive for Oregon State.

"It's such a powerful thing when the offense can run the clock out like that," Coach Carroll said.

Game-changing performance

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At the start of this afternoon's special teams meeting, coordinator Brian Schneider asked the 11-man punt return unit to stand up.

Then he posed a simple question for the entire team to answer.

"How much did we win by?" Schneider asked to break the silence.

The six-point margin of victory was one fewer point than the Trojans scored on Damian Williams' 63-yard punt return in the third quarter, giving Schneider an ideal example of why special teams are so vital to the overall team's success.

"You never know what can change the game," Schneider told the players. "It's a whole different game if that return doesn't happen."

Schneider then commended the 11 punt-return players still standing and told them to sit down. The special teams meeting carried on for the Trojans, with a renewed seriousness and a heightened sense of the importance of their duties.

Looking for the truth

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Tell the Truth Monday is getting rolling with a special teams film review in Heritage Auditorium. USC's day to both recap the previous game and dive into the next game week has gotten underway.

A helmets-only practice is scheduled for 4:45 p.m.

Vote Barkley

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Show your support for Matt Barkley, one of 15 semifinalists for the O'Brien Award, by voting for him on the award's official website.

Stanford game time to be announced next week

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The kickoff time and TV arrangement for the Nov. 14 homecoming game against Stanford, USC's only remaining "TBA" on the schedule, will be determined next Monday.

The game will be at one of three times. The available TV windows are 12:30 p.m. on ABC, 4 p.m. on Versus and 7:15 p.m. on FSN.

To the turf

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The Trojans will practice on the FieldTurf of Cromwell Field this afternoon to get acclimated to the artificial surface they'll play on come Saturday at Oregon.

Timely work by Bradford

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Allen Bradford ran for 147 yards and scored two touchdowns in Saturday's win, but one of the tailback's most impressive feats isn't in the stat book.

With about 90 seconds left in the game and the Trojans trying to run out the clock, Bradford took a handoff and bounced outside to the left before deftly sliding down inbounds instead of gliding out of bounds, which would have stopped the clock. With the time continuing to tick down, USC went on to take a knee and clinch the victory.

"I was running and just remembered, 'Stay inbounds,' so I fell to the ground," Bradford said, smiling at the recollection.

Running backs coach Todd McNair, who spent the previous timeout reminding the players about remaining inbounds, said he was very impressed with Bradford's smarts on that play.

"Even though the play took him outside, he had the presence of mind to stay inbounds," McNair said. "It was a huge play because it allowed us to run the clock out."

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Tailback Allen Bradford had a monster day on Saturday, including an especially smart play at the end of the game to keep the clock running. [Photo by Po-He Tseng, USCRipsIt staff photographer]

Bradford, Williams honored

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Tailback Allen Bradford has been named the Pac-10's offensive player of the week and Damian Williams has been named the conference's special teams player of the week for their performances in Saturday's win over Oregon State.

The two honors are USC's fifth and sixth player of the week recognitions this season.

Going to Galen

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After a morning chocked full of meetings and film sessions, Coach Carroll is taking an hour-long break to host his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback event at the Galen Center.

Carroll on the watch list

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Coach Carroll is one of 20 coaches on the watch list for the 2009 Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year Award.

Pac-10 championship time

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Saturday's USC-Oregon game features two of the top teams in the conference, and the winner will control its destiny for the Pac-10 crown.

As such, the Trojans -- seven-time defending conference champs -- are approaching it like a title game.

"We've got a nice little championship matchup coming up," Coach Carroll said during this morning's staff meeting. "This is cool stuff."

Barkley an O'Brien semifinalist

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Matt Barkley has been named one of 15 semifinalists for the 2009 O'Brien Quarterback Award, given annually to the nation's top QB. He's the only freshman and one of just three underclassmen to be reach this stage.

Weather watch

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Early forecasts project a 40 percent chance of showers with a high of 57 and a low of 44 in Eugene for Saturday's USC-Oregon game. And with the exact same chance of precipitation for the two days bookending game day, rain is almost a certainty for the Trojans' trip to Oregon this weekend.

Strong-legged Buehler

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Dallas Cowboys rookie kicker David Buehler, who made a name for himself at USC by routinely kicking the ball through the end zone, is tied for the NFL lead with 13 touchbacks this season. 

For a good read

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Check out this interesting academic-focused feature on sixth-year offensive lineman Jeff Byers, who's close to completing his MBA from USC's Marshall School of Business.

This week in USC sports

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See what happened in Trojan athletics during the past seven days:

  • The men's water polo team defeated Loyola Marymount, 11-4, on Saturday to improve their overall record to 20-1. The Trojans are currently ranked first nationally and play at UCSB on Thursday.

  • Women's soccer lost to Oregon State on Friday before defeating Oregon on Sunday in their final home game of the season. The Women of Troy are currently ranked ninth nationally and play at UCLA on Friday.

  • The women's volleyball team swept Oregon State and Oregon this weekend to improve their overall record to 15-6. The Women of Troy are currently ranked 18th nationally and will play at Stanford and California this coming weekend.

  • Forward Alex Stepheson scored a game-high 13 points in the USC men's basketball team's intrasquad scrimmage on Sunday at the Galen Center. The Trojans have their final preseason exhibition on Sunday at 2 p.m. against Cal State Dominguez Hills at the Galen Center.

- By Ricky Cambier, USCRipsIt student assistant 

Happy birthday

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Defensive line coach Jethro Franklin celebrated his 44th birthday on Sunday.

Trojans around the League

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Find out how USC alumni did during Week 7 of the NFL season:

  • Linebacker Brian Cushing (Houston Texans) had 8 tackles in the Texans' 24-21 win over San Francisco.
  • Linebacker Clay Matthews (Green Bay Packers) had 3 tackles in the Packers' 31-3 win over Cleveland.
  • Linebacker Kaluka Maiava (Cleveland Browns) had 5 tackles in the Browns' loss.
  • Safety Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh Steelers) had 6 tackles in the Steelers' 27-17 win over Minnesota.
  • Quarterback Mark Sanchez (New York Jets) completed 9-of-15 passes for 143 yards and 1 touchdown in the Jets' 38-0 win over Oakland. He also ran for a touchdown.
  • Tailback Justin Fargas (Oakland Raiders) rushed 8 times for 67 yards in the Raiders' loss.
  • Quarterback Carson Palmer (Cincinnati Bengals) completed 20-of-24 passes for 233 yards and 5 touchdowns in the Bengals' 45-10 win over Chicago.
  • Linebacker Keith Rivers (Cincinnati Bengals) had 4 tackles in the Bengals' win.
  • Defensive lineman Frostee Rucker (Cincinnati Bengals) had 1 sack and 1 other tackle in the Bengals' win.
  • Tailback Reggie Bush (New Orleans Saints) carried the ball 3 times for 10 yards and 1 touchdown and made 3 catches for 16 yards in the Saints' 46-34 win over Miami.
  • Wideout Steve Smith (New York Giants) had 4 catches for 69 yards in the Giants' 24-17 loss to Arizona.
  • Kicker David Buehler (Dallas Cowboys) had four touchbacks in eight kickoffs and also played on the punt return unit that scored on a 73-yard touchdown by Patrick Crayton.

- By Ricky Cambier, USCRipsIt student assistant

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Carson Palmer went 20-for-24 for 233 yards and five touchdowns in the Bengals' 45-10 win over Chicago on Sunday. [Photo courtesy of Getty Images]

Night owls

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Following their 42-36 win over Oregon State on Saturday at the Coliseum, the Trojans have now won 30 consecutive home night games, dating all the way back to September 2001. Records indicate a night game when kickoff is after 5 p.m.

GameDay's coming

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Adding more hype to an already buzz-filled USC-Oregon matchup, ESPN's "College GameDay" will originate from Autzen Stadium on Saturday morning. The 5 p.m. game will be televised nationally on either ABC or ESPN2.

Top play

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Ronald Johnson's 38-yard diving touchdown catch against Oregon State was selected by ESPN as the top college football play on Saturday (thanks to RipsIt reader Bob Brown for sending the video in):

One stop for it all: USC 42, Oregon State 36

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Get all of USCRipsIt's coverage of the 42-36 victory on Saturday, here in one place:

Photo albums from the Oregon State game

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Here's an awesome four-part slideshow of images from Saturday's 42-36 victory, brought to you by USCRipsIt staff photographer Po-He Tseng:

Pre-game

Photos by Po-He Tseng, USCRipsIt staff photographer

First-half action

Photos by Po-He Tseng, USCRipsIt staff photographer

Second-half action

Photos by Po-He Tseng, USCRipsIt staff photographer

Post-game

Photos by Po-He Tseng, USCRipsIt staff photographer

Reliving the game: Oregon State

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Check out these incredible slideshows from Saturday's 42-36 win at the Coliseum, including shots from the locker room and game action, brought to you by USCRipsIt staff photographer Jon SooHoo:

Pre-game

Photos by Jon SooHoo, USCRipsIt staff photographer

Game action

Photos by Jon SooHoo, USCRipsIt staff photographer

Halftime

Photos by Jon SooHoo, USCRipsIt staff photographer

More game action

Photos by Jon SooHoo, USCRipsIt staff photographer

Pictures from the 42-36 victory

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Here are the behind-the-scenes photos from Saturday's 42-36 win over Oregon State (all photos by Ben Malcolmson):

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Coach Carroll speaks to the Trojans on the 50-yard line immediately after arriving at the Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.

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ESPN's Heather Cox interviews Coach Carroll in the tunnel before the game.

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Tailback C.J. Gable sits in the doorway of the locker room prior to warm-ups.

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Wideout Ronald Johnson goes through stretching.

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Matt Barkley throws downfield in warm-ups.

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Mitch Mustain lets a pass fly during warm-ups.

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Coach Carroll and special teams coordinator Brian Schneider chat on the field prior to the game.

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Matt Barkley and the Trojan offense huddle up during pre-game warm-ups.

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Stafon Johnson shakes hands with the defensive linemen after surprising the team in the locker room prior to the game.

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Coach Carroll and Stafon Johnson hug in the locker room before the game.

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With Stafon Johnson taking part, the offensive linemen gather for a brief meeting in the showers prior to the game.

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In the locker room before kickoff, Stafon Johnson is in the middle of the action as the Trojans bounce around, chant, sing and otherwise get pumped up for the game.

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Running backs coach Todd McNair leads an "all hands on deck" call on the field prior to a kickoff in the first half.

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Coach Carroll talks with the defensive backs on the sideline during the first half.

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Coach Carroll (right) and running backs coach Todd McNair (left) watch the game action as the sunset produces a magnificent sky over the peristyle.

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Special teams coordinator Brian Schneider goes over adjustments in the locker room at halftime.

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Coach Carroll jumps around with his players during halftime.

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Following the 42-36 victory, tailback Allen Bradford gets interviewed on the field.

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Coach Carroll speaks to the team in the locker room after the win.

RipsIt Report: USC 42, Oregon State 36

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Experience Trojan football in this special inside report from the locker room and on the sidelines before, during and after USC's 42-36 victory against Oregon State on Saturday at the Coliseum:

The return of Stafon

1024stafhuddlepre.jpgHe walked in silently -- because of both his current health limitations and the element of surprise -- but it wasn't long before the locker room was filled with a buzz.

And sweet, sweet emotion.

For USC's first home game since his injury, Stafon Johnson stunned the team by showing up in the locker room before Saturday night's matchup at the Coliseum. He circled the room, shaking hands and hugging almost every player, coach and support staffer before joining in on the various pre-game meetings and rituals.

Then, just minutes before kickoff, Johnson took center stage and hopped around with the players in the team's traditionally jovial mosh pit in the center of the locker room. As his teammates chanted and sang around him, a teary-eyed Johnson was overcome with emotion -- and the locker room was drenched in it. A player who had once been the ignition for the pre-game locker room chants couldn't make a noise, but his teammates were making up for it.

Though nothing came from Johnson's mouth, plenty of energy and excitement came from his visit. As they streamed out of the locker room and down the tunnel for kickoff, the players overflowed with adrenaline and emotion thanks to their teammate's heart-warming return to the Coliseum.

His teammates went off to play the first half, and Johnson retreated to the press box, where he tweeted, "Ain't cried like that in a while... let's go boyz...."

In the second quarter, the Coliseum video board showed Johnson in the box high above the field. The crowd gave a moving standing ovation and the players raised their helmets in support. But the storybook ending to the whole night came when the clock hit triple-zero and the Trojans -- Johnson very much included -- walked out of the Coliseum with the win.


Before it all

1024pc50.jpgAt the top of the peristyle steps upon arriving at the Coliseum, Coach Carroll had some words to encourage his players.

"Let's love this moment," he said. "It's awesome to be here."

Then in the locker room just before kickoff, the emphasis was on unity.

"One heartbeat, stay together, all night long," Carroll said with his players encircling him, humming "Seven Nation Army" and chanting "stay together all night long." "When we do that, we're too powerful, too strong."


At the half

After the coaches shared adjustments with the offense and defense and respective position groups, Coach Carroll shared his thoughts as the Trojans bounced and chanted around him.

"It doesn't matter what we've done -- it's what we do now that counts," Carroll said. "It's about finishing."


After it all

After rattling off the key stats from the win, Coach Carroll summed up the unsatisfying victory with a few words for his team.

"That was a hard football game -- it's hard to win in the Pac-10," he said with his players surrounding him in the noticeably subdued locker room. "But every one of them we cherish, especially when we do it at the Coliseum."

Notable numbers

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Here are some key stats from USC's 42-36 win over Oregon State on Saturday:

  • Tailback Allen Bradford had a game-high 147 rushing yards for two touchdowns. He averaged 9.8 yards per carry.
  • Matt Barkley went 15-for-25 for 202 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Wideout Ronald Johnson had six catches for 99 yards and a touchdown.
  • Wideout Damian Williams caught six passes for 58 yards and returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown.
  • Cornerback Kevin Thomas and safety Taylor Mays tied for a game-high 11 tackles. Linebacker Malcolm Smith added 10.
  • Everson Griffen, Michael Morgan and Malik Jackson had one sack each.
  • The Trojans had seven tackles for loss.
  • The USC offense went an impressive 6-for-9 on third-down opportunities.
  • The Trojans averaged 7.4 yards per play on offense and 6.9 yards per rush.
  • Attendance: 89,718

USC takes home 42-36 win

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The Trojans never trailed in a Saturday night shootout, taking a 42-36 victory over Oregon State at the Coliseum tonight. Check out the AP recap and full stats from the win.

Game time

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The time has come.

In a few minutes, the Trojans will depart their downtown hotel and travel down the 110 with a police escort to the Coliseum, where arrival is set for 3:25 p.m. Kickoff is set for 5:12 p.m., and the game will be televised regionally on ABC (along with being broadcast on several other platforms).

We'll return after the game with a full, behind-the-scenes report from the Pac-10 matchup. Here's the team's schedule for the remainder of game day:

3:25 p.m. • Arrive at Coliseum; commence Trojan Walk
4:03 p.m. • Warm-ups begin
4:30 p.m. • Stretching begins
4:52 p.m. • USC returns to locker room
5:08 p.m. • Trojans take the field
5:12 p.m. • Kickoff

Friday night highlights

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Here's the sweet highlight video the Trojans watched during their Friday night team meeting. Brought to you by the USC Video Production department, the video gives a motivating look back at the Notre Dame game.

Almost there

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Their Oregon State prep work is all done.

After a week of meetings, film sessions, practices and workouts to ready themselves for the Beavers, the Trojans just wrapped up their final step of pre-game preparation with a special teams roll call -- a gathering that doubles as a rowdy pump-up session -- and walk-thrus for the offense and defense in hotel ballrooms. The players are now eating the pre-game buffet meal before resting and relaxing until leaving the hotel at 3:15 p.m.

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In a small hotel ballroom, the Trojans raise their arms to get excited for tonight's game.

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The defense conducts a walk-thru in a chandeliered hotel ballroom.

Final preparations

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The Trojans are just a few minutes away from diving into their final block of pre-game meetings, and it all starts with a special teams roll call that's disguised as a wake-up call and pump-up session. Then the team will split up and conduct walk-thrus for the offense and defense in separate hotel ballrooms before sitting down to eat the pre-game meal, a buffet smorgasbord that provides the fuel for the players for tonight's contest.

Captain crunch

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Alongside the four elected team captains (Jeff Byers, Damian Williams, Taylor Mays and Josh Pinkard), two other players have been selected by coaches to represent the Trojans during today's game -- linebackers Jarvis Jones (for the special teams) and Marquis Simmons (for the service teams).

For a good read

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Check out this excellent feature on USC's dominant defensive line, from today's L.A. Times.

Good morning

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On a picture-perfect fall morning in L.A., the Trojans are awaking on game day. A full buffet -- overflowing with almost every imaginable breakfast food -- is waiting for the players in a second-floor ballroom before short position group meetings start at 11 a.m.

Kickoff's in seven hours.

RipsIt Minute

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In case you couldn't follow us live, "The RipsIt Minute" gives you a quick rundown of the must-read Blog entries from the previous day:


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Goodnight

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Their work complete for the night, the "day before" is now over.

Bed check just arrived, and the Trojans are now just a sleep away from game day. Wake-up calls will come at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Here's a full schedule for game day:

10 a.m. • Wake-up call
11 a.m. • Position group meetings
12:45 p.m. • Special teams meeting
1 p.m. • Offensive and defensive walk-thrus
1:15 p.m. • Pre-game meal
3:05 p.m. • Clap session
3:15 p.m. • Depart downtown hotel
3:25 p.m. • Arrive at Coliseum; commence Trojan Walk
4:03 p.m. • Warm-ups begin
4:30 p.m. • Stretching begins
4:52 p.m. • USC returns to locker room
5:08 p.m. • Trojans take the field
5:12 p.m. • Kickoff

Just getting started

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In a ballroom of a downtown hotel, Coach Carroll speaks to the Trojans during tonight's team meeting, sharing his thoughts at the midpoint of the 2009 season. "We're at the halfway mark, and we're so much better than when we started," he said. "But we're just getting warmed up."

An NFL factory

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Linebacker Clay Matthews won the NFL's rookie of the week award for his performance last Sunday, continuing the USC dominance of the award this season. A Trojan has won four of the six weekly honors in 2009 after Matthews in Week 6 and Mark Sanchez in Weeks 1 through 3.

Trojans in NFL action

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Thirty-three Trojans are set to appear in all 13 NFL games this weekend, so check out the full slate of USC alumni on pro rosters:

Green Bay Packers (3-2) vs. Cleveland Browns (1-5)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (FOX)
Packers: Linebacker Clay Matthews
Browns: Linebacker Kaluka Maiava

San Francisco 49ers (3-2) vs. Houston Texans (3-3)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (FOX)
49ers: Offensive Lineman Chilo Rachal
Texans: Linebacker Brian Cushing, defensive lineman Shaun Cody

San Diego Chargers (2-3) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (1-5)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (CBS)
Chargers: Safety Kevin Ellison
Chiefs: Quarterback Matt Cassel

Minnesota Vikings (6-0) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (FOX)
Steelers: Safety Troy Polamalu

Indianapolis Colts (5-0) vs. St. Louis Rams (0-6)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (CBS)
Colts: Defensive lineman Fili Moala
Rams: Defensive lineman LaJuan Ramsey

New England Patriots (4-2) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (CBS)
Patriots: Linebacker Junior Seau
Buccaneers: Defensive lineman Kyle Moore

Buffalo Bills (2-4) vs. Carolina Panthers (2-3)
Sunday at 1:05 p.m. (CBS)
Panthers: Wideout Dwayne Jarrett, offensive lineman Ryan Kalil

New York Jets (3-3) vs. Oakland Raiders (2-4)
Sunday at 1:05 p.m. (CBS)
Jets: Quarterback Mark Sanchez
Raiders: Tailback Justin Fargas

Chicago Bears (3-2) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2)
Sunday at 1:15 p.m. (FOX)
Bengals: Quarterback Carson Palmer, defensive end Frostee Rucker, linebacker Keith Rivers, linebacker Rey Maualuga

Atlanta Falcons (4-1) vs. Dallas Cowboys (3-2)
Sunday at 1:15 p.m. (FOX)
Falcons: Offensive lineman Sam Baker
Cowboys: Kicker David Buehler

New Orleans Saints (5-0) vs. Miami Dolphins (2-3)
Sunday at 1:15 p.m. (FOX)
Saints: Tailback Reggie Bush, defensive lineman Sedrick Ellis
Dolphins: Wideout Patrick Turner

Arizona Cardinals (3-2) vs. New York Giants (5-1)
Sunday at 5:20 p.m. (NBC)
Cardinals: Quarterback Matt Leinart, tight end Dominique Byrd, offensive lineman Deuce Lutui
Giants: Wideout Steve Smith, cornerback Terrell Thomas

Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) vs. Washington Redskins (2-4)
Monday at 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Eagles: Offensive lineman Winston Justice, defensive lineman Mike Patterson
Redskins: Tight end Fred Davis

- Research by Ricky Cambier, USCRipsIt student assistant

Pulling in for the night

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Following a brief police-escorted bus ride up Figueroa, the Trojans have arrived at their team hotel, which can be considered a second home of sorts for the coaches and players. They're eating pizza and chicken wings for dinner now before the night's business gets started at 7:30. Here's a look at the agenda for the night:

7:30 p.m. • Special teams meeting
8 p.m. • Offense/defense meetings
8:15 p.m. • Position group meetings
8:30 p.m. • Team meeting
8:45 p.m. • Snack
9 p.m. • Optional chapel and mass services at the hotel
10:30 p.m. • Bed check

Leaving campus

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The Trojans have wrapped up their on-campus work and are now departing USC for their downtown hotel, where the final chunk of pre-game preparations will commence and carry them through until two hours before kickoff on Saturday.

Rally time

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Running backs coach Todd McNair pumps up the crowd during this afternoon's jock rally, a tradition prior to home games that brings the Trojan Marching Band, USC Song Girls, players, coaches and fans together for a spirited rally in Heritage Hall.

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Safety Will Harris raises the sword and leads the band after speaking to the crowd.

Dispatch from Howard Jones

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Check out some photos from this afternoon's walk-thru on Howard Jones Field, where the Trojans reviewed all special teams situations, 15 key offensive and defensive plays and the two-minute drill:

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Matt Barkley throws to the flat.

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Defensive end Everson Griffen closes in on scout-team quarterback Garrett Green.

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The Trojan offense and defense go up for a Hail Mary attempt in the end zone, with the defense knocking the ball away for the win.

One last time

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The Trojans' quick Friday walk-thru is about to begin on Howard Jones Field, and it's immediately followed by the jock rally in Heritage Hall. We'll return after with a report.

Making a difference

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Here's a cool video about the positive effects of A Better LA in the community, produced by ABC:

Evolution of game week

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Part dance party, part Native American rain dance and part mosh pit, the Trojans' recently concluded special teams meeting showed one thing's for sure.

The players are jacked up and ready to go.

But following the festive pump-up session that rattled Heritage Auditorium, it was time for the Trojans to shift into their more serious mode of final game preparation. Meetings this afternoon and the 4:15 p.m. practice are the first steps in that more solemn phase, a vital part of Coach Carroll's carefully engineered plan for game week.

"Now it's time to focus," running backs coach Todd McNair said as the team transitioned from wild excitement to intense preparation.

Said Carroll: "Make it a great finish day for us so we can be perfect and exactly right for tomorrow."

On sale

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The shop at PeteCarroll.com is having a special sale on fall items, so check it out and take advantage of the savings.

Let's get it started

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The Trojans are just about to gather for their traditional Friday afternoon block of meetings, starting with a typically wild special teams meeting in Heritage Auditorium. Here's a quick glance at the schedule for the Trojans this afternoon:

2:30 p.m. • Special teams meeting
3 p.m. • Team meeting
3:15 p.m. • Offense/defense meetings
3:30 p.m. • Position group meetings
4:15 p.m. • Practice (closed to the public)
5 p.m. • Jock rally
6 p.m. • Depart campus for downtown hotel

Media presence

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Here's how you can watch, listen to or otherwise follow the USC-Oregon State game on Saturday:

  • Kickoff: 5:12 p.m.
  • Regional TV: ABC (Mike Patrick, Craig James and Heather Cox)
  • Live internet stream: ESPN360.com
  • Local L.A. radio: 710-AM
  • National radio: Westwood One
  • Live internet play-by-play: USCTrojans.com GameTracker

Informative meeting

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Taking a quick break from a defensive staff meeting, Coach Carroll has stepped out of the office to attend an interview with the ABC announcers for Saturday's game, Mike Patrick, Craig James and Heather Cox. During this brief Q&A, Carroll provides the commentators with loads of fodder and insight for their broadcast tomorrow night.

Trojan reunion

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Trojans Brian Cushing (left), Frostee Rucker (middle) and Keith Rivers (right) chat following last Sunday's Houston Texans-Cincinnati Bengals game. [Photo courtesy of the Houston Texans]

Loud and proud

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Coach Carroll is calling for your help.

On third downs and other key plays when the Trojans are on defense during Saturday's game at the Coliseum, Carroll is requesting that the home crowd ratchet up the volume to disrupt the opponents.

"How loud and crazy can you get?" Carroll said. "The noise helps our defense and affects the other team's ability to communication, so bring it tomorrow."

Vote today

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Be sure to vote daily for Coach Carroll for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award, and if Carroll wins, $50,000 will be donated to A Better LA, the inner-city charity he helped found.

For a good read

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Check out this great feature on linebacker Brian Cushing, who's making a strong push for defensive rookie of the year (from today's Houston Chronicle). Thanks to RipsIt reader Harlan Martens for the link.

Campus happenings

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Check out some key news stories from around the USC community during the past week:

- USC has been ranked the top "good neighbor" university in a recent survey. The university makes great efforts to partner with the surrounding community by providing employment opportunities, affordable housing, academic support for nearby schools and a variety of other benefits.

- The Nike+ Human Race will take place on campus with warm-up programming beginning at 10:30 p.m. tonight. The race begins at the Coliseum at midnight and will make its way around campus and the surrounding areas before ending back at the Coliseum. The race costs $25 to enter either the 5K or 10K with $5 of each entry fee going to A Better LA.

- Steve Miller is putting on two benefit concerts this weekend in celebration of the Thornton Music School's 125th anniversary. The first concerts was Thursday and the second one will be at 8 p.m. tonight at Bovard Auditorium.

- This weekend is Parent's Weekend with several events scheduled. Parents will be able to hear an address from President Steven B. Sample, have breakfast with school deans, use the Lyon Center and enjoy many other perks throughout the weekend.

- By Ricky Cambier, USCRipsIt student assistant

Video evidence

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Not trying to beat a dead horse, but here's video from the illegal fake field goal play during last weekend's Notre Dame game. Pac-10 officiating director Dave Cutaia distributed this video to the conference's head coaches, saying that the video proves Notre Dame used the substitution process to deceive, thereby making the play illegal:

Run tonight

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The Nike Plus Human Race is set to start at 12:01 a.m. at the Coliseum tonight, so be sure to sign up now. Proceeds from the event will benefit Coach Carroll's A Better LA foundation.

Women of Troy return home

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The No. 18 USC women's volleyball team has two home matches this weekend (tonight at 6 against Oregon State and Saturday at 2 p.m. against Oregon), so purchase your tickets online or at the Galen Center.

If you wear pink to tonight's match, you will get in free as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Night. Also, the first 500 fans in the gate will receive a free pink mini volleyball.

Win a signed Pete Carroll football

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Win a football autographed by Coach Carroll! Be the 100th person to bring the voucher below to the USCRipsIt table on the front steps of Heritage Hall on game day, and the prize is yours!

The USCRipsIt booth will be set up starting at noon on Saturday on the steps of Heritage Hall, so be sure to stop by to pick up a sticker, flyer or just say hi to the USCRipsIt street team.

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Sleeping in

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The Trojans are enjoying a morning off today.

As is the tradition before home games, coaches get Friday morning off to sleep in and spend time with their families. They'll be in around noon to kick off the final phase of game preparation, and the players will report to Heritage Hall for meetings starting at 2:30 p.m.

RipsIt Minute

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In case you couldn't follow us live, "The RipsIt Minute" gives you a quick rundown of the must-read Blog entries from the previous day:


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Thursday's photo album

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Check out this slideshow of images from Wednesday's practice, brought to you by USCRipsIt staff photographer Po-He Tseng:

Photos by Po-He Tseng, USCRipsIt staff photographer

Pictures from Thursday's practice

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The defensive line goes through position-specific drills.

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Coach Carroll throws deep during a 7-on-7 drill.

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Defensive coordinator Rocky Seto (left) watches closely as safety T.J. McDonald (right) goes through cut-blocking avoidance drills.

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Mitch Mustain lines up under center during service team period.

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The sun sets as Matt Barkley and the USC offense finish up practice.

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Matt Barkley rolls out on one of the last plays of Thursday's workout.

Dispatch from Howard Jones

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Thoughts from Thursday's practice, through the eyes of USCRipsIt...

- A lively final full-speed workout of the week -- complete with exceptionally sharp play by the offense -- ended with an outburst of joyous energy, providing the perfect transition into the final 48 hours of game week preparation. While Coach Carroll gave his speech in the post-practice team huddle, the players spontaneously broke out in a reenactment of the "Oh my Lord" scene from "Glory" for several minutes as Carroll wrapped up his address. Smiles covered the faces of all Trojans while walking off the field toward their last stage of game prep, which starts Friday afternoon.

- As mentioned, the first-team offense had a day to remember, appearing remarkably on-the-money during service team period before producing a flawless 4-0 victory in the final team period.

- Fullback Stanley Havili is likely out for Saturday's game. "It doesn't look like he's going to make it," Carroll said.

- Defensive lineman Christian Tupou (knee) will play and wideout David Ausberry (calf strain) is doubtful for the game, Carroll said.

- Carroll announced wideout Ronald Johnson will start at wideout on Saturday.

- The Trojan special teams got extra focus, as is the norm for Thursday workouts.

- Major League Baseball player Sean Casey, known as "the Mayor," attended practice.

To the field they go

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It's No Repeat Thursday on Howard Jones Field, meaning the focus is on sharpness and precision, especially when it comes to penalties, motions and other intricacies of the game. We'll return with a report following the half-pads workout.

Home is where the heart is

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The Coliseum is primed and ready for Saturday's USC-Oregon State matchup, the first home game for the Trojans in four weeks and just the second one at the majestic stadium in the last seven weeks.

Getting pumped for game day

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Energy is brimming for the Trojans today, as they raise their arms and chant during this afternoon's team meeting in Heritage Auditorium, a sign of their excitement for Saturday's game. "Let us understand that we're coming home this weekend!" Coach Carroll excitedly said during the meeting.

Make note in your program

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The jersey numbers for two walk-ons have changed. Tailback Ahmed Mokhtar is now No. 27 and wideout Preston Cavignac is now No. 43.

More midseason All-Americans

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Offensive lineman Jeff Byers has been named a midseason All-American first-teamer by both CBSSports.com and Sports Illustrated, while safety Taylor Mays has been chosen as a second-team All-American by both publications.

Spike's in the house

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Check out this cool photo of Spike Lee, wearing a No. 13 USC jersey and flashing the "V for victory," on the sidelines at the Notre Dame game on Saturday (courtesy of USC sports information):

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Support the change

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Help A Better LA by purchasing a trendy cardinal-and-gold t-shirt at the Coliseum this Saturday. The entire $20 cost will go toward making a difference in inner-city L.A., so be sure to stop by the booth on Christmas tree lane on the peristyle end of the stadium to get yours and contribute to the transformation of L.A.

Getting closer to the day

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Thursday is colloquially known as the "day before the day before" around Heritage Hall.

That is, it's the day prior to the day prior to game day. Coaches like to shorten it the "the day befo' the day befo'," but either way you say it, the statement exudes excitement for the Trojans.

"Boys, how about this?" a grinning Coach Carroll said at the end of this morning's staff meeting. "It's Thursday!"

Mr. Roboto

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The Doctors of USC will be hosting an exhibition of new state-of-the-art robotic surgery equipment outside of the peristyle end of the Coliseum from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Everyone's invited to see, touch and use the new equipment during the free demo.

Freshmen fun fact

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In Coach Carroll's nine seasons at USC, 92 first-year freshmen have seen playing time, including six this year.

Weekend agenda

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Check out the Trojans' minute-by-minute itinerary for the weekend ahead:

Friday
2:30 p.m. • Meetings begin
4:15 p.m. • Practice (closed to the public)
5 p.m. • Jock rally
6 p.m. • Depart campus for downtown hotel
7:30 p.m. • Eve-of-game meetings begin at downtown hotel
10:30 p.m. • Bed check

Saturday
10 a.m. • Wake-up call
11 a.m. • Position group meetings
12:45 p.m. • Special teams meeting
1 p.m. • Offensive and defensive walk-thrus
1:15 p.m. • Pre-game meal
3:05 p.m. • Clap session
3:15 p.m. • Depart downtown hotel
3:25 p.m. • Arrive at Coliseum; commence Trojan Walk
4:03 p.m. • Warm-ups begin
4:30 p.m. • Stretching begins
4:52 p.m. • USC returns to locker room
5:08 p.m. • Trojans take the field
5:12 p.m. • Kickoff

Coach's tape

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Check out this funny photo of Coach Carroll showing his hands-on approach to coaching as he tapes Everson Griffen's ankles alongside assistant athletic trainer Paul Diaz before a recent practice. Following this lighthearted experiment, no word yet on whether Carroll will be changing professions any time soon. (Photo courtesy of Chris Grosskopf, assistant athletic trainer)

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Traveling with the Band

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See what life was like for the Trojan Marching Band during their trip to the Midwest for the Notre Dame game in this neat behind-the-scenes video:

Come on out

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Just a reminder that a spirited jock rally will occur at 5 p.m. on Friday at Heritage Hall, where the Trojan Marching Band, USC Song Girls, coaches, players and fans will come together for a traditional pep rally the night before the game.

Win a signed Pete Carroll football

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Win a football autographed by Coach Carroll! Be the 100th person to bring the voucher below to the USCRipsIt table on the front steps of Heritage Hall on game day, and the prize is yours!

The USCRipsIt booth will be set up starting at noon on Saturday on the steps of Heritage Hall, so be sure to stop by to pick up a sticker, flyer or just say hi to the USCRipsIt street team.

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Reversing some penalty calls

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The Pac-10 has come back to USC with favorable rulings on several penalty calls in Saturday's Notre Dame game.

On the Irish's fake field goal attempt in the first quarter, Pac-10 officiating coordinator Dave Cutaia has determined that it in fact was an illegal substitution. The player in question was ruled to be among the substitutes leaving the field and stopped about three yards from the sideline, which makes this play illegal. The penalty should have been five yards and a redo of the down, which would have made it 4th-and-7 from the 32-yard line. Instead, Notre Dame used the play to reach the 2-yard line and set up a touchdown one play later.

Also, one of Taylor Mays' personal foul penalties was ruled incorrect, according to Cutaia. On his first penalty in the fourth quarter, the Notre Dame runner was determined to be inbounds when Mays hit him, nullifying the out-of-bounds late-hit call.

Also, on the final drive of the game, Mays' hit on the "defenseless" Notre Dame wide receiver was ruled questionable. Cutaia determined that Mays led with his shoulder, went over top of the receiver and did not contact the receiver above the shoulder. It could have been called a late hit, but not definitively.

A day in the life: Offensive lineman Alex Parsons

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1022parsosn.jpgBy Elizabeth McHugh
USCRipsIt staff writer



"Beep, beep... beep, beep..." It's 8:15 a.m. on a Thursday morning and the droning sounds of Alex Parsons' alarm clock awake him from his slumber.

For most college kids, this is an hour unseen through all four undergraduate years, but for this senior offensive tackle, this is a "late morning."

"I got to sleep in this morning until a whopping 8:15," Parsons said. On most other days, Parsons is up at 6:15 and in the weight room by 7 a.m. for scheduled workouts with the other offensive linemen.

After waking up, Parsons heads to the Galen Dining Center, a popular establishment located near Heritage Hall that primarily serves varsity athletes. On the menu this morning? A blueberry bagel and a banana.

Soon after he finishes breakfast, Parsons ventures to the center of campus for class. At 9:30 a.m., the sociology major arrives at his first class of the day -- Introduction to Sociological Theory, a class that lasts until almost 11 a.m.     

Once lecture's through, Parsons returns to Galen for yet another tasty treat. This time, he enjoys "a delicious turkey and ham wrap and a side of pasta salad."

Parsons' second and final class of the day, Terrorism and Genocide, a political science course, begins at noon and ends just before 2, leaving Parsons with only a few minutes to get from his class back to the locker room.

"After my terrorism and genocide class, I really had to hustle back to get my ankles taped and treated before our 2:15 meetings," Parsons said.

From 2 until nearly 7 p.m., Parsons is surrounded by all things USC football. Team meetings take place until 4 p.m. Then, Parsons and the team take the field for an intense and competitive two-hour practice session. Finally, he cleans up from practice and spends time in the training room.

Around 8 p.m., Parsons arrives home after a long, 12-hour day. Though most nights he would next face the daunting task of homework, tonight his workload is light.

"I only had a few pages of reading to do," he said.

When dinnertime rolls around, Parsons chooses to treat himself.

"I decided to break my diet and fall for my weakness, Del Taco," he said.

After a little Mexican fast-food and a movie, Parsons' day ends. He climbs in bed and shuts his eyes because tomorrow, it starts all over again.


• Elizabeth McHugh is a USCRipsIt staff writer. 

Got to vote

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Have you voted yet today?

Vote daily for Coach Carroll for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award, and if Carroll wins, $50,000 will be donated to A Better LA, the inner-city charity he helped found.

High school football fun

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Friday night high school football is getting the juices flowing for many Trojans.

Mater Dei and Servite face off tomorrow night in the latest installment of the classic Orange County rivalry, and seven USC players will be waiting anxiously for score updates. This L.A. Times article captures the intensity of the matchup and the banter that now exists for those seven Trojans.

If you're interested, you can watch the game through a live stream here, through iBN Sports.

And lastly, here are the seven Trojans who graduated from the two schools:

Mater Dei
QB Matt Barkley
WR Robbie Boyer
OL Khaled Holmes
RB Ahmed Mokhtar

Servite
LB Chris Galippo
OL Matt Kalil
FB D.J. Shoemate

Pre-game party

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Looking for a place to tailgate on Saturday prior to the game? Check out this USC-hosted event at the Galen Center, where you can enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet and watch games from around the country (more info below). For reservations, e-mail uscgalentailgate@aramark.com.

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Must-see TV: Geeter unplugged

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All-star TV personality Geeter McGee, renowned for his entertaining coverage of beach volleyball, is now a part of the USCRipsIt team, and he checks in with this excellent "Unplugged" feature that solicits the Trojans' reactions -- many of them quite funny -- to last weekend's win at Notre Dame. Don't miss this six-minute piece here.

RipsIt Minute

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In case you couldn't follow us live, "The RipsIt Minute" gives you a quick rundown of the must-read Blog entries from the previous day:


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Wednesday's photo album

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Check out this slideshow of images from Wednesday's practice, brought to you by USCRipsIt staff photographer Po-He Tseng:

Photos by Po-He Tseng, USCRipsIt staff photographer

Pictures from Wednesday's practice

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With coach Todd McNair trying to distract him with thrown agility bags, Damian Williams catches a punt.

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Mitch Mustain throws on the run.

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The Trojans conduct their practice as the sun sets over the adjacent building.

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Matt Barkley points to linebacker Ross Cumming during service team period.

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Mitch Mustain and the Trojans conduct the final period of practice.

Dispatch from Howard Jones

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Thoughts from Wednesday's practice, through the eyes of USCRipsIt...

- Following a victory on Competition Tuesday, the offense captured a rare double win on Turnover Wednesday by not allowing a turnover all day and taking an 11-8 triumph in the final team period. "That's a great day for the offense," Coach Carroll said in the post-practice team huddle.

- Wideout Damian Williams turned in a strong all-around performance during the full-pads workout on Wednesday. During team period, he caught two touchdown passes, but his most important play came when he saved the win for the offense in the turnover-themed practice. On a deep ball down the left sideline, Williams swatted it out of the hands of the cornerback to prevent the would-be interception, and the offense went on to pitch a shutout on Turnover Wednesday. "That's a hell of a play!" Carroll exclaimed.

- Cornerback Josh Pinkard sat out of a majority of Wednesday's practice with a foot injury.

- Fullback Stanley Havili remained out of practice and is able to play as tolerated, but the coaches will "wait it out and see" on his status, Carroll said. In his absence, D.J. Shoemate will fill in. "D.J. does everything Stanley does," Carroll said. "I'm anxious to see him play."

- Tailback Marc Tyler is likely to have surgery next week to repair a broken bone in his toe, Carroll said.

- With cornerback Brian Baucham returning to full-time action after his motorcycle injury last month, Carroll said the competition is on between Baucham and T.J. Bryant for the third cornerback spot.

Going to practice

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The Trojans are heading out to Howard Jones Field for their weekly Turnover Wednesday practice, so we'll return with a report afterward.

Carroll's Video Blog #7

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In his latest video blog, Coach Carroll shares his thoughts on returning to the Coliseum to face Oregon State and how the team is dealing with the personal foul penalties incurred during the Notre Dame game. Don't miss it:

Cushing earns a big honor

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Rookie linebacker Brian Cushing was named AFC defensive player of the week for his performance in Sunday's 28-17 win for the Houston Texans, including nine tackles, two forced fumbles and an interception.

Numbers game

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Stats get thrown around like confetti on Wednesdays for the Trojans, as they zero in on the coming opponent. Here are four key stat categories USC is examining today:

  • Turnover margin (USC: -2; Oregon State: +2) • Aiming to get back to the positive, the Trojans are in for a challenge this week as they face tailback Jacquizz Rodgers, who has not fumbled in all 454 touches during his career as a Beaver.

  • Third-down conversion offense (USC: 31 percent; Oregon State: 46 percent) • Trojans rank seventh in the Pac-10, while the Beavers are second.

  • Third-down conversion defense (USC: 30 percent; Oregon State: 35 percent) • Trojans are second in the conference and the Beavers are fifth.

  • Penalty yards per game (USC: 69.5; Oregon State: 48.5) • With the second-worst mark in the Pac-10, the Trojans are essentially giving the Beavers two first downs when looking at the penalty yard disparity.

Getting down to business

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Turnover Wednesday is starting now with a special teams film session in Heritage Auditorium before team, offense/defense and position group meetings. A full-pads practice is set for 4:15.

Midnight run

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The Nike Plus Human Race -- set to start at 12:01 a.m. at the Coliseum this Friday night -- is just two days away, so be sure to sign up now. Proceeds from the event will benefit Coach Carroll's A Better LA foundation.

Rally time in Glendale

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A free USC pep rally will be held on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Americana in Glendale, complete with the Trojan Marching Band, USC Song Girls and more:

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Life as Tommy Trojan: Talking with USC's drum major

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1021tmb.jpgBy Paige Guritzky
USCRipsIt staff writer



As the Trojans make their way into the second half of the football season, they have spent a lot of time in foreign terrain. After being away from the Coliseum for four weeks, there is a lot of anticipation to get back home. Drum major Kenny Morris, who has been with the band and team every step of the way, shares his unique perspective of the football season so far and what it means to be coming back home.

"It's always great to come back to the Coliseum. It's where we know how we do things...it's our house. We protect it. The team loves it, the band loves it, and our fans love it. Only great memories. It's always great to return to that. All of the home game traditions are there like kicking the flagpole and doing rallies on campus, and of course my favorite part, when I get to go out and stab the field...everyone goes nuts! It's always great to return to something that is comfortable, something that you know."

Morris shares his thoughts on the tradition of stabbing the field before every game:

"The best part about it though, and this is where the band especially shines, is when I stab the field. Cal fans just hated it. It drove them crazy. The band really feeds off that energy. I understand that some Cal fans were upset about it and it's been brought to my attention that there are a few message boards that are trying to ban the stabbing of the field during the pre-show. It's not a way of insulting the other team...it's just what we do. We're Trojans. We claim the field for our team, for Trojans and for Troy."

If you want to catch one of the rallies on campus lead by the band on Game Day, they start two hours before kickoff at Heritage Hall. From there they march through the music school and over to the Alumni Rally in Founder's Park. After that, the band plays in front of Bovard Auditorium by the flagpoles and continues their march all the way to the Coliseum, where you can then see them take the field for the pre-game show.


• Paige Guritzky is a USCRipsIt staff writer. Be sure to check back in the coming weeks for more inside information on what it's like to be drum major at USC.

Photo courtesy of Timothy Lutes

McCoy gets recognition

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Anthony McCoy has been named John Mackey Tight End of the Week following his 153-receiving-yard output in Saturday's 34-27 win at Notre Dame.

Long trip there and back

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One of the most epic accomplishments in the history of the USC athletic department was concluded at 2 a.m. on Tuesday.

It had nothing to do with a game, a championship or a player. Instead, it was all about transporting the team's equipment to South Bend, Ind., for last weekend's trip to play Notre Dame.

One truck, ten days, 4,400 miles and 11,000 pounds of equipment -- what a journey.

For any trips away from the West Coast, the USC equipment staff had always shipped the gear via planes. But not this time, as director of equipment operations David "Pops" Scott chose to send the team's 11,000 pounds of gear by truck all the way to South Bend. The truck, carrying everything but the players' pads and helmets and the team's video equipment, departed campus on Oct. 10, arrived in northern Indiana on Oct. 13 and was back on the road immediately after Saturday's game. It pulled into L.A. early Tuesday morning.

"It exceeded my expectations and I'm extremely happy with the results," Scott said.

Football equipment coordinator Tino Dominguez and Scott organized the effort, while Howard Griffin and Luis Aguilar of the USC Bookstore were the two drivers, who alternated driving duties during the trip. "I have nothing but ultimate praise for them," Scott said.

Above all, Scott was ecstatic on his final review of the trip, the longest one the USC equipment staff has ever undertaken solely by truck.

"It was money," Scott said.

Ask Coach: McCoy standing out

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This week's "AT&T Ask Coach" question solicits Coach Carroll's comparison between tight ends Anthony McCoy and his predecessor Fred Davis:

Three Trojans earn midseason honors

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Offensive guard Jeff Byers, linebacker Chris Galippo and safety Taylor Mays have been named to Sporting News' midseason All-American team.

A national brand

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USC could make a strong claim to be "America's Team."

The Trojans have become the antithesis of a provincial program, as the roster and, most notably, the starting lineup are loaded with players from around the country.

Nine of the Trojans' 22 starting roles are filled by players from out of state, continuing a recent trend of USC putting non-Californians in prominent positions to contribute. This season marks the third straight where nine starters -- 41 percent of the starting lineup -- came to USC from out of state.

"We've always had tremendous success with out-of-state kids," Coach Carroll said. "When we recruit out of state, we're looking for the top guy in that state."

This season, the out-of-state starters are wideouts Ronald Johnson (Michigan) and Damian Williams (Arkansas); offensive linemen Jeff Byers (Colorado) and Kristofer O'Dowd (Arizona); fullback Stanley Havili (Utah); tailback Joe McKnight (Louisiana); defensive end Everson Griffen (Arizona); linebacker Michael Morgan (Texas); and safety Taylor Mays (Washington). In all, 27 players on the 2009 roster hail from out of state.

And the success of non-Californian Trojans doesn't end at USC. In the last four NFL drafts, 10 out-of-state Trojans have been selected.

"We always say in recruiting that we're going after out-of-state players who will be No. 1 NFL draft picks down the road," Carroll said. "And for the most part, we've been pretty close through the years."

Coverage map

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The USC-Oregon State game on Saturday at 5 p.m. will be shown in 19 percent of the country's households. Here's the ABC coverage map for this weekend's regional broadcasts in the 5 p.m. time slot:

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Do it again

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It's that time of the day.

Vote daily for Coach Carroll for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award, and if Carroll wins, $50,000 will be donated to A Better LA, the inner-city charity he helped found.

Friends and foes

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1021mokhtar.jpegIt will be reunion weekend for walk-on tailback Ahmed Mokhtar.

The first-year Trojan spent his freshman season in 2007 at Oregon State before transferring, so he'll be seeing several familiar faces when the Beavers enter the Coliseum on Saturday night.

"It should be fun," Mokhtar said.

Mohktar spent the 2008 season at Orange Coast College prior to transferring this fall into USC, where he's serving as a scout-team tailback for the Trojans. The Laguna Beach native and Mater Dei graduate said the change from Corvallis to L.A. has been a positive move -- especially when factoring in the weather differences.

"Nine straight months of rain wasn't doing it for me," Mokhtar said with a smile.

Weather watch

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The weather is lining up to be picture-perfect on game day.

But what else is new in L.A.?

Saturday's forecast is calling for partly cloudy skies, a high of 77 and a low of 62 at the Coliseum, a marked difference from last week's 40-degree weather in South Bend. 

Top play

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On first-and-goal from the 4 with nine seconds left, cornerback T.J. Bryant makes a leaping deflection on a pass intended for Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph in the end zone. The 6-0 Bryant's defense of the 6-6 Rudolph was one of three huge goal-line plays for the Trojans in the waning seconds of Saturday's 34-27 win at Notre Dame. [Photo courtesy of USC sports information]

Sing along

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Coaches are currently in their recruiting meeting, a weekly occurrence that's utilized to analyze film of prospects for the Class of 2010. They've spiced up the typically quiet meeting with the tunes of Rick James, turning the War Room into a karaoke lounge as they discuss the future of the Trojans.

Down to the minute

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Kickoff of the USC-Oregon State game on Saturday at the Coliseum will be at 5:12 p.m. The game will be televised regionally on ABC.

For a good read

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Check out this insightful feature on tight end Anthony McCoy, from today's L.A. Times.

RipsIt Minute

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In case you couldn't follow us live, "The RipsIt Minute" gives you a quick rundown of the must-read Blog entries from the previous day:


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Tuesday's photo album

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Check out this slideshow of images from Tuesday's practice, brought to you by USCRipsIt staff photographer Po-He Tseng:

Photos by Po-He Tseng, USCRipsIt staff photographer

Pictures from Tuesday's practice

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Offensive guard Jeff Byers leads his fellow linemen through agility bags.

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Wideout Brice Butler (left) and cornerback Kevin Thomas (right) soar high up to get the pass during 1-on-1s.

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Matt Barkley looks downfield from the pocket.

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As the L.A. skyline glistens in the sunset, the Trojans conduct the team portion of their practice.

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The Trojans finish up Tuesday's practice under the lights on Howard Jones Field.

Dispatch from Howard Jones

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Thoughts from Tuesday's practice, through the eyes of USCRipsIt...

- The competition was raging during a sharp team period on Tuesday, as the offense jumped out to a 5-0 lead and the defense immediately came back to take a 6-5 advantage, before the offense finally closed it out for a 13-11 overall practice victory. Energy was high and the play was game-like as the Trojans turned a midseason, midweek workout into a spirited affair on Howard Jones Field.

- On one crazy play during team period, linebacker Jarvis Jones deflected the Matt Barkley bullet pass, which then ricocheted off of safety Drew McAllister's shoulder pads before wideout Damian Williams, the intended receiver, raced under the ball, caught it and sprinted free to the end zone. "Put that in the playbook!" tight ends coach Brennan Carroll exclaimed.

- During service team period, Matt Barkley was remarkably on the money, connecting with stunning precision on his passes, both short and long.

- Tailback Curtis McNeal broke three lengthy runs during team drills.

- The defense all but put the offense to sleep during 7-on-7 period, forcing incompletions on eight of the 10 snaps.

- Fullback D.J. Shoemate, whom Coach Carroll said he's "really excited about," filled in for Stanley Havili (currently out with a dislocated shoulder). Fellow backup Adam Goodman is also getting ready in case Havili can't play Saturday. "Those guys have to pick up the slack," Carroll said.

- During 1-on-1 period, cornerbacks T.J. Bryant, Kevin Thomas and Shareece Wright each had an interception, rewards for playing superb coverage.

- For the second time in as many weeks, distinguished southern California pastor Mike Erre, of Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa, attended practice. 

Got to compete

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The Trojans just hit the field for their Competition Tuesday workout, so we'll return with a report following the full-pads practice.

NFL highlights

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Week 6 was a huge week for Trojans in the NFL, so check out some highlights from Sunday's action:

Title time

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The drive for eight is heating up.

With Oregon State coming to the Coliseum for a battle between two teams with 2-1 conference records, the Trojans are treating the matchup like a title bout. And there's no patty-caking this one -- USC needs to keep winning in order to capture its eighth consecutive Pac-10 crown.

"It's Pac-10 championship time," Carroll said during this afternoon's team meeting. "Every single game from here on out will decide the championship."

Special focus

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The USC punt unit watches film of Oregon State's punt return squad during the special teams meeting this afternoon in Heritage Auditorium. The team meeting will begin shortly, before offense/defense and position group meetings and a full-pads practice at 4:15 p.m.

See it again

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In case you missed today's Coach Carroll press conference, watch it in full here, courtesy of USCTrojans.com.

Inside the Life: The bonds of student-athletes

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Throughout the season, USCRipsIt will be taking you into the off-the-field life of a player, showing you what goes on behind the scenes through "Inside the Life." In this weekly series written by staff writer Courtney Kalisz, we'll bring you into the daily life of a player and reveal the details that fill a student-athlete's schedule while off the field. Here's a feature about the family environment fostered among USC's student-athletes:

It is no secret that members of the USC football team treat each other like family. But what USC fans may not know is that the "Trojan Family" motif exists not only within a single team, but also throughout all of them.

Members of all USC athletic teams get to know each other through many different ways. From SAAS to Galen Center to classes together to athlete barbeques and other functions, USC student-athletes become close with members of all the different athletic teams.

Bonds made with other student-athletes last throughout the athlete's entire time as a student at USC and beyond. Student-athletes are always among the most loyal fans for other USC athletic teams. Whether it's football, swimming, tennis or baseball, it doesn't matter; student-athletes will always be there in the stands rooting on their fellow Trojans.

One positive way that athletes can get together and get to know each other is through charity and community service functions. The USC athletic department takes a lot of pride in its community outreach efforts. Almost every student athlete is involved in at least one community service project. This is a positive way for Trojans to work together and get involved in the community while getting to know each other.

When student-athletes have classes together, it is not uncommon for them to bond. A lot of student-athletes who have class together take the initiative to create study groups. Support towards other athletes is not confined to the field. Student-athletes help support each other academically by working hard and motivating each other to achieve their highest potential.

The training room is also a common place for student-athletes to form friendships and support systems. Injured athletes often form bonds and genuinely care about the progress of their healing. As a former student-athlete who underwent ankle surgery, I know that I felt support from members of various athletic teams who were also injured. I still keep in touch with these people on a regular basis.

There are many positive ways in which student-athletes support each other. But that is to be expected as a student-athlete member of the Trojan Family.


- By Courtney Kalisz, USCRipsIt staff writer

Vote today

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Vote for Coach Carroll and make a difference in inner-city L.A.

It's that easy.

Vote for Carroll for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award, and if Carroll wins, $50,000 will be donated to A Better LA, the inner-city charity he helped found.

Man of the media

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Coach Carroll is interviewed live on ESPN 710-AM this afternoon in the Heritage Hall lobby as part of his weekly media day responsibilities. After a press conference and numerous one-on-one interviews with TV and radio stations, Carroll has finally returned to football meetings.

Relive the past

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This week's "SC Classics" looks at the 2001 matchup against Oregon State, a thrilling 16-13 overtime victory for the Trojans in Coach Carroll's first season. Narratted by Petros Papadakis and featuring interviews with Carroll and Kris Richard, this piece is available for USCTrojans.com All-Access subscribers only. If you're not an All-Access member, become one here.

Feel the excitement

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USC's parents weekend begins Thursday, and besides the game on Saturday night, here are two fun fan-centric events to show off to your mom and dad:

  • Jock rally: On Friday at 5 p.m., this spirit-filled event in Heritage Hall features players, coaches, the Trojan Marching Band and USC Song Girls.
  • Trojan Walk: At 3:25 p.m. on Saturday, the Trojans will march from the Sports Arena through the crowd before entering the Coliseum under the torch. Don't miss this exciting tradition! 

Meet the press

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Coach Carroll's weekly press conference is beginning shortly, so watch it live for free here.

Pants dance

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RipsIt reader Jonathan Copeland e-mailed in with this interesting equipment question: "I have always noticed that the USC player's uniforms have changed, referring to their pants. From 2006-present their pants have been different since Matt and Reggie left. Before they use to have pants that were shiny like how Notre Dame's, UCLA's, FSU's pants are currently. Do you know why they have not been wearing those pants since the end of 2006 National Championship game?"

Like many equipment alterations, this one comes from Nike, who made the switch after the 2005 season to a better material. The old pants, which had a distinct shine to them, carried water weight and were hotter than the current pants, which are duller but breathe more and wick away sweat.

The old pants were carrying more than two pounds of sweat by the end of a game, football equipment coordinator Tino Dominguez said. Meanwhile, the new, thinner material wicks water away much better and is much more functional for the players.

Take a look at the difference between the pants in 2005 on Matt Leinart and 2009 on Matt Barkley:

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Talking hoops

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Single game basketball tickets are now available for all home games except the UCLA matchup, so purchase them here.

Also, the men's and women's basketball teams are hosting a season tip-off event on Sunday at the Galen Center:

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The 10 spot

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With all the talk about Stafon Johnson's tribute sticker on the back of the USC helmets, we received several questions about the "10" on the back of safety Taylor Mays' helmet. It's explained in this blog entry.

Top of the charts

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Halfway through the 2009 season, the Trojans are at or near the top of the Pac-10 and nation in numerous stat categories. Check it out (research by Ricky Cambier, USCRipsIt student assistant):

  • Scoring defense: 1st in Pac-10, 5th nationally. The Trojans have only allowed 70 points over the first 6 games, with 27 of those given up against Notre Dame.
  • Rushing defense: 2nd in Pac-10, 4th nationally. The defense has only alloed 67.7 rushing yards per game. Last year, the team allowed 87.4 rushing yards per game.
  • Passing offense: 3rd in Pac-10, 36th nationally. After passing for 380 yards against Notre Dame, the offense has ascended to third in the conference with 248.8 passing yards per game.
  • Total offense: 2nd in Pac-10, 16th nationally. The Trojans average 442.3 yards per game, just over a yard less than Arizona.
  • Total defense: 2nd in Pac-10, 9th nationally. The defense has allowed 260 yards per game.
  • Punt return average: 1st in Pac-10, 14th nationally. The combination of Damian Williams and Joe McKnight has averaged 15.7 yards per return.
  • Pass efficiency: 2nd in Pac-10, 25th nationally. The quarterbacks have combined to produce an efficiency rating of 144.9.
  • Opponent's third-down conversion: 2nd in Pac-10, 16th nationally. The defense has only allowed the opponent to convert 30.4% of third-down tries.
  • Sacks: 1st in Pac-10, 1st nationally. The Trojan defense has accumulated 26 sacks this season, 8 more than the next best team in the Pac-10.
  • Red zone offense: 3rd in Pac-10, 25th nationally. The Trojans have scored 21 times out of 24 trips to the red zone.
  • Red zone defense: 3rd in Pac-10, 14th nationally. The defense has only allowed the opponent to score 6 touchdowns in 17 red zone trips.
  • Matt Barkley leads the conference in passing yards per game, with 267.6 yards per game. He also ranks third in the conference in passer efficiency, with a rating of 150.7. Barkley ranks second in the conference in total offense behind Jake Locker.
  • Damian Williams leads the conference in punt return average, with an average return of 15.5 yards. He also ranks third in the conference with 77.8 receiving yards per game.
  • Nick Perry and Everson Griffen lead the conference with 7 sacks each so far this season. They also rank 4th nationally.

- By Ricky Cambier, USCRipsIt student assistant

Mays a Lott quarterfinalist

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Taylor Mays has been named one of 20 quarterfinalists for the Lott Trophy.

Cushing, Matthews in the spotlight

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Trojans Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews are two of the five players up for NFL Rookie of the Week, so watch their highlights from Week 6 and show your support for the USC alumni.

Dressing for cold weather

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We received several inquiries about the fur cloak USC drum major Kenny Morris was wearing on the sideline during Saturday's game at Notre Dame.

Made by former drum major Jason Ito earlier this decade, the wool cloak features a coyote pelt and is brought out for "Tommy Trojan" whenever the weather gets chilly, like it was in South Bend over the weekend. Morris wore the coat for much of the second half (after the sun went down), but because it restricts his movement, he shed it for the waning moments of the fourth quarter.

"I think that body language and movement are extremely important in motivating and pumping up the troops, so for the final part of the fourth quarter I threw off the cloak and starting running up and down the band," Morris said.

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To combat the cold temperatures in northern Indiana over the weekend, USC drum major Kenny Morris wears a wool cloak with a coyote pelt during Saturday's USC-Notre Dame game. [Photo courtesy of Timothy Lutes]

Watch it live

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Coach Carroll's weekly press conference, set for noon today, will be streamed live for free, courtesy of USCTrojans.com.

Rookie show

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The USC offensive linemen took part in a goofy ESPN feature with Justin Timberlake and Kenny Mayne that aired on Sunday. Don't miss their funny dance moves in this three-minute piece:

Fun fact

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In their last eight games at the Coliseum, the Trojans have allowed just 28 points, an average of 3.5 points per contest. Only two touchdowns have been scored by opponents in those eight games.

Meanwhile, the offense has scored 301 points in that run at home, an average of 37.6 points per matchup.

RipsIt Minute

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In case you couldn't follow us live, "The RipsIt Minute" gives you a quick rundown of the must-read Blog entries from the previous day:


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Monday's photo album

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Check out this slideshow of images from Monday's practice, brought to you by USCRipsIt staff photographer Po-He Tseng:

Photos by Po-He Tseng, USCRipsIt staff photographer 

Pictures from Monday's practice

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As his defensive back teammates watch on, cornerback Brian Baucham goes through fumble recovery drills.

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Wideout Damian Williams practices his blocking.

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Matt Barkley watches his pass fly downfield.

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The Trojans practice as the sun sets on Howard Jones Field.

Dispatch from Howard Jones

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Thoughts from Monday's practice, through the eyes of USCRipsIt...

- On a cool afternoon on Howard Jones Field, the Trojans churned through a quick helmets-only practice, one that acted as a review of plays from Saturday's win and an introduction of the game plan for this weekend's contest against Oregon State.

- The play of the day came when wideout Damian Williams ran an exceptional route to get open deep downfield, where he glided under an amazingly thrown bomb from Matt Barkley.

- On one bam-bam play in team period, defensive end Malik Jackson scooped up a fumbled snap before tailback Joe McKnight almost immediately popped it loose from his grasp. Offensive lineman Zack Heberer picked up the fumble, while McKnight bounded away chuckling with excitement.

- Fullback Stanley Havili, who dislocated his shoulder in Saturday's game, will have an MRI on Tuesday. His status for this weekend's game will be determined following a visit with the team doctors on Tuesday night, Coach Carroll said.

- After suffering a concussion Saturday, offensive lineman Alex Parsons sat out of Monday's workout to rest.

Going to work

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Tell the Truth Monday isn't complete without a short helmets-only workout, which the Trojans have just begun on Howard Jones Field. We'll return with a report afterward.

Home sweet home

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For what will be the first time in nearly a month, the Trojans will be playing at the Coliseum on Saturday at 5 p.m.

You could say that the players and coaches are looking forward to the homecoming.

"We're coming back to the Coli -- it's about frickin' time!" Coach Carroll said during this afternoon's team meeting. "Let's have a big celebration at home this weekend."

Stepping up to avoid penalties

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While there were many positives to talk about during Tell the Truth meetings today, penalties were the hot topic after USC committed five personal fouls during the second half of Saturday's 34-27 win.

Regardless of how debatable some of the calls were, Coach Carroll emphatically addressed the issue with his team, saying that the players need to "clean this stuff up" and remove the "self-inflicted pains" from the game.

"Let's take a new step," Carroll said at the end of an impassioned speech about avoiding penalties. "If we want to be great, if we want to be a championship team, if we want to go places, we have to take this to a new level. We have got to elevate our awareness.

"We don't want to be like everybody else -- we want to be Trojans."

Sourena's Sentiments

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0908soureanasentiment.jpgBy Sourena Vasseghi
With Rich Finley
USCRipsIt Guest Bloggers



There's one word that sums up my sports weekend: Frustrating. The ONLY bright spot was watching our Trojans keep the streak alive against Notre Dame in Saturday's thrilling 34-27 victory. Of course, it really shouldn't have been that close, and while the prospect of the Irish scoring and then going for two for the win (you know Weis was thinking it) was a little scary there, the defense held tough and USC held on, which seemed to be the theme for the rest of the big boys in college football, save for Virginia Tech, who lost to Georgia Tech.

But Florida and Texas both somehow, and I really don't know how, survived this weekend, in games that made both teams look worse than they were a year ago. I'll tell you about my Saturday. I woke up shortly into the Oklahoma/Texas game with the Sooners up 6-0, yet playing without reinjured QB Sam Bradford. With their leader gone, Oklahoma couldn't take care of the ball (not that Texas was much better) and the Horns seemed to outlast them more than overtake them.

For the USC/ND game, I was at a friend's house party. Now, I have had all USC road games at my place this season and was a little nervous I was tempting fate, but while Matt Barkley was throwing for 380 yards in such a harsh environment, I wasn't too concerned.

What had me fascinated was in the other room. See, my friend had two TVs set up, one outside in his backyard showing USC, and the other one in the house showing Florida/Arkansas. I was getting antsy because I couldn't stop thinking about the big upset that was going down in Gainesville. It was beautiful. Florida was being exposed as not being as focused, and physical as they have been lauded to be in recent years, and this loss was sure to vault the Trojans higher in the standings and firmly into the national championship picture. Well, the upset wasn't meant to be. Say what you will about Florida, but they made the plays when they absolutely needed them, and survived a fantastic effort by Arkansas. It kinda felt like a loss, even as USC ended Notre Dame's comeback bid on a great goal line stand.

The point is, if the Trojans continue to take care of business, everything will work itself out in the end. The initial BCS standings were laughable this past weekend, but everyone, USC included, has tough games ahead, so we'll see what happens. But a little help from my second favorite school: The Anyone Playing Against a Higher Ranked Team University is much appreciated!

While we're on the subject of help, could someone please send a plane to St. Louis to pick up the Dodgers? Because I haven't seen them since they beat the Cardinals in the NLDS and I'm starting to worry about them. Are they stuck in a balloon just hovering over Philadelphia somewhere? Are they hiding in a box? Is Joe Torre staging an elaborate hoax? I'm worried we're going to turn on the Today Show and Matt Lauer is going to hold up pictures of Dodger bats that say "Have you seen us?" And the answer of course, is no, no we have not.

That's all for now, really looking to this weekend's game. We owe you big-time, Oregon State. Fight On!


• Sourena Vasseghi, a motivational speaker and writer, has addressed the USC football team on several occasions over the years. His book, "Love your life and it will love you back," is available here.

Ratings game

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The USC-Notre Dame game had a 4.5 overnight rating on NBC, meaning 5.17 million households were tuning into the matchup.

Ellison to start on MNF

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San Diego Chargers rookie safety Kevin Ellison is scheduled to make his first career start tonight against the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football (ESPN, 5:30 p.m.).

Worth 1,000 words

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Tight end Anthony McCoy stretches out for one of his five catches against Notre Dame on Saturday. McCoy had 153 receiving yards, a school record for a tight end. [Photo courtesy of Bill Panzica, Sporting Shots]

Looking for the truth

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The Trojans are well into their weekly Tell the Truth Monday meetings, which started with a special teams film review. Special teams coordinator Brian Schneider has been lauding linebacker Jarvis Jones, who had four tackles on seven kickoffs and also forced a fumble to produce one of the team's best special teams performances.

Team, offense/defense and position group meetings, all focusing on discussing the truths from Saturday's game, follow before a helmets-only practice later this afternoon.

A full house on Saturday

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USC's game against Oregon State on Saturday at the 93,607-seat Coliseum has sold out, according to athletic department officials.

The game is the centerpiece of the university's parents weekend, which starts Thursday and ends Sunday.

It couldn't be easier

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Want to help make a difference in inner-city L.A. by just a few clicks on the computer?

All you have to do is vote for Coach Carroll for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award. If Carroll wins, $50,000 will be donated to A Better LA, the inner-city charity he helped found.

Campus life

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On his way back from Monday Morning Quarterback at the Galen Center just now, Coach Carroll spotted defensive ends Nick Perry and Everson Griffen walking between classes.

"That's 14 sacks right there!" Carroll spontaneously yelled out to Perry and Griffen, referring to the two players' combined sack total.

Griffen and Perry have seven sacks apiece, both tied for fourth in the nation, to lead a Trojan defense that has the country's best sack average of 4.33 per game. 

Streaming live

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Saturday's USC-Oregon State game at 5 p.m. will be broadcast internationally on ESPN360.com, along with regionally on ABC.

Welcome to the club

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A few new majestic trophies have made Heritage Hall home, as a pair of illustrious awards for USC women's golfer Jennifer Song have been put on display in the lobby. Over the summer, Song won both the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship and the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship, a double major win that had only happened once before.

Double the pleasure

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Coach Carroll's having some fun at Monday Morning Quarterback today.

"It's fun to win the game twice," a jovial Carroll said during his introductory remarks, referring to the last-second re-do at the end of Saturday's 34-27 win at Notre Dame. The comment drew hearty laughter from the crowd of about 400 in the Founders Room at Galen Center.

Before reviewing game film and conducting a Q&A, Carroll also highlighted the now eight-year winning streak against the Irish.

"I can't tell you how proud I am to be a part of eight in a row," Carroll said. "Let us never take for granted these wins. Let's see how far we can take this thing."

To attend future Monday Morning Quarterback sessions, get more info here.

Barkley honored

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Matt Barkley has been named the Davey O'Brien Quarterback of the Week for his performance on Saturday, which included 380 passing yards and two touchdowns in the 34-27 win at Notre Dame.

Sending a message

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RipsIt reader Tyler Davis e-mailed in asking about what's written on Taylor Mays' clear visor. Mays has inscribed some messages on his visor with a silver Sharpie, including "Fear no man" and "4 His glory." He also put "21, 42, 43" on the left side of the visor, numbers to represent three of his heroes -- safeties Sean Taylor, Ronnie Lott and Troy Polamalu, respectively.

Take a look at Mays' visor messages:

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Off to MMQB

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Coach Carroll is stepping out of meetings to attend his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback event, a film review and Q&A session with fans at the Galen Center's Founders Room. 

McNeal magic

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USC tailback Curtis McNeal has a fun job ahead of him this week.

The 5-8, 190-pound McNeal will be entrusted with the task of impersonating Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers, the 5-7, 191-pound tailback who is averaging 116.2 rushing yards per game this season. With 13 touchdowns, Rodgers has scored 45 percent of the Beavers' points this year.

This week in USC sports

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Check out what happened in Trojan athletics during the past seven days:

- Men's water polo defeated Long Beach State, 9-4, on Saturday. The Trojans are currently ranked No. 1 nationally and are undefeated in conference play. The team will host Loyola Marymount on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

- The women's soccer team lost at Stanford on Friday to end its nine-game win streak, but the Women of Troy then rebounded with a 3-2 overtime win over California on Sunday. They are currently ranked ninth in the national rankings and get set to host Oregon State and Oregon this weekend at McAlister Field.

- Women's volleyball lost at both Washington State and Washington this past weekend. The 16th-ranked Women of Troy will host Oregon State and Oregon this weekend.

- USC made the decision to add women's sand volleyball as a sport beginning in the spring of 2011. The decision was made pending approval of the sport by the NCAA. The team would be the 20th sport in the USC athletic department.

- By Ricky Cambier, USCRipsIt student assistant

McCoy on the Mackey list

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Anthony McCoy is one of 22 players on the midseason watch list for the 2009 Mackey Award, given annually to the nation's best tight end.

Casey named player of the week

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Defensive lineman Jurrell Casey, who tied for a team-high 10 tackles in Saturday's 34-27 win at Notre Dame, has been named Pac-10 defensive player of the week. He also had a tackle for loss, a forced fumble and a quarterback hit in the game.

On TV

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Saturday's game against Oregon State will be televised regionally by ABC starting at 5 p.m. The announcers for the broadcast will be Mike Patrick, Craig James and Heather Cox.

The Texas-Missouri game is the other matchup in the same time slot on ABC. We'll post a coverage map later this week.

Run with the world

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The Nike Plus Human Race -- set to start at 12:01 a.m. at the Coliseum this Friday night -- is just a few days away, so be sure to sign up now. Proceeds from the event will benefit Coach Carroll's A Better LA foundation.

Trojans around the League

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Find out how USC alumni did during Week 6 of the NFL season:

  • Quarterback Carson Palmer (Cincinnati Bengals) completed 23-of-35 pass attempts for 259 yards and 1 touchdown in the Bengals' 28-17 loss to Houston.
  • Linebacker Keith Rivers (Cincinnati Bengals) had 6 tackles in the Bengals' loss.
  • Linebacker Brian Cushing (Houston Texans) had 9 tackles, an interception and two forced fumbles in the Texans' win.
  • Linebacker Clay Matthews (Green Bay Packers) had 5 tackles, including 2 sacks, in the Packers' 26-0 win over Detroit.
  • Tailback Reggie Bush (New Orleans Saints) had 6 carries for 17 yards and 1 touchdown along with 1 reception for 7 yards in the Saints' 48-27 win over New York.
  • Wideout Steve Smith (New York Giants) had 4 receptions for 44 yards in the Giants' loss.
  • Safety Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh Steelers) had 1 interception and 4 tackles in his return from injury as the Steelers won 27-14 over Cleveland.
  • Quarterback Matt Cassel (Kansas City Chiefs) went 17-for-32 and threw for 186 yards in the Chiefs' 14-6 win over Washington.
  • Tight end Fred Davis (Washington Redskins) had 1 reception for 12 yards in the Redskins' loss.
  • Quarterback Matt Leinart (Arizona Cardinals) completed 2-of-2 pass attempts for 16 yards in the Cardinals' 27-3 win over Seattle.
  • Lofa Tatupu (Seattle Seahawks) had 8 tackles in the Seahawks' loss.
  • Tailback Justin Fargas (Oakland Raiders) had 23 carries for 87 yards in the Raiders' 13-9 win over Philadelphia.
  • Linebacker Junior Seau (New England Patriots) had 2 tackles in his return to football as the Patriots beat the Titans 59-0.
  • Quarterback Mark Sanchez (New York Jets) completed 10-of-29 passes for 119 yards and five interceptions in the Jets' 16-13 loss to Buffalo.
- By Ricky Cambier, USCRipsIt student assistant

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In his first game back from retirement, linebacker Junior Seau had two tackles in the Patriots' 59-0 win over Tennessee on Sunday.

iPhone and the Trojans

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All iPhone junkies can now stay even more connected to the Trojans.

An iPhone app for the USC athletic department is now available, so get it here. It will connect you with all things USCTrojans.com, including the RipsIt Blog, video and much more.

Upon further review

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Two important changes were made to the individual stats from Saturday's 34-27 win.

Defensive end Everson Griffen has now been credited with three sacks in the Notre Dame game, while Nick Perry's total from the game has been decreased from two sacks to one.

Also, the blocked PAT has been awarded to defensive lineman Armond Armstead. Griffen had been given the stat during the game.

To determine the stat adjustments, the USC sports information department conferred with the players involved and also checked TV replays, a common occurrence when stats are in question. The changes will appear on the Pac-10 and NCAA stats after next weekend.

Nothing to notice here

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As you might've heard, the initial BCS rankings came out on Sunday, with USC being slotted in the No. 7 slot.

And guess what?

The news hasn't affected things in Heritage Hall, as the world keeps spinning, the film keeps rolling and the game plan keeps coming together. After all, it's Week 7 and not Week 14, so the BCS rankings serve absolutely no purpose right now besides provide fodder for SportsCenter, radio talk shows and Twitter.

The Trojans aren't making a big deal about the BCS because the BCS doesn't mean a thing at this point of the season. So if the latest BCS news has gotten you worked up, take a deep breath and realize that it's still October and six games are left to be played.

And check back on Dec. 6, when the BCS rankings will actually have an impact on the Trojan football machine.

Finish time

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Welcome to the second half of the 2009 season.

With Saturday's 34-27 win at Notre Dame, the Trojans have crossed the halfway point of the '09 campaign. The second-half work has already begun, as coaches were in the office on Sunday to analyze the game film from the weekend and plunge into game-planning for the Oregon State contest. Players are in their usual Monday strength and conditioning sessions, and team meetings will begin at 2:15 p.m. today.

The Oregon State game, set for Saturday at 5 p.m., is only five days away.

One stop for it all: USC 34, Notre Dame 27

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Get all the USCRipsIt coverage of Saturday's unforgettable 34-27 victory, here in one place:


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The Trojans celebrate their exhilarating 34-27 win over Notre Dame on Saturday. [Photo courtesy of Getty Images]

Pictures from the 34-27 victory

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Check out some behind-the-scenes images from USC's victory at Notre Dame on Saturday (all photos by Ben Malcolmson):

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Taylor Mays walks into Notre Dame Stadium less than two hours before kickoff.

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In the locker room, the Trojan jerseys sit ready for the game.

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Numerous eye black stickers, outfitted with "13" in honor of Stafon Johnson, wait on the mirror in the locker room prior to the game.

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Kicker Jordan Congdon and holder Garrett Green go through warm-ups.

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Coach Carroll and Damian Williams converse on the field during pre-game stretching.

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Matt Barkley lets a pass fly during pre-game warm-ups.

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Quarterback Matt Barkley and graduate assistant Justin Mesa review play calls in the locker room prior to kickoff.

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The defensive backs circle up to pray in the locker room before the game.

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Offensive line coach Pat Ruel speaks to his players in the shower prior to the game.

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Defensive end Everson Griffen and his teammates jump around and get pumped in the locker room before the game.

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Coach Carroll gives his final talk in the locker room before the game.

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Kicker Joe Houston, with a lift from offensive lineman Nick Howell, taps the "I'm In" sign on the way out of the locker room.

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The Trojans gather in the tunnel prior to pouring out onto the field for kickoff.

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The Trojan captains -- Damian Williams, Josh Pinkard, Jeff Byers and Taylor Mays -- meet at midfield for the pre-game coin toss.

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On the game's opening kickoff, Garrett Green runs down the field, with the Notre Dame student section waving white towels in the background.

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Coach Carroll and Matt Barkley walk down the sideline after Barkley's first touchdown pass of the game.

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With the sun shining down on Notre Dame Stadium, Coach Carroll watches as the Trojans play defense.

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Coach Carroll and running backs coach Todd McNair chat in the coaches' locker room during halftime.

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Quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates addresses the offense in the locker room at halftime.

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Offensive coordinator John Morton chats with the wide receivers during halftime.

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With his players circled around, Coach Carroll speaks to the team at halftime.

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With confetti flying and the crowd celebrating, players join the band after the win.

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Taylor Mays and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates embrace on the field after the epic victory.

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Coach Carroll sings the fight song along with his players in the locker room after the game.

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Taylor Mays and Coach Carroll share a moment in the locker room after the win.

RipsIt Report: USC 34, Notre Dame 27

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Experience Trojan football in this special insider report from the locker room and on the sidelines before, during and after USC's 34-27 win at Notre Dame on Saturday:

Before it all
1017eversonprelr.jpgSome tidbits from the sideline and locker room before the game:

- As the Trojans ran up the tunnel after warm-ups, the juices were flowing big-time because of several barbs that were thrown between the two teams, which were going up to their locker rooms at almost the same time. And then to make it even more exciting for the Trojans, the Notre Dame marching band lined the tunnel all the way to the visitors' locker room and blasted the school's fight song while the USC players walked up.

- Because of the pre-game pageantry, the Trojans had 30 minutes in the locker room between returning from warm-ups and leaving for kickoff, an inordinately long time (it's usually about 15-17 minutes). "I just want to get out of here!" Matt Barkley exclaimed during the waiting time. Because the locker room was heated, the time was much appreciated by the cold players, and it seemed to fly by fairly quickly.

- "They believe; we know!" fullback Stanley Havili bellowed to motivate his teammates in the locker room before the game.

- Players violently pounded on the metal lockers as they waited, creating a neat buzz as the clock ticked closer to kickoff.

- While waiting in the locker room, players hummed Jay-Z's "Run this town tonight" in unison.

- Coach Carroll's pre-game speech, which was said while players were humming "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes: "We're going to play with great effort, play with great enthusiasm and play smart. They don't know about the Trojans today!"

- On the way down the tunnel to the field, players slowly chanted, "War time!"


On the sideline
1017pcsunsl.jpgHere are some notes from the USC sideline during the game:

- During the second-quarter review of a USC punt return that possibly could have touched one of the Trojans as the ball bounced around downfield, both Coach Carroll and special teams coordinator Brian Schneider approached the three players closest to the play to ask their opinion. All three -- Jawanza Starling, Garrett Green and T.J. McDonald -- said the ball didn't touch a USC player. "It didn't hit anybody," Starling told the coaches. "It went behind me," McDonald said. Moments later, the referee announced the same thing, and the ball went to USC.

- Wideout Damian Williams scored two touchdowns during the game, and while teammates were ecstatic about his plays, they were just as excited about the supporting roles other players had on both scores. A great backfield block by Joe McKnight laid the foundation for Williams' first TD, and wideout Brice Butler's downfield block allowed Williams to spring free for his second score.

- To combat the frigid temperatures, players wore several layers of sleeves, winter caps and leggings, and most had waist pouches filled with warmers to keep their hands toasty. The worst part of the three-hour, 39-minute game, though, wasn't the cold but the wind as the Trojans were completely unsheltered from the chilly breeze that blew for most of the matchup.


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Coaches were very encouraging at halftime, telling players that the offense and defense were playing well, even though the 13-7 score didn't exactly show it. But then the focus turned to finishing what they started during the second half.

"Let's show how much we love playing football," Coach Carroll told the Trojans.


The final moments
During Notre Dame's final drive, the USC sideline was abuzz with adrenaline, as the players not in the game crowded the field trying to urge their defensive teammates on to the game-winning stop.

On every play, the players bounced around and chanted, yelled or sang together, producing energy that was clearly felt and heard on the field. And when the clock finally hit triple-zero (both times), the players exploded out onto the field like volcano lava, running around hugging and high-fiving each other.

It was the happiest of times for the Trojans.


After it all

1017pcfightonafter.jpgThe post-game locker room scene was pure elation. Not quite as energized as after the Ohio State win last month, but pretty darn close.

"That's a helluva win!" Coach Carroll said amid boisterous cheers from the players. "A helluva win! You bring it every single time and that's awesome."

Carroll emphasized that the victory only happened because both the offense and defense played well -- "appreciate both sides of the ball because it took everyone tonight," Carroll said. Then he chided the team for the influx of mindless penalties on Saturday.

"The penalty problem is something we can fix," Carroll said. "It's something we will fix, because it allowed them to get back in it."

Lastly, Carroll excitedly looked ahead toward next week's game, the team's first at home in a month.

"Let's keep moving on," Carroll said. "Everything is out there for us as long as we take it one game at a time."

Rich and famous

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Famous people descended on Notre Dame Stadium for the game on Saturday like it was a celebrity reunion.

Filmmaker Spike Lee, comedian Will Ferrell, legendary NFL coach Bud Grant all found themselves on the USC sideline, while many more celebrities were in the stadium to witness the game (in fact, ESPN analyst Dick Vitale, wearing Notre Dame gear, sat in the first row behind the Trojan bench). Here are some pictures of a few of the famous ones at the game on Saturday:

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Coach Carroll speaks with legendary NFL coach Bud Grant (left), one of his mentors, on the field before the game.

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Filmmaker Spike Lee, wearing a Stafon Johnson jersey, stood on the USC sideline for the whole game and ran on the field to celebrate with the team following the victory.

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Comedian Will Ferrell congratulates Coach Carroll in the locker room after the win.

Peak performers

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Check out the top performances from Saturday's 34-27 victory over Notre Dame:

  • Matt Barkley had a career day, completing 19-of-29 passes for 380 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Wideout Damian Williams caught four passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Tight end Anthony McCoy had five catches for 153 yards.
  • Tailback Joe McKnight ran for 79 yards and one touchdown.
  • Kicker Jordan Congdon scored 10 points (two field goals and four extra points).
  • Defensive lineman Jurrell Casey and safety Taylor Mays tied for the team lead with 10 tackles.
  • Defensive ends Everson Griffen and Nick Perry had two sacks apiece.
  • Nine different players recorded a reception.
  • USC racked up 501 yards of offense on just 62 plays for an average of 8.1 yards per snap.

Just the facts

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The Trojans captured a 34-27 win in an epic game at Notre Dame on Saturday, pushing their record to 5-1 in 2009. Here's the AP recap and full stats from the victory.

Back in L.A.

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The Trojans have returned home from a thrilling trip to Notre Dame.

Following the memorable 34-27 victory over the Irish, USC headed to South Bend Regional Airport and departed at 10 p.m. Eastern. The charter flight arrived at LAX at 11 p.m. Pacific, and the team was back on campus at 11:45.

The players now have off until Monday, while the coaches will be in on Sunday to break down the Notre Dame win and begin working on the Oregon State game plan. The next contest -- Saturday at 5 p.m. against the Beavers -- is already less than a week away.

Game time

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- After two weeks of waiting and 36 hours of preparation in northern Indiana, the Notre Dame game is finally here.

The Trojans are departing their Michigan City hotel and embarking on an hour-long, police-escorted journey to South Bend's Notre Dame Stadium, where they're scheduled to arrive at 1:50 p.m. Eastern. The game will kick off at 3:42 p.m. Eastern (12:42 p.m. Pacific) and will be televised nationally on NBC (along with being broadcast on several other platforms).

Immediately following the game, the team will depart on a charter flight out of South Bend Regional Airport, with a 10:45 p.m. (Pacific) estimated arrival at LAX. We'll return with a full report from the game upon touchdown in L.A. late tonight, but in the meantime, we'll be posting occasional updates at http://twitter.com/USCRipsIt.

Here's the team's schedule for the remainder of game day:

1:50 p.m. (EDT) • Arrive at Notre Dame Stadium
2:20 p.m. (EDT) • Warm-ups begin
3:08 p.m. (EDT) • USC returns to locker room
3:38 p.m. (EDT) • Trojans take the field
3:42 p.m. (EDT) • Kickoff
9:45 p.m. (EDT) • Estimated departure time from South Bend Regional Airport
10:45 p.m. (PDT) • Estimated arrival time at LAX

Follow along

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- Here's how you can watch, listen to or otherwise follow today's USC-Notre Dame game:

  • Kickoff: 3:42 p.m. Eastern (12:42 p.m. Pacific)
  • National TV: NBC (Tom Hammond and Pat Haden)
  • Local L.A. radio: ESPN 710-AM
  • National radio: Westwood One
  • Live internet play-by-play: USCTrojans.com GameTracker

Captain talk

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- Besides the four elected team captains (Jeff Byers, Damian Williams, Taylor Mays and Josh Pinkard), two other Trojans have been selected by coaches as captains for today's game. Linebacker Michael Morgan will represent the special teams and defensive lineman Derek Simmons will represent the service teams.

Almost time

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- They're getting closer.

In hotel meeting rooms this morning, the Trojans held an energy-filled special teams roll call and walk-thrus for the offense and defense, tying up final preparations for this afternoon's game. Players are now eating their pre-game meal in a hotel ballroom.

The team leaves the hotel for South Bend in exactly an hour.

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During this morning's special teams roll call in a hotel meeting room, the Trojans jump around and get jacked up for today's game.

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The USC offense conducts a walk-thru in a hotel meeting room this morning.

Time for work

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- The Trojans will be gathering soon for their final block of pre-game meetings, starting with a rambunctious special teams roll call (to wake the players up and get their pumped for the game) and then turning to walk-thrus for the offense and defense. The pre-game meal follows at 10:45 a.m.

Galippo a Butkus semifinalist

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- Sophomore linebacker Chris Galippo, who leads the Trojans with 32 tackles this season, has been named one of 16 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, given annually to the nation's top linebacker.

Looking to hoops

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The USC men's basketball team tipped off its 2009-10 season with practice on Friday night. Check out this insider photo report from the workout, from the new official Trojan hoops blog.

The Trojans will conduct open practices at the Galen Center both today (9 a.m.-12 p.m.) and Sunday (8:30-11:30 a.m.).

For a good read

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- Here's a neat feature on the USC secondary, from the O.C. Register.

Gray skies are going to clear up

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The clouds are beginning to part in northern Indiana morning, and it's relatively warm, too (44 degrees). The forecast is favorable for kickoff, with partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the high-40s projected for this afternoon in South Bend.

Good morning indeed

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- Game day has come.

Players are waking up on a chilly morning in northern Indiana, with a continental breakfast being served now prior to meetings starting at 10:15 a.m. The Trojans are just three hours from leaving their hotel and less than six hours from kickoff.

RipsIt Minute

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- In case you couldn't follow us live, "The RipsIt Minute" gives you a quick rundown of the must-read Blog entries from the previous day:


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Goodnight

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- That's all, folks -- for Friday, at least.

With their "day before" business complete, the Trojans are now heading to bed, and when they wake up in the morning, it'll be game day. Check out the team's schedule for Saturday (all times Central, unless otherwise noted):

9:15 a.m. • Wake-up call
10:15 a.m. • Meetings begin
10:45 a.m. • Pre-game meal
11:50 a.m. • Clap session
12 p.m. • Depart Michigan City hotel
1:50 p.m. (EDT) • Arrive at Notre Dame Stadium
2:20 p.m. (EDT) • Warm-ups begin
3:08 p.m. (EDT) • USC returns to locker room
3:38 p.m. (EDT) • Trojans take the field
3:42 p.m. (EDT) • Kickoff

Friday night fun

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- Check out this sweet highlight video the Trojans watched during their team meeting tonight. Featuring highlights from the 30-3 win at California, the five-minute piece was produced by the USC Video Production department.

Final words

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In his final major pre-game address, Coach Carroll speaks to his players during tonight's team meeting. During the captivating 20-minute speech, Carroll passionately recounted the 2005 USC-Notre Dame game in detail before turning the attention to Saturday's matchup. "It's our challenge to recreate a championship effort every time we play," he said.

For a good read

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- Here's a great Q&A with defensive line coach Jethro Franklin, from ESPN.com.

Meet the press

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- Watch Coach Carroll's quick interview with the media following tonight's walk-thru at Notre Dame Stadium, courtesy of USCTrojans.com.

Returning to business

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- After about 90 minutes to hang out and rest around the hotel, the Trojans are getting back to work with their usual Friday evening slate of meetings. Here's the schedule for the rest of the night (all times Central):

7:30 p.m. • Special teams meeting
8 p.m. • Offense/defense meetings
8:15 p.m. • Position group meetings
8:30 p.m. • Team meeting
8:45 p.m. • Snack
9 p.m. • Optional chapel and mass services in the hotel
10:30 p.m. • Bed check

Extra tape

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Tailback Joe McKnight makes the most of his downtime right now as he watches some film from last season's USC-Notre Dame game in a hotel meeting room before tonight's meetings get started at 7:30 p.m.

Watching baseball

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During dinner at Hammers Food & Drink in Michigan City tonight, Coach Carroll and the Trojans watch the Dodger game on the restaurant's projector. The Dodgers ended up coming back and winning Game 2 of the NLCS against the Phillies.

Dinner time

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- After returning from the walk-thru at Notre Dame Stadium, the Trojans ate dinner at Hammer's Food & Drink, a local institution that has hosted the team for its Friday night dinner each of the last three trips to northern Indiana.

Odds and ends from the walk-thru

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Here are some random news and notes from the Trojans' journey to and from their walk-thru at Notre Dame this afternoon:

  • On the hour-long bus ride to Notre Dame, the Trojans watched the TV copy of Washington-Notre Dame game from two weeks ago, and then on the way back to Michigan City, they watched the TV copy of the Michigan-Notre Dame game from last month.
  • Fall is in the air here, as the Trojan buses wove through autumn-colored trees en route to Notre Dame Stadium.
  • In one of the most entertaining "fatman football" games in recent memory, the offensive linemen beat the defense, six touchdowns to five, in a wild back-and-forth battle.
  • The outside air was in the 40s, but the heat was on in the visitors' locker room at Notre Dame Stadium, with warm heat making the locker room a very pleasant place to hide from the cold.

Dispatch from Notre Dame Stadium

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Check out some photos from the Trojans' walk-thru at Notre Dame Stadium this afternoon:

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The Trojan buses arrive at Notre Dame Stadium with hundreds of Irish fans waiting.

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After arriving at Notre Dame Stadium, Coach Carroll walks between the team buses toward Touchdown Jesus and the throng of Irish fans.

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Coach Carroll waves "Fight on" to the crowd of hundreds of Irish fans.

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Coach Carroll gets a kick out of the chants coming from the Irish fans outside of Notre Dame Stadium.

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Players walk down the tunnel and toward the field at the start of the walk-thru.

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A view of Notre Dame Stadium and Touchdown Jesus from the corner of the stadium.

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A view of Notre Dame Stadium from the 50-yard line.

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Coach Carroll chats with NBC announcers Tom Hammond (left) and Pat Haden (right) on the field at the beginning of the walk-thru. Haden is a former Trojan quarterback and current member of the USC Board of Trustees.

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Matt Barkley throws downfield during the team's walk-thru at Notre Dame Stadium.

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Defensive tackles Jurrell Casey (left) and Averell Spicer (right) do a jumping chest bump during the "fat man football" game between the offensive and defensive linemen. The O-linemen won this week's installment.

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Football equipment coordinator Tino Dominguez gives Matt Barkley a waist pouch to keep his hands warm.

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Several Trojans play a modified game of hacky sack that features a football and the use of their hands.

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Coach Carroll reaches out to catch a ball during the walk-thru.

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The USC flag billows in the wind under Touchdown Jesus.

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The grass at Notre Dame Stadium is definitely longer than the turf at the Coliseum.

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Head strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle speaks to the team at the 50-yard line following the walk-thru.

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Coach Carroll calls the team together at the end of the walk-thru.

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Just before leaving campus, linebackers Michael Morgan and Jarvis Jones pose for a picture under Touchdown Jesus.

Back at the hotel

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- The Trojans just returned to their team hotel in northern Indiana and now have some time off to relax before eve-of-game meetings get started at 7:30 p.m.

Off to Notre Dame

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- Well, back to work.

The Trojans, just an hour after returning from their practice at Michigan City High, are leaving their hotel once again, this time to conduct their traditional lighthearted walk-thru at Notre Dame Stadium. Hour-long bus rides bookend the team's time at the stadium, and upon returning to Michigan City, the Trojans will dine at a local restaurant, per tradition when visiting northern Indiana.

We'll return with a full report from the walk-thru after coming back to the hotel tonight.

A clean-shaven Tommy Trojan

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1016kennyshaved.jpg 1016kennygoatee.jpgMICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- The people have spoken.

More than 2,700 votes were cast to determine whether Kenny Morris, the iconic USC drum major known as Tommy Trojan, should keep his goatee or shave it. Fifty-six percent of the people said he should go with the clean-shaven look, and Morris has done the deed.

Only one problem -- it's awfully chilly in the Midwest right now, and the fresh shave isn't too conducive for staying warm.

"My face is so cold," Morris joked.

You'll see the new look all over national TV on Saturday whenever the NBC cameras turn to the Trojan Marching Band and its symbolic leader (and see the before and after photos to the right).

Gable OK to play

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- Tailback C.J. Gable, who suffered a bruised knee during Thursday's practice, participated in the team's workout today and should be good to go for the game on Saturday, Coach Carroll said this afternoon.

Braving the cold

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- Players are reacting to the cold weather in Indiana in very different ways.

During this afternoon's practice, some went all out and dressed like the Michelin man, some were ho-hum and others flat-out challenged the elements by dressing like they were in L.A. (where, by the way, it's 91 degrees right now).

While many players wore winter caps during the workout, the offensive lineman went in shorts and t-shirts -- in 45-degree weather. You would think that they were all natives of the northern part of the country instead of southern California boys.

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The offensive linemen react to the chilly 45-degree temperatures during this afternoon's practice in Michigan City by essentially not changing a thing, as they all wore shorts and t-shirts during the frigid workout.

Dispatch from Friday's practice in Indiana

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- Check out some photos from USC's brief walk-thru practice at Michigan City High School's Ames Field, where the Trojans reviewed all special teams situations, 15 key offensive and defensive plays and a two-minute drill for the offense:

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Under gray clouds, the Trojans conduct their walk-thru at Ames Field in Michigan City.

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Matt Barkley throws during the offense's portion of the walk-thru.

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The Trojan defense lines up during the walk-thru.

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The Trojans get giddy during their special teams roll call.

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Coach Carroll watches on as the offense goes through its two-minute drill.

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Coach Carroll speaks to the team in the post-practice huddle.

Leaving for practice

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After 90 minutes of meetings, the Trojans are now departing the team hotel to conduct their brief Friday practice at a local field. We'll return with a report following the walk-thru-esque workout.

Trojans in NFL action

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- Thirty-three Trojans will be playing in this weekend's NFL games. Check out all the matchups:
 
Houston Texans (2-3) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (4-1)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (CBS)
Texans: Linebacker Brian Cushing, defensive lineman Shaun Cody
Bengals: Quarterback Carson Palmer, defensive end Frostee Rucker, linebacker Keith Rivers, linebacker Rey Maualuga

Detroit Lions (1-4) vs. Green Bay Packers (2-2)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (FOX)
Packers: Linebacker Clay Matthews

St. Louis Rams (0-5) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (FOX)
Rams: Defensive lineman LaJuan Ramsey

New York Giants (5-0) vs. New Orleans Saints (4-0)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (FOX)
Giants: Wideout Steve Smith, cornerback Terrell Thomas
Saints: Tailback Reggie Bush, defensive lineman Sedrick Ellis

Cleveland Browns (1-4) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (CBS)
Browns: Linebacker Kaluka Maiava
Steelers: Safety Troy Polamalu

Carolina Panthers (1-3) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-5)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (FOX)
Panthers: Wideout Dwayne Jarrett, offensive lineman Ryan Kalil
Buccaneers: Defensive lineman Kyle Moore

Washington Redskins (2-3) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (0-5)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (CBS)
Redskins: Tight End Fred Davis
Chiefs: Quarterback Matt Cassel

Philadelphia Eagles (3-1) vs. Oakland Raiders (1-4)
Sunday at 1:05 p.m. (FOX)
Eagles: Offensive lineman Winston Justice, defensive lineman Mike Patterson
Raiders: Tailback Justin Fargas

Arizona Cardinals (2-2) vs. Seattle Seahawks (2-3)
Sunday at 1:05 p.m. (FOX)
Cardinals: Quarterback Matt Leinart, tight end Dominique Byrd, offensive lineman Deuce Lutui
Seahawks: Linebacker Lofa Tatupu, defensive lineman Lawrence Jackson, offensive lineman Kyle Williams

Tennessee Titans (0-5) vs. New England Patriots (3-2)
Sunday at 1:15 p.m. (CBS)
Titans: Tailback LenDale White
Patriots: Linebacker Junior Seau

Buffalo Bills (1-4) vs. New York Jets (3-2)
Sunday at 1:15 p.m. (CBS)
Jets: Quarterback Mark Sanchez

Chicago Bears (3-1) vs. Atlanta Falcons (3-1)
Sunday at 5:20 p.m. (NBC)
Falcons: Offensive lineman Sam Baker

Denver Broncos (5-0) vs. San Diego Chargers (2-2)
Monday at 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Chargers: Safety Kevin Ellison

- By Ricky Cambier, USCRipsIt student assistant

Clean as a whistle

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- RipsIt reader Kathleen Massari sent in this interesting question about how the wet weather has affected the Trojans' cleats this week: "After seeing the pictures from practice in the rain on Tuesday and Wednesday, I was wondering how you get the shoes clean. You can throw all the clothing into the wash, but you can't wash shoes. And, if they get all muddy again in South Bend on Friday, how do you clean the shoes for the game?"

The rainy practices on Tuesday and Wednesday created tons of extra work for the USC equipment staff, who cleaned the cleats with damp towels immediately following each muddy practice. After wiping them clean, the equipment staffers then dried the exterior with towels before laying them out under a large fan all night. By the next morning, they were not only sparkling clean, but also bone dry.

So with all the work that goes into this operation after a wet practice, it's fair to say that the equipment staff likes the typical California sunshine?

"It is what it is," assistant football equipment coordinator Greg Allen said with a chuckle.

And in terms of game footwear, players receive new cleats for almost every game, meaning their shoes on Saturday will be spotless and dry.

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Matt Barkley's cleats during Wednesday's practice, before they were wiped down and dried by the USC equipment staff...

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...So that they were sparkling clean and dry for Thursday's practice.

A three-ring circus

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- It's been quite the eventful week for the Trojans.

Not only were they preparing for their Notre Dame trip, but Stafon Johnson was released from the hospital (and later made a surprise appearance at Heritage Hall) and a slip-and-slide contest was held following a rainy practice, among many other entertaining things. Check out all the storylines from the week that was:

A new phase

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- Game preparation has kicked into fifth gear.

With a special teams roll call and a wild pump-up session in a hotel ballroom, the Trojans just started their normal Friday block of meetings, signaling the final stage of prep for Saturday's game.

"We're now in our Friday routine," running backs coach Todd McNair told the team a few minutes ago. "We're on the road, but our stuff doesn't change. It's about focus, everyone's tuned in, all of us collectively. We're in a new phase of preparation -- the mental phase of preparation."

Media presence

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- Here's how you can watch, listen to or otherwise follow Saturday's USC-Notre Dame game:

  • Kickoff: 3:42 p.m. Eastern (12:42 p.m. Pacific)
  • National TV: NBC (Tom Hammond and Pat Haden)
  • Local L.A. radio: ESPN 710-AM
  • National radio: Westwood One
  • Live internet play-by-play: USCTrojans.com GameTracker

Inside the locker room

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A hotel meeting room has been transformed into a locker room for the Trojans, who will collect their practice attire (shirt, shorts, socks and cleats) from their specified chair for today's 11:45 workout.

Doing their work

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- The USC equipment staffers have a full day ahead of themselves.

The team of full-time and volunteer student equipment managers will depart the team hotel at 9:30 a.m. and head to Notre Dame Stadium to set up the locker room for tomorrow's game. They'll be working well into the night as their meticulous game-day preparations unfold.

Gray day

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It's cold, gray and breezy this morning in Michigan City, Ind., where the Trojans are now waking up to start their Fridays. The current 39-degree weather is forecasted to give way to a high of 46 and rain/snow showers all day in northern Indiana.

Friday begins

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- It's "the day before" in northern Indiana.

The USC team hotel is still quiet this morning, but players will be waking up shortly to commence their usual Friday routine of meetings, practice, walk-thru and more meetings on the final day of preparation before Saturday's game. Check out the Trojans' schedule for today:

9 a.m. (CDT) • Wake-up call; breakfast
10 a.m. (CDT) • Meetings begin at team hotel
11:45 a.m. (CDT) • Practice at nearby field
12:45 p.m. (CDT) • Return to hotel; eat lunch
2 p.m. (CDT) • Depart team hotel for Notre Dame Stadium
4 p.m. (EDT) • Walk-thru at Notre Dame Stadium
5 p.m. (EDT) • Depart Notre Dame Stadium
5 p.m. (CDT) • Dinner at a local restaurant
7:30 p.m. (CDT) • Eve-of-game meetings begin
10:30 p.m. (CDT) • Bed check

RipsIt Minute

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In case you couldn't follow us live, "The RipsIt Minute" gives you a quick rundown of the must-read Blog entries from the previous day:


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Goodnight

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- The night has wrapped up for the Trojans at their team hotel, with a buffet snack coming in just before bed check. The first order of business on Friday is a special teams film review at 10 a.m. in a hotel meeting room, and then USC will practice at a nearby field at 11:45 a.m.

The Trojans' business trip is moving right along.

Icy cold

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Upon arriving at the team hotel tonight, center Kristofer O'Dowd can see his breath in the frigid air, showing just how cold it is in Michigan City, Ind. -- 39 degrees, with a wind chill of 35. Rain, snow and a high of 45 are forecasted for Friday in northern Indiana. On a related note, it's currently 70 degrees in L.A., with Friday's high expected to be 87 degrees.

Honoring Stafon

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During Thursday afternoon's practice at USC, tailback Allen Bradford's helmet features the new "StaFightOn 13" sticker that was affixed by the equipment staff on Wednesday night. All players' helmets now contain the thoughtful tribute to Stafon Johnson.

All about location

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- It might be cold here, but at least the Trojans know where they are.

Thanks to head strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle's traditional geography and history lesson regarding the trip, the players have a fuller understanding of the significance and location of South Bend, Ind., the location of Saturday's game.

Carlisle gives the lesson before every road game, but it usually happens in the team meeting room. Because of Stafon Johnson's surprise appearance, Carlisle's moment came on the practice field following Thursday afternoon's practice.

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On the field after Thursday's practice at USC, head strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle gives a lighthearted history and geography lesson about South Bend, Ind.

Time note

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- Please note that all blog entries will be time-stamped in Central time for the remainder of this weekend's trip, just to make things as simple as possible considering the funky time-zone juggling.

Settling in

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MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- The USC traveling party has made it to northern Indiana.

The Trojans' charter flight departed LAX a little before 3 p.m. Pacific and landed at South Bend Regional Airport slightly before 10 p.m. Eastern time. The flight was uneventful, as players napped and watched movies on personal DVD players for the duration of the four-hour ride to northern Indiana, where 39-degree temperatures welcomed the team.

Then after an hour-long bus ride from South Bend and the Eastern time zone to Michigan City and the Central time zone, USC pulled into its team hotel a few minutes before 10 p.m. Central time. The Trojans will now call it a night, with bed check set for 10:30. Check out some photos from the trip:

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Prior to this afternoon's flight, tailbacks Joe McKnight (left) and Curtis McNeal (right) go through the security checkpoint at LAX.

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Offensive lineman Zack Heberer gets checked by a security agent at LAX before the team's flight to South Bend.

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Student coach Frankie Telfort (left) and cornerback T.J. Bryant (right) play cards during the flight to South Bend.

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The Trojans deplane upon touchdown at South Bend Regional Airport.

Heading to South Bend

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And they're off.

The Trojans are now leaving campus and heading to South Bend, Ind., commencing a 60-hour, 3,640-mile roundtrip journey for the USC-Notre Dame game on Saturday afternoon. After busing to LAX, the team's charter flight is scheduled to depart at 2:30 p.m., with an estimated arrival at South Bend Regional Airport set for 9:30 p.m. Eastern time.

The Trojans will then bus to their hotel in Michigan City, Ind., where they're scheduled to arrive around 9:30 p.m. Central time. No business is on the docket upon check-in, so it'll be a pretty calm night for the team in northern Indiana.

We'll return with a full report from the road after checking in at the team hotel tonight, but in the meantime, we'll be posting occasional updates at http://twitter.com/USCRipsIt. Be sure to stay with USCRipsIt throughout the trip for the latest inside info regarding the Trojans. And finally, here's USC's schedule for the rest of the day:

2:30 p.m. • Charter flight departs LAX
9:30 p.m. (EDT) • Arrive at South Bend Regional Airport; bus to Michigan City, Ind.
9:30 p.m. (CDT) • Arrive at team hotel in Michigan City, Ind.
10:30 p.m. (CDT) • Bed check

Carroll's Video Blog #6

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Just before leaving for Notre Dame, Coach Carroll checks in with his latest video blog, this one discussing the profound impact Stafon Johnson has had on him and the team in recent weeks:

Thursday's photo album

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Check out this slideshow of images from Thursday's practice, brought to you by USCRipsIt staff photographer Po-He Tseng:

Photos by Po-He Tseng, USCRipsIt staff photographer

Pictures from Thursday's practice

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Defensive lineman Armond Armstead goes through the agility bags.

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Mitch Mustain winds up to pass during 7-on-7 drills.

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Tailback Joe McKnight makes a cut.

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The Trojan offense and defense line up during 11-on-11 period at the end of practice.

Dispatch from Cromwell Field

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Thoughts from Thursday's practice, through the eyes of USCRipsIt...

- A typically brief practice closed out the week's heavy-duty work, with the Trojans just two brief Friday walk-thrus away from kickoff on Saturday. "This was a great way to end the week," Coach Carroll said after the team's half-pads practice on a sun-soaked Cromwell Field.

- On a kickoff return near the end of practice, tailback C.J. Gable went down but eventually walked off the field with the help of trainers. Carroll called it a bruised knee and said "we'll see" what Gable's availability will be for Saturday's game. "He's going to be really, really sore," Carroll said.

- Malcolm Smith will start at weakside linebacker, Carroll said.

- Ronald Johnson (collarbone), Nick Perry (knee bruise) and Armond Armstead (broken foot) are set to play Saturday, Carroll said.

Going to work

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USC's quick Thursday practice just began on Cromwell Field, so we'll return with a report following the half-pads workout.

Sign language

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Only at place like USC could the administrative coordinator of the physics and astronomy department have such an impact on the school's football team.

1015lisa.jpgBut, for around eight seasons now, that's exactly what Lisa Moeller has done with her faithful support of the Trojans from her fourth-floor office window that overlooks the USC practice field.

Each week, Moeller posts a sign in the window that says "Beat (the next opponent)." And each week, the Trojans conduct practice with that support watching over them, reminding them of their next goal. This week, it has read "Beat ND," next week it will be "Beat OSU" and so on through the season.

Moeller, who has worked at USC for 10 years, said her view from her office in Seely G. Mudd room 407 is one of the biggest perks of the job, and she merely wanted to make the most of the location.

"It doesn't take too much to put it up there," said Moeller, an Arizona State grad who has since converted to become a part of the Trojan Family.

While the weekly thought might not require too much effort, the signs definitely have an impact on the Trojans.

"I always wondered who did that -- I've thought all along that it was a really neat gesture," said head strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle, who has been at USC since 2001. "She's always supporting us. That is so cool."

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The Trojans conduct practice this week under a "Beat ND" sign hung from the window of SGM 407, where physics and astronomy administrative coordinator Lisa Moeller affixes a special message for the team for every game.

Vote today

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Coach Carroll continues to climb toward the top five in the fan voting for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award, so keep on showing your support once a day! If Carroll wins, $50,000 will be donated to A Better LA, the inner-city charity he helped found.

Video of Stafon's surprise visit

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Check out video of Stafon Johnson's surprise appearance at this morning's team meeting in the latest video from USCRipsIt, produced by Mark Haas:

Note about Friday's practice

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USC's Friday practice at an undisclosed field in Michigan City is closed to the public.

Surprise! Stafon Johnson returns to Heritage Hall

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The Trojans just received quite the going-away present.

During their team meeting this morning, a buoyant Stafon Johnson bounded into the auditorium to surprise the players with his presence, just 24 hours after being released from the hospital and only 17 days after his freak weightlifting accident. The players and coaches, both stunned and overjoyed by Johnson's appearance, cheered loudly before going up and shaking his hand and giving him a hug.

Check out some pictures from Johnson's surprise appearance at this morning's team meeting (and see the video here):

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Stafon Johnson bounds into the team meeting room this morning to surprise his teammates, just one day after being released from the hospital.

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Stafon Johnson greets the team from the front of the auditorium during this morning's team meeting.

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Stafon Johnson and Taylor Mays shake hands and hug at the end of the team meeting.

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Stafon Johnson and offensive lineman Butch Lewis go through their special handshake routine at the end of the team meeting this morning.

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In the defensive staff room before this morning's meetings, Stafon Johnson writes a message to his coaches as they scheme to set up his surprise appearance in front of the team.

Let's get it cracking

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The Trojans' block of Thursday meetings is getting started now with a special teams film review, followed by team, offense/defense and position group meetings before a half-pads practice at 11:15 a.m.

A sloppy mess

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It was a mud show at practice during the last few days, producing some memorable -- and rarely seen -- images from Howard Jones Field. Check out these three bonus photos that show just how messy it got on Wednesday:


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Coach Carroll's khaki pants have been splattered with mud.


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With their legs covered in mud like horses on a rainy day at the track, the Trojans come together for a mid-practice huddle.


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Standing water and massive puddles formed all over the field on Wednesday as a constant drizzle fell during the practice.

In case you missed it

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Check out this 90-second segment from ESPN's "SportsCenter" about Stafon Johnson being released from the hospital on Wednesday:

Going artificial

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After two days of slopping around in the mud on Howard Jones Field, the Trojans will conduct today's No Repeat Thursday practice on the FieldTurf of Cromwell Field.

Clarke funeral info

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The funeral for Leon Clarke, a famous Trojan tight end in the '50s who passed away on Oct. 5, will be on Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Leisure World in Seal Beach. If you'd like to send flowers for the funeral, mail them to: Leisure World, Clubhouse #2, 13681 El Dorado Dr., Seal Beach, CA 90740.

The new L.B.U.

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Linebacker U appears to have moved to L.A.

Three Trojan linebackers will be playing big roles when the Cincinnati Bengals and Houston Texans meet on Sunday, as Keith Rivers, Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing will be starting for their respective teams. Rivers and Cushing lead their teams in tackles so far this year.

Read all about this cool connection in this article from today's Houston Chronicle. Thanks to RipsIt reader Harlan Martens for passing it along.

Busy day ahead

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Today is travel day for the Trojans, who will conduct meetings and practice at USC before departing early this afternoon for South Bend, Ind.

Normal Thursday business -- merely bumped up five hours to accommodate the travel itinerary -- will get started at 9:30 with a special teams meeting. A half-pads practice will start at 11, and the team will be on its way to LAX at 1:30 this afternoon. Check out the full schedule for today, known as "the day before the day before" around Heritage Hall:

9:30 a.m. • Meetings at Heritage Hall
11 a.m. • Practice
1:30 p.m. • Depart campus for LAX
2:30 p.m. • Charter flight departs LAX
9:30 p.m. (EDT) • Arrive at South Bend Regional Airport
9:30 p.m. (CDT) • Arrive at team hotel in Michigan City, Ind.
10:30 p.m. (CDT) • Bed check

RipsIt Minute

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In case you couldn't follow us live, "The RipsIt Minute" gives you a quick rundown of the must-read Blog entries from the previous day:


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Wednesday's photo album

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Check out this slideshow of images from Wednesday's practice, brought to you by USCRipsIt staff photographer Po-He Tseng:

Photos by Po-He Tseng, USCRipsIt staff photographer

Pictures from Wednesday's practice

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Fullback Stanley Havili goes through drills, with Howard Jones Field seemingly enveloped in a cloud.

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Mitch Mustain hands off to tailback C.J. Gable on the sodden field.

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Matt Barkley winds up for the pass as fullback Stanley Havili provides the excellent block on defensive lineman Armond Armstead.

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As the clouds begin to clear out at the end of practice, Mitch Mustain drops back to pass.

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Kicker Jordan Congdon hits a 29-yard field goal from the mud to end practice.

Dispatch from Howard Jones

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Thoughts from Wednesday's practice, through the eyes of USCRipsIt...

- For the second day in a row, the Trojans splashed through a full-pads workout in a constant drizzle that turned the grass field into a veritable mud pit. Players' footing and the passing game was comprised a little, but for the most part, practice went on as usual. And Coach Carroll was glowing after his team trudged through a very productive workout, especially when adding in the elements. "This was great for us -- we had good, solid work today," Carroll said, referring to the wet weather. "Really it was a blessing for us. It was really good for helping the kids adapt."

- The defense caused one fumble during an early-practice rushing-focused 11-on-11 period, which gave the Turnover Wednesday victory to the defense for the second straight week.

- An 11-11 tie in the practice-ending team period wasn't settled by a slip-and-slide on this day, but instead a field goal attempt from the muddiest part of the sodden field. With the whole team surrounding him, kicker Jordan Congdon banked in a 29-yard kick off the left upright for the successful try, igniting a hearty applause from his teammates.

- Carroll declared wideout Ronald Johnson and defensive lineman Armond Armstead officially ready to play Saturday. "I'm not thinking twice about it," he said.

- Defensive end Nick Perry practiced and Carroll said he'll play on Saturday.

- Linebacker Malcolm Smith has bounced back from his ankle injury and is "full-speed," Carroll said.

- To prepare the offense for a loud environment on game day, artificial crowd noise blared from field-side speakers, which were draped with plastic to protect them from the rain.

- In attendance at the practice were USC alum Jason Seahorn, now a reporter for CBS' College Sports division, and Mike Erre, pastor at Costa Mesa-based Rock Harbor Church, one of the largest churches in southern California.

Another rainy day

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As the rain and clouds loom over L.A. for the second straight day, the Trojans are beginning their Turnover Wednesday workout on a drenched Howard Jones Field.

But they're going into the practice with the mindset that the weather doesn't matter one bit.

"The elements didn't affect a thing -- yesterday was a slamming success," Coach Carroll said this afternoon.

We'll return with a report following the full-pads practice.

Ask Coach: Brian Baucham's inspiration

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This week's "AT&T Ask Coach" question is about cornerback Brian Baucham's impact on the team as he bounces back from the injury sustained during a motorcycle accident a month ago:

Weather watch

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While the Trojans continue to battle the elements in L.A. today, the weather forecast for this weekend is shaping up to be somewhat pleasant on game day.

Friday, though, could be another story for the Trojans in northern Indiana.

Temperatures on game day are expected to max out in the mid-40s with clear skies in South Bend, but on Friday, when the team will be practicing and conducting a walk-thru in Indiana, rain and snow is expected along with temperatures in the low-40s.

Big honor for Ricky

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Ricky Rosas, the 19-year-old special assistant to the head coach and long-time inspiration to the Trojans, has been nominated for the FedEx Orange Bowl Courage Award.

Watch it with your friends

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Not going to South Bend this weekend? Attend one of the dozens of game-watching parties in a city near you, thanks to the USC Alumni Association.

In Carroll's words: Thanks to Coach Wooden

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To honor the 99th birthday of coach John Wooden, one of Coach Carroll's all-time mentors, we're publishing this first-person perspective from Carroll that highlights Wooden's impact on him. It showcases the turning point in Carroll's coaching career, an epiphany of all epiphanies that occurred just before he got the USC job in 2000, with Wooden being a main catalyst for the inspiration. Here's the story, in Carroll's words:

When I read about how it took Coach Wooden 16 years of coaching at UCLA before he won his first championship, I involuntarily slammed the book shut, stunned. Like everyone else who grew up around California sports, I knew the rest of the story: After that first title Coach went on to win 10 out of the next 11 National Championships before retiring, falling just one very close game short of winning all 11. For whatever reason, though, I'd never realized just how long it had taken him to get his UCLA team to that level.

It was an epiphany: once Coach Wooden figured out what it took to win that first National Championship, I realized, he absolutely owned it.  

It had taken him all those years, winning conference championships and having winning seasons that didn't quite make it, but once he got there, he knew exactly what it took - and that knowledge put him in a position to do it again and again and again.

I realized that, for him to have done that, he must have figured out absolutely everything about his program -- his delivery, his belief system, his philosophy, everything that made that first championship possible -- so completely that he could re-create it year after year after year. More importantly, he didn't only have to know all those details, but be able to explain them and tie them back into a clear, moral vision that brought it all together into a single team effort.

Of course, after a brief stretch of euphoria, that eureka moment was immediately followed by the less thrilling reminder that with two head coaching failures already on my resume, not only was I unlikely to get 16 years to figure all that out for myself -- I'd be lucky to get 16 months.

I spent the following weeks and months in a fever of notes, binders and ideas. For years, I reminded myself, I'd been challenging position groups, defensive squads and teams that I'd coached to do things in an extraordinary way, but I had never had a way to articulate my thinking similarly to the clarity and succinctness that Coach Wooden had finally arrived at. And so I made myself go through the process of nailing it down, and it was the discipline of working at it that made it happen. By the end, I had a lot of stuff but most importantly I finally had my philosophy, my vision, and a set of core values I could build my program around.

If I ever coached again, my team was going to be built on the foundation of a single, basic principle: "We want to do things better than they have ever been done before." That has always been, and will always be, the philosophy of our program.

So thank you, Coach Wooden, for all the time and inspiration you've given me over the years. Happy birthday!

- By Pete Carroll

Radio replay

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If you missed Coach Carroll's appearance on ESPN Radio's "The Herd with Colin Cowherd" this morning, listen to the six-minute interview here.

Vote again

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Coach Carroll is rapidly climbing toward the top five in the fan voting for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award, so keep on showing your support once a day! If Carroll wins, $50,000 will be donated to A Better LA, the inner-city charity he helped found.

Notre Dame Killer comes home

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Legendary tailback Anthony Davis, known as the "Notre Dame Killer," points to a Sports Illustrated cover with his picture on it in Heritage Hall today. Davis' return to USC comes as the Trojans prepare for Notre Dame, a team Davis scored 11 touchdowns against in three games in the mid-'70s.

Press conference video

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Watch today's Stafon Johnson press conference in its entirety here, courtesy of USCTrojans.com.

Weekend itinerary

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Check out the Trojans' agenda for their trip to Notre Dame this weekend:

Thursday
9:30 a.m. • Meetings at Heritage Hall
11 a.m. • Practice
1:30 p.m. • Depart campus for LAX
2:30 p.m. • Charter flight departs LAX
9:30 p.m. (EDT) • Arrive at South Bend Regional Airport
9:30 p.m. (CDT) • Arrive at team hotel in Michigan City, Ind.
10:30 p.m. (CDT) • Bed check

Friday
9 a.m. (CDT) • Wake-up call
10 a.m. (CDT) • Meetings begin at team hotel
11:45 a.m. (CDT) • Practice at nearby field
12:45 p.m. (CDT) • Return to hotel; eat lunch
2 p.m. (CDT) • Depart team hotel for Notre Dame Stadium
4 p.m. (EDT) • Walk-thru at Notre Dame Stadium
5 p.m. (EDT) • Depart Notre Dame Stadium
5 p.m. (CDT) • Dinner at a local restaurant
7:30 p.m. (CDT) • Eve-of-game meetings begin
10:30 p.m. (CDT) • Bed check

Saturday
9:15 a.m. (CDT) • Wake-up call
10:15 a.m. (CDT) • Meetings begin
10:45 a.m. (CDT) • Pre-game meal
11:50 a.m. (CDT) • Depart Michigan City hotel
1:50 p.m. (EDT) • Arrive at Notre Dame Stadium
2:20 p.m. (EDT) • Warm-ups begin
3:08 p.m. (EDT) • USC returns to locker room
3:38 p.m. (EDT) • Trojans take the field
3:42 p.m. (EDT) • Kickoff
9:45 p.m. (EDT) • Estimated departure time from South Bend Regional Airport
10:45 p.m. (PDT) • Estimated arrival time at LAX

Candid camera

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Fortunately, the cameras were rolling during Tuesday's slip-and-slide shenanigans between Pat Ruel and Jethro Franklin.

"It was the ultimate example of Competition Tuesday," Coach Carroll joked today.

Check out the footage, taken from a camera used to record practice for coaches' film (so there's sadly no sound). Never before has coaches' tape been so entertaining:

A player's coach

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Sporting News asked 43 players which college coach they'd most like to play for, and Coach Carroll won the most votes (12), four more than his next closest competitor (Florida's Urban Meyer with eight).

'I will be back soon:' Johnson discharged from hospital

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Thumbnail image for 1014stafonsmiling.jpgStafon Johnson has taken another positive step forward.

Continuing to amaze the doctors with his speedy recovery, Johnson has been discharged from the hospital today, just 16 days after major reconstructive throat surgery following a freak weightlifting accident.

"He has made extremely remarkable progress at this preliminary stage," Dr. Ryan F. Osborne, one of the surgeons who operated on Johnson, said during a press conference this morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. "We're happy with his progress and we're very optimistic for his long-term prognosis."

Johnson will now be allowed to rest at home and will be "managed on an outpatient basis," Osborne said. His rehabilitation, which will include speech, swallowing and breathing work, will be handled similarly.

At the brief news conference, Johnson and his mother, Kim Mallory, joined Osborne and fellow surgeon Dr. Jason S. Hamilton. Johnson was in visibly high spirits, as he gave a thumbs up, flashed a "V for victory," smiled, winked and nodded along with the words of the doctors and Mallory.

Following the doctors' statements about the severity of the injury and surgery and what the future holds for Johnson, Mallory shared a few words, expressing her gratitude for all the support poured out since the accident, especially from the doctors who worked on her son.

"God couldn't have put a better team of doctors together," Mallory said. "Please continue to pray for us because we are still fighting on."

Then, Johnson's uncle, Kregg Anderson, read a statement that Johnson had typed on his laptop prior to the press conference.

"This has been the most humbling and eye-opening experience in my 21 years of existence," Johnson's statement read. "This is not the end of anything, but the beginning of things to come.

"I will be back soon."

Doctors attributed Johnson's rapid recovery so far to his positive, never-give-up mindset.

"The most likely reason is his attitude," Osborne said. "He's been a fighter since the day we met him."

Doctors said they could not give any timetables at this point for when Johnson will regain his speaking capabilities or when he will be able to resume playing football.

"A majority of that is in the hands of Stafon," Osborne said, with Johnson smiling and nodding right next to him at the dais.

As the news conference wrapped up, Johnson scrawled a short note that Mallory read to the media, a brief statement that asked people to follow him on Twitter and shared one final message.

"Fight on and beat the Irish," the note read.

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Drs. Ryan F. Osborne (left) and Jason S. Hamilton (second from left), the two surgeons who operated on Stafon Johnson, sit with Johnson and his mother, Kim Mallory, during a news conference this morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, from where Johnson was discharged today.

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Stafon Johnson and his mother, Kim Mallory, pose for a picture with Dr. Jason S. Hamilton (left), Dr. Ryan F. Osborne (middle) and Dr. Reena Gupta. Hamilton and Osborne operated on Johnson and Gupta will be Johnson's main speech rehabilitation doctor.

Basket-blog

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The USC basketball teams now have a brand new blog on USCTrojans.com, so check it out here.

A little O-line love

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After the Sept. 12 Ohio State game, ESPN's "College GameDay Final" wrap-up show gave metaphorical helmet stickers to the USC offensive line for its performance in the 18-15 win.

The physical reward for the honor was a letter and a t-shirt signed by the show's three hosts, Lou Holtz, Mark May and Rece Davis. The pair of items were delivered to Heritage Hall this week.

Two problems though -- it's only one shirt for five guys, and it's a size large for a bunch of men who wear clothes with several Xs in front of the L.

"That couldn't fit Tyron's thigh," offensive lineman Jeff Byers joked, referring to 285-pound offensive tackle Tyron Smith.

So because of the small and singular nature of the gift, the offensive linemen have decided to display it in the locker room, where all can enjoy the prize:

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Going back to the archives

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Check out this neat video that looks back at the 2002 USC-Notre Dame game, also known as Carson Palmer's "Heisman game." It's only available to USCTrojans.com All-Access members, so if you're not a subscriber, become one here.

Rising up above

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After three years of waiting and battling injuries, the bruising and lightning-quick Allen Bradford is getting his chance to shine.


By Pedro Moura
USCRipsIt staff writer


1014ab.jpgPerseverance is key to succeeding with USC football.

Just ask junior tailback Allen Bradford. He's now in his fourth year with the Trojans after he spent the first three toiling in relative obscurity behind backs like C.J. Gable, Joe McKnight and Chauncey Washington. This season, he's finally getting his chance to shine, and, boy, is he running with it.

Through five games, the 5-foot-11, 235-pound Bradford is second on the team in rushing with 28 carries for 183 yards and a touchdown.

"It's showing that hard work pays off," Bradford said of his 2009 success. "I'm still not where I want to be, but I just gotta keep on working for it. When I get there, I'll show them what hard work does and how much hard work paid off."

Bradford was a first-team All-American and PARADE Magazine's All-Purpose Player of the Year out of Colton High in 2006.

He came to USC as a safety but moved to tailback at the coaching staff's request in his initial fall camp. Since then, he's been plagued by a surplus of tailbacks and a recurring hip injury that has severely limited his practice time and production. Before this season, his previous season high was 57 rushing yards.

Yet, the unassuming Bradford has never complained publicly. And he's always been a role model.

"He shows me that when things get hard, keep going, because you never know what's going to happen," said redshirt freshman tailback Curtis McNeal, now in a similar boat as Bradford circa 2006, with a quartet of backs currently above him on the depth chart.

"That's what he's doing. He kept his head up and kept fighting."

And now that Bradford has broken out, teammates are taking notice. He's stretched multiple big plays this season and has proved a constant threat on offense, averaging 6.5 yards per carry.

"He's a great player, and that's been obvious," receiver Damian Williams said. "Every time he's come in, he's made plays and he's gotten yardage for us."

In the Trojans' 30-3 victory over Cal, Bradford was Coach Pete Carroll's clear No. 2 choice at running back as he ran 12 times for 53 yards behind starter Joe McKnight.

But Bradford still isn't content.

"I haven't really accomplished what I wanted to in college thus far," he says. "I'm just still fighting."

It's all part of his personality. He mentions "earning more carries" on at least three occasions in a 10-minue period. Teammates agree that Bradford -- viciously aggressive at times, unbelievably playful at others -- has an insatiable desire to continue to improve.

"I think the success just makes him more hungry," junior Stanley Havili says of his backfield mate. "You can tell, his body language when he's out there running the ball, he's vying for more carries. The coaches are seeing it and the players are responding to his intensity on the field when the ball's in his hands."

Bradford is different than any of the other USC tailbacks in the stable. He combines top-end speed with a bruising style, evoking images of a younger Jamal Lewis from both defenders -- and Bradford himself.

"He definitely brings a physical presence," running backs coach Todd McNair says. "He's tough, big, strong, and he runs a little harder than the other guys. He gets downhill on the defense."

Beyond his running ability, only one thing's for sure.

Bradford will continue to persevere, continue to fight.

And teammates will continue to look toward him as an inspiration.

"He's got a lot of heart," Williams said. "Things haven't necessarily gone his way -- he's had a lot of injuries and stuff -- but he keeps battling through it and I think that shows a lot about the person he is and how competitive he is.

"I love that about him."


• You can contact USCRipsIt staff writer Pedro Moura via email.

Ticket talk

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USC received 7,000 tickets for Saturday's game at Notre Dame, with the Trojan allotment being placed in the southeast corner of the 80,795-seat stadium.

A majority of the tickets were distributed via a lottery for athletic department donors. Associate athletic director Ron Orr said the number of requests was at least three times the number of tickets given to USC.

Tweet Carroll

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Coach Carroll surpassed 100,000 followers on Twitter today, a significant milestone on the popular micro-blogging site. The next-closest tweeting college football coach, Tennessee's Lane Kiffin, has just over 19,000 followers.

Carroll is the 14th most-followed sports personality or entity on Twitter, according to wefollow.com.

Happy birthday, Coach Wooden

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Today marks the 99th birthday of legendary basketball coach John Wooden, one of Coach Carroll's mentors. Wish him a happy birthday on this specially created site, which is aiming to get 9,999 well wishes for Wooden.

On the radio

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Coach Carroll will appear on the nationally syndicated "The Herd with Colin Cowherd" on ESPN Radio at 8:10 a.m. Listen live here.

RipsIt Minute

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In case you couldn't follow us live, "The RipsIt Minute" gives you a quick rundown of the must-read Blog entries from the previous day:


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Fun in the rain

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Just another day at a fun-loving USC practice.

To break a 12-12 tie in the final team period at the end of Tuesday's practice, Coach Carroll found a creative way to determine a victor between the offense and defense.

And everyone loved it.

Realizing rainy days don't come very often, the ever-playful Carroll said the only way to settle the tie was to put offensive line coach Pat Ruel against defensive line coach Jethro Franklin in a slip-and-slide competition on the most puddle-filled part of the field.

So with the players forming a tunnel on either side of the runway where the battle was taking place, the 58-year-old Ruel and 43-year-old Franklin went through two rounds of hilarious sliding before Franklin emerged -- soaked and muddied -- as the champion. The defense was awarded the overall practice victory, but all were in good spirits after the childlike festivities.


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Offensive line coach Pat Ruel slides through the puddles on the Trojans' practice field.


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Defensive line coach Jethro Franklin dives into the puddles.


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Soaked and muddied from his battle with Pat Ruel, Jethro Franklin calls his defensive linemen together at the end of the slip-and-slide competition.

Tuesday's photo album

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Check out this slideshow of images from Tuesday's practice, brought to you by USCRipsIt staff photographer Po-He Tseng:

Photos by Po-He Tseng, USCRipsIt staff photographer

Pictures from Tuesday's practice

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With the field soaked from the rains, linebackers Michael Morgan (left) and Malcolm Smith (right) go through tackling drills.


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Jordan Congdon connects on a field goal.


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Matt Barkley drops back to pass as linebacker Chris Galippo closes in.


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Tailback Curtis McNeal and the Trojan offense line up toward the end of the rain-soaked practice.

Dispatch from Howard Jones

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Thoughts from Tuesday's practice, through the eyes of USCRipsIt...

- On a stormy afternoon, the Trojans sloshed through a rain-drenched full-pads practice, completing a Competition Tuesday workout in very unfamiliar conditions. And to decide the 12-12 tie in the practice-ending team period, Coach Carroll made the most of the elements when he pitted offensive line coach Pat Ruel against defensive line coach Jethro Franklin in a slip-and-slide competition. With players forming a tunnel along the sideline, the first go-round wasn't enough to settle the tie, as the two coaches slid the same length -- about 20 yards -- down the puddle-filled field. But on the second attempt, the 43-year-old Franklin easily outdistanced the 58-year-old Ruel to give the defense the victory, which set off a wild celebration by all the smiling, incredulous players. It was a fun and memorable ending to closely contested practice.

- Even with the rain, Matt Barkley had an impressive effort Tuesday, tossing several pretty strikes to his receivers downfield. On back-to-back snaps, he lobbed a perfectly thrown ball over the cornerback and into the arms of wideout Travon Patterson deep over the middle and then, off his back foot and with a defender in his face, Barkley chucked a 40-yard touchdown to receiver Damian Williams near the front left pylon. "He had a terrific day," Carroll said. "When he had to make some bug plays, he made some great throws."

- Mitch Mustain took all the reps as the No. 2 quarterback on his first official day as the backup.

- After sitting out several workouts with a knee bruise, defensive lineman Nick Perry participated in many drills during Tuesday's practice. "He's on the road back," Carroll said.

- Kicker Jordan Congdon overcame the elements and connected on all five of his field goal attempts during special teams period.

Wet and wild

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The Trojans just started their Competition Tuesday practice on a rain-soaked Howard Jones Field, so we'll return afterward with a report.

Helping the community

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Check out what several Trojans did during their bye weekend -- serving the community in a neat inner-city event -- in the latest free video from USCTrojans.com, hosted by Katie Boggs.

Weathermen

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During this afternoon's team meeting, Coach Carroll had several questions for his players that all led to the same conclusion: "It doesn't matter what the weather is."

With rainy weather in L.A. today and chilly temperatures expected for Saturday in South Bend, the Trojans are facing a myriad of challenges from the elements this week. But, as Carroll repeatedly says, it won't be a problem -- unless you let it be.

"Does it rain on both sides of the field? Is it 45 degrees on both sides of the field? Does it snow on both sides of the field?" Carroll rhetorically asked his players, employing one of his favorite adages. "Let's make this a strength for us."

Carroll did admit that players will have to adjust things when it comes to their footing, especially when the field is muddy.

"You need to be conscious of what you can and can't do with your footing," Carroll said.

Johnson expected to be released Wednesday

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Stafon Johnson, who underwent emergency throat surgery on Sept. 28 after a weightlifting accident, is expected to be discharged from the hospital on Wednesday.

We'll have a full update tomorrow morning, following a brief press conference featuring Johnson, his mother, Kim Mallory, and Johnson's surgeon, Dr. Ryan F. Osborne. Johnson is still restricted from talking, so he is merely scheduled to make an appearance at the media-only event.

NFL highlights

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Check out the top Week 5 highlights for several Trojans in the NFL:

No big deal

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The in-house attitude concerning Saturday's rivalry matchup at Notre Dame continues to be toned down as game week marches on.

"We don't feel it as much as people on the outside," Coach Carroll told the team this afternoon. "I haven't made a big deal about this game since our first year [in 2001, when the Trojans lost]. All the extra stuff has nothing to do with this game.

"Every game is important, every game is an awesome opportunity."

Getting down to business

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Competition Tuesday is well underway, as the punt return unit is already in a film session and the team meeting will be up in a few minutes. A full-pads practice will begin at 4:15 p.m.

Making it rain

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Thanks to a steady rain all day today, Howard Jones Field is sopping wet and very muddy in parts, but that's not going to stop the Trojans from practicing on the grass this afternoon, instead of moving to the FieldTurf of Cromwell Field. Coach Carroll likes practicing on grass over artificial turf, especially with a game on grass coming up this Saturday at Notre Dame.

Bigger squad

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Because it's a nonconference game, the Trojans will be taking a few extra players to this weekend's matchup at Notre Dame. Around 75 players are expected to make this weekend's travel roster, a roughly 20 percent increase over the normal 64-man travel squad for Pac-10 road games.

Watch it again

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In case you couldn't watch it live, here's a free replay of Coach Carroll's full press conference from today, courtesy of USCTrojans.com.

Strictly business

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Unlike the USC faithful who get to make a pilgrimage to the great city of Chicago for the Notre Dame game every two years, the Trojans take a markedly different approach for their biennial weekend trip to the Midwest.

It's all business, all the time, and their travel itinerary matches that sentiment.

The USC team traveling party will fly into South Bend, Ind., on Thursday evening and stay two nights in Michigan City, a low-key town of 33,000 people in northwest Indiana. One mall, one high school and one hospital are pretty much all that's in Michigan City, which is also the birthplace of pitching great Don Larsen and the location of the Indiana State Prison.

So needless to say, but no sightseeing or tourism is on the agenda for the Trojans this weekend, who will fly out of South Bend Regional Airport immediately after Saturday afternoon's game.

Media gauntlet

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Coach Carroll tapes interviews with the local TV stations outside of Heritage Hall this afternoon. Tuesday is Carroll's weekly media day, during which he hosts his press conference and conducts numerous print, online, TV and radio interviews.

Face the media

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Coach Carroll's weekly press conference is about to begin, so be sure to watch it through this live internet stream brought to you by USCTrojans.com.

The pressers for women's basketball coach Michael Cooper (at 1:30 p.m.) and men's basketball coach Kevin O'Neill (at 2 p.m.) will follow on the same link.

Time traveler's life

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During its trip to Notre Dame this weekend, USC is creating a new meaning to a "time-consuming drive."

Over their 60-hour journey to the Midwest and back, the Trojans will be in three time zones, adding a challenging element to an already lengthy trip to Notre Dame.

The Trojans depart LAX on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. Pacific time on a charter flight and arrive in South Bend, Ind., around 9:30 p.m. Eastern time. They then bus 40 miles to their hotel in Michigan City, Ind., and should arrive around 9:30 p.m. -- Central time.

Then on Friday, the Trojans conduct a morning practice in the Central time zone in Michigan City prior to returning to South Bend and the Eastern time zone for an afternoon walk-thru at Notre Dame Stadium. Then they head back to their hotel and the Central time zone for eve-of-game meetings.

Saturday, the team wakes up in the Central time zone before busing to the Eastern time zone, where the game starts at 3:42 p.m. Because of the time difference, USC will depart its hotel at 11:50 a.m. (Central time) and arrive at Notre Dame Stadium at 1:50 p.m. (Eastern time). The Trojans fly out of South Bend Regional Airport and are scheduled to arrive back in the Pacific time zone around 10:45 p.m.

The logistics of juggling the different time zones is easier than it looks, director of football operations Matt Capurro said. Players are given itineraries with exact times, adjusted for the local time zones, so the schedule is as clear as can be.

"It's not hard to deal with since everything is figured out ahead of time," Capurro said.

So for those keeping score at home, that's three time zones, two days and one game. What a unique trip the Trojans have in front of them.

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Michigan City, where the Trojans are staying this weekend, is in the Central time zone, while South Bend, where Notre Dame is located, is in the Eastern time zone. The time-zone shuffling adds a unique element to this weekend's trip.

A symbol of support for Stafon

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The Trojans have been playing with Stafon Johnson in their hearts.

Now they're going to be playing with him on their helmets.

Special stickers featuring "StaFightOn" (a play-on-words with "Stafon" and "Fight on") and "13" will be affixed to each Trojan's helmet in time for Saturday's game at Notre Dame.

The play-on-words was crafted by Coach Carroll, and the sticker was commissioned by director of equipment operations David "Pops" Scott. Check it out here:

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Media presence

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Find out how you can watch, listen to or otherwise follow Saturday's USC-Notre Dame game:

  • Kickoff: 3:42 p.m. Eastern (12:42 p.m. Pacific)
  • National TV: NBC (Tom Hammond and Pat Haden)
  • Local L.A. radio: ESPN 710-AM
  • National radio: Westwood One
  • Live internet play-by-play: USCTrojans.com GameTracker

Deciding the facial fate of Tommy Trojan

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1013kennymorris.jpgTommy Trojan is putting his appearance up to a vote.

Kenny Morris, the iconic drum major of the Trojan Marching Band this season, has been festooned with a goatee so far this fall. But he's heard comments -- both positive and negative -- about his facial hair and how it fits with the look of the famous character he represents, so he's bringing the matter to the court of public opinion (also known as the readers of USCRipsIt).

"I've grown somewhat attached to it," Morris, a senior, said about the goatee he's had since mid-August. "But I'm not against shaving it, I'm always up for a change."

Morris, a native of Kailua, Hawaii, said it's been at least seven seasons since a USC drum major -- "Tommy Trojan" -- has had a full goatee, so he understands why some people want him to be clean shaven.

"I'll leave it up to the fans," Morris said.

So the decision is in your hands -- should Tommy Trojan keep the goatee or go with the clean-shaven look? The results will hopefully be on display come Saturday afternoon, when USC and Notre Dame face off on NBC, with Morris getting plenty of TV time throughout.


Loving this day

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A Trojan's second-favorite day (behind game day, of course) is here, as a highly spirited Competition Tuesday is storming through Heritage Hall like the rainy weather that's currently blowing through L.A.

"We're rolling," Coach Carroll said during this morning's staff meeting. "Let's bring the juice -- it's Competition Tuesday!"

Dressing for "the drive"

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The USC Bookstore just released a cool t-shirt that commemorates the epic game-winning drive at Ohio State last month. You can purchase them here.

Front:
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Back:
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Time Out with Tino Dominguez

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An occasional feature throughout the season, "Time Out" by USCRipsIt staff writer Elaine Cruz will give you glimpses into the lives of the people who support the Trojans and make the program run smoothly. Today, football equipment coordinator Tino Dominguez gets the spotlight...


0824tino.jpgBy Elaine Cruz
USCRipsIt staff writer


A football team cannot function without its bare necessities -- football equipment.

It's not just the players that are out there on the field every Saturday. It's their uniforms, their helmets and their pads. The special equipment they use during practice is important to help them prepare for those games. There is a lot of responsibility that comes with taking care of a team's needs, especially when it involves taking care of the stuff that helps to prepare and protect every player. Such an important job is in the hands of Tino Dominguez, USC's football equipment coordinator.

Dominguez has worked for the USC athletic department for 19 years. He has worked under previous coaches Larry Smith, John Robinson and Paul Hackett. His experience with being an equipment coordinator doesn't begin at USC, however, since he started at a high school.

He started working at the high school level as a coach, equipment manager, and trainer, handling almost every aspect of a football team. After working there for 10 years, Dominguez decided to join the Equipment Managers Association, a group that has members ranging from the high school level to the NFL. He flew out to St. Louis to get his certification.

Soon after getting certified, Dominguez saw an opening for an assistant equipment manager at USC. He decided to apply and was invited back three times throughout the interview process. He got a final call and has been with the athletic department since, working primarily with football.

Some of his jobs specifics are to make sure the sizing of jerseys and pants are correct and that helmets are ready for use. He also gets the equipment ready to go on the field for practice use. He oversees the repairs of the equipment and is in charge of loading the equipment for transportation.

Dominguez also is responsible for setting up and taking down the equipment. He also employs the help of 12 student managers, and having that many helping hands is essential to helping to move, set up and take down the hefty equipment.

Dominguez says working with Coach Carroll as being a really good coach to work for.

"I like to describe Coach Carroll as a young John Robinson. He trusted your experience, judgment, and abilities," he explains.

He also describes the habits of Carroll he frequently observes.

"He likes to throw curve balls, change his mind, and plans. He's easy to work for," he says.

0919tino.JPGOf the many memories and experiences Dominguez has with Trojan football, his favorites have been all the trips to the BCS bowls, particularly the Orange Bowls. He also mentions another part of his career which he is fond of.

"The biggest high points are when we graduate players and they go to the NFL. Many become very successful professional athletes," he states.

Dominguez is proud of the players he has worked with. He likes to have close relationships with them while at USC. He says he's seen many players grow right before his eyes as they come to USC as kids.

"They've played in college for years and for free. Now they play in the NFL making millions of dollars," he says. He reminisces about the players he has worked with throughout the years which include Keyshawn Johnson, Lofa Tatupu and Troy Polamalu, among many others.

Dominguez was born in New Mexico but moved to Southern California when he was 6 years old. He said his family supports his career.

"They're proud to say that their husband, father, brother, uncle works for USC," he says.

When he isn't working he likes to spend time doing his favorite hobbies.

"On the side I build. I restore classic cars," says Dominguez. He also likes to attend his son's boxing matches. He also tries to fish when he can.

If one thing is certain, it's that Dominguez has an important but fun job. That's why he takes his time making sure everything is done properly and is ready for practices and games. The team relies on Dominguez to help them prepare for each game, and he is happy to be the person they can rely on. He cheers on the team as the fans do, but he gets to do it right from the sideline. All of the work he does, he does with his heart.

"I love what I do," he simply says.


• You can contact USCRipsIt staff writer Elaine Cruz via email.

Read and vote

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Check out this insightful interview with Coach Carroll on the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year website.

And on a related note, Carroll is rapidly climbing toward fifth place in the fan voting for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award, so keep on showing your support once a day! If Carroll wins, $50,000 will be donated to A Better LA, the inner-city charity he helped found.

Bringing the Trojans to the Midwest

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If you're heading to Notre Dame, find out about all the rallies, tailgates and transportation arrangements available to Trojan fans during the weekend through the USC Alumni Association's website.

Down to the minute

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Kickoff of Saturday's game at Notre Dame will be at 3:42 p.m. Eastern (12:42 p.m. Pacific). The matchup will be televised nationally on NBC.

Ask away

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Have something you want Coach Carroll to answer during his weekly press conference today? Then send in your question by texting "ASKCOACH" to 51234, and one fan's query will be answered by Carroll at the noon presser. 

On the radio

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Coach Carroll was interviewed on the nationally syndicated "Dan Patrick Show" this morning, so listen to the fascinating 10-minute segment here.

Reminder about the pressers

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The USC men's basketball team, featuring new head coach Kevin O'Neill, will host its season tip-off press conference today at 2 p.m., immediately following Coach Carroll's weekly press conference at noon and the press conference with new women's basketball coach Michael Cooper at 1:30 p.m.

You can watch all three pressers live for free here, courtesy of USCTrojans.com.

RipsIt Minute

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In case you couldn't follow us live, "The RipsIt Minute" gives you a quick rundown of the must-read Blog entries from the previous day:


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Monday's photo album

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Check out this slideshow of images from Monday's practice, brought to you by USCRipsIt staff photographer Po-He Tseng:

Photos by Po-He Tseng, USCRipsIt staff photographer

Pictures from Monday's practice

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The starting offensive line -- (from left to right) Tyron Smith, Alex Parsons, Kristofer O'Dowd, Jeff Byers and Charles Brown -- go through walk-thru on Monday.


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Matt Barkley passes to Brice Butler during 7-on-7 period.


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Mitch Mustain gets tangled up with two linemen during team period.


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Matt Barkley throws under an ominous sky.

Dispatch from Howard Jones

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Thoughts from Monday's practice, through the eyes of USCRipsIt...

- Two Trojans are well on their way to returning for Saturday's game at Notre Dame. Wideout Ronald Johnson (broken collarbone) and defensive end Armond Armstead (broken foot) participated heavily in Monday's half-pads practice, and Coach Carroll said both were on track to play against the Irish this weekend.

- With a nifty slicing run off tackle by tailback C.J. Gable in sudden death, the offense captured an 11-10 overall practice victory during the final team period.

- Safety Drew McAllister had yet another interception during practice, this time during team period on a pass tipped into the air by linebacker Jarvis Jones.

- Kicker Jake Harfman nailed a 53-yard field goal during special teams period.

- Coach Carroll, in the post-practice team huddle: "Let's make sure we're battling all week long so we can make ourselves great and have an awesome weekend."

- Mitch Mustain took most of the second-team reps, and Coach Carroll acknowledged that the junior is "a little bit ahead" of fellow backup quarterback Aaron Corp for the No. 2 role behind starter Matt Barkley. "The competition stays open," Carroll said.

- Cornerback Brian Baucham, out since a motorcycle accident on Sept. 17, took part in a healthy portion of practice Monday and appeared to be back to nearly full speed. "If he's OK, he's going to keep going," Carroll said. "I think he's going to be fine [for Saturday]."

Start the week off

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The Trojans just took the field for their first practice of Notre Dame game week, so we'll return with a report after the half-pads workout.

Johnson keeps getting better

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Nothing but good news keeps coming from the Stafon Johnson recovery front.

Exactly two weeks after his serious throat injury and emergency reconstructive surgery, Johnson continues to stay ahead of schedule and is expected to be discharged from the hospital this week.

"He's in very high spirits and looking forward to getting out of the hospital," Coach Carroll said.

Johnson's mother, Kim Mallory, said doctors have been amazed with her son's "strong faith and determination to win."

"The docs are so proud of him," Mallory said.

Way ahead of schedule

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The bye keeps rearing its rewards as game week kicks in.

Because of the week off, the Trojans go into Notre Dame week further along on their preparations than a normal game week. The offense's game plan is already 90 percent installed, and the defense's is in roughly the same spot.

So the practices this week -- starting with today's at 4 p.m. -- will take on a sharpening, honing feel to them instead of an air of newness that usual game week workouts have.

"We need to get some good work done today because the coaches are seeing where everything fits into the game plan," Coach Carroll told the players during this afternoon's team meeting.

Today is technically called "Bonus Monday" for the Trojans, since it's an extra day afforded by the lack of a game to review from the weekend. This afternoon's practice will be beefier than a typical Monday but shorter than a normal Tuesday.

Waiting and resting

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Players lounge around between the trophies in the Heritage Hall lobby this afternoon as they wait for the team meeting to begin. The Trojans are now in a punt unit meeting before team, offense/defense and position group meetings follow prior to this afternoon's half-pads practice.

Vote today

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Coach Carroll is rapidly climbing toward fifth place in the fan voting for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award, so keep on showing your support once a day! If Carroll wins, $50,000 will be donated to A Better LA, the inner-city charity he helped found.

Recognizing Lott's legacy

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Eisenhower High School in Rialto will rename its football stadium "Ronnie Lott Field" in honor of its renowned alumnus, who went on to a legendary hall-of-fame career at USC and in the NFL. The renaming ceremony will be Saturday at 6 p.m. as part of the school's 50th anniversary.

Meet the press

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The USC men's basketball team, featuring new head coach Kevin O'Neill, will host its season tip-off press conference on Tuesday at 2 p.m., immediately following Coach Carroll's weekly press conference at noon and the press conference with new women's basketball coach Michael Cooper at 1:30 p.m.

You can watch all three pressers live for free here, courtesy of USCTrojans.com.

The Fonz makes a difference

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USC alum and fervent fan Henry Winkler, known as "the Fonz" to much of the world, spent his Friday reading books to kids from A Better LA, the inner-city charity founded by Coach Carroll. Read all about the special occasion here.

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Henry Winkler, a big-time Trojan fan who's known for his role as "the Fonz" on "Happy Days," reads to kids from A Better LA on Friday. [Photo courtesy of A Better LA]

Run with the world

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The Nike Plus Human Race -- set to start at 12:01 a.m. at the Coliseum on Oct. 24 -- is just a few weeks away, so be sure to sign up now. Proceeds from the event will benefit Coach Carroll's A Better LA foundation.

Stanford game time coming in 3 weeks

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The kickoff time and TV arrangement for the Nov. 14 home game against Stanford, USC's only remaining "TBA" on the schedule, will be determined on Monday, Nov. 2.

The game will be at one of three times. The available TV windows are 12:30 p.m. on ABC, 4 p.m. on Versus and 7:15 p.m. on FSN.

Quick week of work

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For the second time this season, USC is entering into a short work week.

The Trojans will depart on their Notre Dame trip on Thursday afternoon, with a 2:30 p.m. flight out of LAX. The team will practice along its normal schedule today through Wednesday and then conduct an earlier workout on Thursday before flying out and arriving in Indiana late that night. Then, the Trojans will have a brief Friday morning practice in Michigan City, Ind., and a walk-thru at Notre Dame Stadium that evening.

USC had a similar travel itinerary for the Ohio State game last month, as the Trojans had a Thursday afternoon departure and a full day of work Friday on the road.

Honoring Carroll

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The Westcoast Sports Associates, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing opportunities for disadvantaged youths to play sports, is honoring Coach Carroll at a banquet at the Galen Center on Nov. 18. Get more info and purchase tickets to the event here.

Chatting with Sanchez

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Check out this fantastic ESPN "Sunday Conversation" with Mark Sanchez, conducted by fellow USC alum Keyshawn Johnson. Sanchez and the New York Jets will face the Miami Dolphins tonight at 5:30 p.m. on Monday Night Football.

Aiming for a clear mind

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Here's an interesting blog entry about Coach Carroll's passing habits during practice and how they relate to golf, from the website for the book "Winning the Battle Within."

Nothing special

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As the Trojans begin preparations for the annual Notre Dame game, coaches will be downplaying the magnitude of one of college football's best rivalries all week leading into Saturday afternoon's kickoff.

So you can shelve any discussion of shillelaghs, long grass and leprechauns -- at least in Heritage Hall. Save that for the water cooler at work, since it's time for the Trojans to pull out one of their favorite clichés: "it's just another game."

"We put the fire out on talk like that," Coach Carroll said, "because every game is a huge game for us."

Winter wonderland

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Bring out the winter caps and long underwear -- it looks like Jack Frost might be meeting the Trojans in South Bend this weekend.

High temperatures in northern Indiana on Saturday are forecasted to be in the 40s, with lows near freezing. The last time the Trojans played in weather that chilly was the 2004 game at Oregon State, which featured thick fog and a 43-degree temperature at kickoff.

If it's any consolation, the weather in L.A. this week won't be too pleasant either, with rain expected Tuesday and Wednesday.

Creating a name for themselves

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USC's new crew of linebackers, which replaced four NFL draft picks, is making news all the way in Chicago in anticipation of Saturday's Notre Dame game. Thanks to RipsIt reader Randy Martin for passing the story along.

Williams making a move

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Offensive lineman Kyle Williams, who played for the Trojans in 2003-07, played extensively for the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, and he got some big-time props for his performance in the 41-0 victory.

This week in USC sports

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Find out what happened in Trojan athletics during the past seven days:

- Men's water polo defeated Bucknell, UCSB, UCLA and California en route to winning the SoCal Tournament in Irvine this past weekend. The Trojans are currently ranked 3rd nationally and host Long Beach State this Saturday at McDonald's Swim Stadium.
 
- The No. 14-ranked women's soccer team defeated Arizona State and Arizona this past weekend to extend their current win streak to nine matches. The Women of Troy will travel to Stanford and California this weekend.
 
- Women's volleyball lost to UCLA on Friday to fall to 13-4 on the season. The No. 13 Women of Troy will play at Washington State and Washington this weekend.

- By Ricky Cambier, USCRipsIt student assistant

Fun fact

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The average score in the USC's seven straight victories against Notre Dame is 40.6-13.6.

Trojans around the League

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See the highlighted performances of USC alumni did during Week 5 of the NFL season:

  • Quarterback Matt Cassel (Kansas City Chiefs) completed 23-of-41 pass attempts for 253 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Chiefs' 26-20 loss to Dallas.
  • Wideout Steve Smith (New York Giants) caught 3 passes for 70 yards in the Giants' 44-7 win over Oakland.
  • Quarterback Carson Palmer (Cincinnati Bengals) completed 18-of-31 passes for 271 yards and 1 touchdown in the Bengals' 17-14 win over Baltimore.
  • Linebacker Rey Maualuga (Cincinnati Bengals) had a team-high 8 tackles, including two for loss, in the Bengals' win.
  • Linebacker Lofa Tatupu (Seattle Seahawks) had 8 tackles in the Seahawks' 41-0 win over Jacksonville.
  • Linebacker Brian Cushing (Houston Texans) had 6 tackles in the Texans' 28-21 loss to Arizona.
  • Tailback LenDale White (Tennessee Titans) carried the ball 10 times for 51 yards in the Titans' 31-9 loss to Indianapolis.

- By Ricky Cambier, USCRipsIt student assistant

For a good read

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Check out this interesting feature on utility man Garrett Green, from the O.C. Register.

Back to the fun

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Notre Dame game week is here.

After a bye week and a weekend off, the Trojans are back to work this morning to prepare for college football finest intersectional rivalry. Players are already in strength and conditioning sessions and coaches, most of whom spent the weekend recruiting, are in offensive and defensive staff meetings as the game plan develops into the final product that will be on display Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.

The bye week now a distant memory, the game week routine -- and accompanied excitement -- has returned to Heritage Hall.

Statement from Stafon Johnson's surgeons

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Below is the latest update from the two surgeons, Dr. Jason S. Hamilton and Dr. Ryan F. Osborne of the Osborne Head and Neck Institute, who performed the seven-hour reconstructive surgery on Stafon Johnson's throat on Sept. 28. To clarify any conflicting reports, they issued this statement regarding his injury and recovery:

"Stafon suffered a complex injury involving more than 70 percent of his larynx. Put simply, the voice box was crushed and the upper portion was separated from the lower portion. The majority of the lining of his larynx (voice box) was degloved (stripped off), exposing critical structures for breathing and speech. In addition to microsurgical reconstruction and the repair of laryngeal fractures, he required placement of a feeding tube from his nose to his stomach, and a tracheostomy tube to help him breathe.

"He recently underwent an operative evaluation of his larynx, which showed continued progress in a positive direction. Due to the continued need for tube feedings, the nasogastric tube will be replaced with a gastrostomy tube. The gastrostomy tube will be far more comfortable for Stafon and allow him to maintain the nutritional balance needed during his recovery.

"We expect Stafon to be discharged from the hospital in a few days. He will require multiple minor laryngeal procedures in the near future which will be managed on an outpatient basis. Though it remains far too early to make any predictions regarding the long term function of his larynx, he has shown great strides in his initial recovery. He has an amazing attitude and a will to overcome all obstacles presented during this difficult time."

Stafon smiling, looking good

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In his hospital room this morning, Stafon Johnson smiles and flashes "fight on" alongside (from left to right) quarterback Matt Barkley, offensive lineman Alex Parsons and offensive lineman Jeff Byers. Johnson, who underwent throat surgery on Sept. 28, has been welcoming teammates and coaches more and more by the day as his condition continues to steadily improve. [Photo courtesy of Kim Mallory, Johnson's mother]

A nice, calm weekend for the Trojans

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And so begins the true reward of the bye week.

The players have entered into a full weekend off, a rarity during the fall, while the coaches are hitting the recruiting trail today and Saturday to visit prospects around the area, state and nation. Players don't report back until workouts on Monday morning, and coaches will return to the office Sunday afternoon to fully dive into preparations for next weekend's Notre Dame game.

With the Trojan football machine essentially dormant during the next few days, we're taking the weekend off and will return to normal blogging activity on Monday.

Supporting Stafon

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If you haven't done so yet -- or haven't done so recently -- please visit Stafon Johnson's CaringBridge site to write your messages of love and support to the injured tailback.

Vote on

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Coach Carroll is now up to sixth place in the fan voting for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award, so keep on showing your support once a day! If Carroll wins, $50,000 will be donated to A Better LA, the inner-city charity he helped found.

Project Trojan: Must-see TV

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Check out this special presentation of "Project Trojan: Making of the USC Football Team," a cool 13-minute behind-the-scenes episode that covers the heartbreaking loss at Washington, the impact of Stafon Johnson's injury on the team and the 30-3 victory at Cal. It's free for everyone, so don't miss it!

Trojans in NFL action

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Thirty-three Trojans are set to appear in 13 NFL games this weekend, so check out the full slate here:

Cincinnati Bengals (3-1) vs. Baltimore Ravens (3-1)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (CBS)
Bengals: Quarterback Carson Palmer, defensive end Frostee Rucker, linebacker Keith Rivers, linebacker Rey Maualuga

Cleveland Browns (0-4) vs. Buffalo Bills (1-3)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (CBS)
Browns: Linebacker Kaluka Maiava

Washington Redskins (2-2) vs. Carolina Panthers (0-3)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (FOX)
Redskins: Tight End Fred Davis
Panthers: Wideout Dwayne Jarrett, offensive lineman Ryan Kalil

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) vs. Detroit Lions (1-3)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (CBS)
Steelers: Safety Troy Polamalu
Lions: Linebacker Darnell Bing

Dallas Cowboys (2-2) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (0-4)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (FOX)
Cowboys: Kicker David Buehler, tailback Chauncey Washington
Chiefs: Quarterback Matt Cassel

Oakland Raiders (1-3) vs. New York Giants (4-0)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (CBS)
Raiders: Tailback Justin Fargas
Giants: Wideout Steve Smith, cornerback Terrell Thomas

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (2-1)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (FOX)
Buccaneers: Defensive lineman Kyle Moore
Eagles: Offensive lineman Winston Justice, defensive lineman Mike Patterson

Minnesota Vikings (4-0) vs. St. Louis Rams (0-4)
Sunday at 10 a.m. (FOX)
Rams: Defensive Lineman LaJuan Ramsey

Atlanta Falcons (2-1) vs. San Francisco 49ers (3-1)
Sunday at 1:05 p.m. (FOX)
Falcons: Offensive lineman Sam Baker
49ers: Offensive lineman Chilo Rachal

Houston Texans (2-2) vs. Arizona Cardinals (1-2)
Sunday at 1:15 p.m. (CBS)
Texans: Linebacker Brian Cushing, defensive lineman Shaun Cody
Cardinals: Quarterback Matt Leinart, tight end Dominique Byrd, offensive lineman Deuce Lutui

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2) vs. Seattle Seahawks (1-3)
Sunday at 1:15 p.m. (CBS)
Seahawks: Linebacker Lofa Tatupu, defensive lineman Lawrence Jackson

Indianapolis Colts (4-0) vs. Tennessee Titans (0-4)
Sunday at 5:20 p.m. (NBC)
Colts: Defensive lineman Fili Moala
Titans: Tailback LenDale White

New York Jets (3-1) vs. Miami Dolphins (1-3)
Monday at 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Jets: Quarterback Mark Sanchez
Dolphins: Wideout Patrick Turner

- By Ricky Cambier, USCRipsIt student assistant

Pictures from Friday's practice

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Under a dark dawn sky, the defensive line goes through individual drills at the start of practice.

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The kickoff unit flies down the field.

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Tailback Joe McKnight, Matt Barkley and the Trojan offense line up for a play.

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With the L.A. skyline shrouded by the morning clouds, the kickoff return unit prepares for a kickoff.

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Tailback Curtis McNeal and Aaron Corp ready for the snap.

Dispatch from Howard Jones

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Thoughts from Friday's practice, through the eyes of USCRipsIt...

- During a cool early-morning practice to close out the bye week, the Trojans conducted a spirited 56-play scrimmage that saw several impressive plays and pleased the coaching staff. "That was an awesome morning and a perfect way to cap off the bye week on a big note," Coach Carroll said.

- Freshman cornerback Torin Harris had another standout performance during Friday's scrimmage, as he blocked a field goal and returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the day.

- On three drives, Matt Barkley went 11-for-18 for 148 yards, one touchdown and an interception. His scoring strike was a well-thrown 20-yard pass to Brice Butler, who made the catch of the day when he soared through the air for a one-handed grab in the end zone.

- Kicker Jordan Congdon connected on a 43-yard field goal, wideout Garrett Green had a seven-yard touchdown and receiver Ronald Johnson recorded a five-yard TD catch for the scrimmage's other scores.

- Mitch Mustain logged quite a scrimmage as he continues to impress the coaches. In his two nearly flawless series, the junior quarterback went 10-for-12 for 141 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Mustain exhibited extraordinary command of the offense, as his drives went 62 and 81 yards, respectively. "Mitch is doing his thing and making a big move," Coach Carroll said. "He's picked up his game considerably and we're definitely noticing."

- Even though practice started at dawn and finished before 8 a.m., the energy and tempo was noticeably high. Players hopped around with pep and talked plenty of trash, most likely to offset the brutal early-morning wake up. "Nice play call!" linebacker Chris Galippo sarcastically yelled out after Matt Barkley executed a QB sneak for a first down. "Let's go O, put this in the end zone!" tailback Joe McKnight exclaimed on the offense's first drive.

- Aaron Corp went 2-for-3 for 33 yards in his one series.

- The leading receivers, each with three catches, were: wideout Ronald Johnson (17 yards), fullback D.J. Shoemate (37 yards) and receiver David Ausberry (57 yards).

- Because the workout was conducted without pads, the running game was minimal, as tailback Curtis McNeal was the leading rusher with 13 yards on two carries.

- Already on the recruiting trail, running backs coach Todd McNair was absent from Friday's workout to get a head start on his busy weekend of travel.

Business bright and early

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The Trojans are entering uncharted territory with their early-morning, pre-sunrise practice that's starting now on Howard Jones Field. OK, so many of them attend the 6 a.m. strength and conditioning workouts during the offseason, but it's a different animal donning helmets and playing football when their bodies are used to sleeping or getting ready for school.

We'll return with a report following the practice.

Wake up the whole machine

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Coaches and players weren't the only ones dealing with the alarm clocks that rang at a disorienting hour this morning.

The athletic training staff, headed by Russ Romano, and its team of student trainers opened the training room before 5:30 a.m. and will be on duty throughout practice. The equipment staffers, featuring full-timers and a squadron of volunteer student equipment managers, clocked in bright and early this morning to fill players' requests and set up the practice field for the workout. And the video operations department, headed by Eric Espinoza and featuring a crew of student workers, started setting up to film practice at 5:30 a.m. 

Cutting to the chase

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Well, that was quick.

In perhaps the shortest team meeting in USC history, special teams coordinator Brian Schneider gave a few brief instructions for this morning's special teams-focused practice before Coach Carroll came to the front of the room for a few words.

"Fantastic job of everyone getting here on time," said Carroll, who appeared just as heavy-eyed as his players but still had his typical air of excitement. "See you on the field at 6:30!"

Let's get to work

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With the sky still dark and at an hour most players are completely unfamiliar with, the Trojans' Friday business is getting started now with a brief team meeting in Heritage Auditorium before a helmets-only practice at 6:30 a.m.

Early birds

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Sleepy-eyed players stumble down the tunnel to Heritage Hall's locker room early this morning, more than an hour before sunrise. Practice is up at 6:30 a.m.

RipsIt Minute

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In case you couldn't follow us live, "The RipsIt Minute" gives you a quick rundown of the must-read Blog entries from the previous day:


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Thursday's photo album

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Check out this slideshow of images from Thursday's practice, brought to you by USCRipsIt staff photographer Po-He Tseng:

Photos by Po-He Tseng, USCRipsIt staff photographer

Pictures from Thursday's practice

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Tailback Allen Bradford takes a pitch from Aaron Corp.


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Mitch Mustain throws downfield.


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Linebacker Michael Morgan closes in on Matt Barkley in the pocket.


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Jordan Congdon winds up for the field goal, with Garrett Green holding.


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Aaron Corp throws over the line.

Dispatch from Howard Jones

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Thoughts from Thursday's practice, through the eyes of USCRipsIt...

- The Trojans hustled through a quick half-pads practice that featured loads of competitive 11-on-11 work, leaving just a brief scrimmage-based workout on Friday morning between the Trojans and a full weekend off. "This has been a great week," Coach Carroll said. "It's been a really upbeat week, and the guys have really done a great job. We've gotten everything done that we wanted to get done."

- In a practice-ending scrimmage-like session on short fields, all three offensive units scored on their respective defenses. Matt Barkley's first-unit offense went 31 yards to set up a 24-yard Jordan Congdon field goal, Aaron Corp's second-unit offense finished with a seven-yard C.J. Gable touchdown run and Mitch Mustain's third-unit offense scored on the first play when Mustain connected with wideout De'Von Flourney for a 35-yard bomb.

- Wideout Ronald Johnson continued to participate in full-speed drills, though he remained in a gold no-contact jersey.

- Coach Carroll highlighted Flournoy, tailback Curtis McNeal and safeties T.J. McDonald and Jawanza Starling as some younger players who took advantage of their increased workload this week.

- For the second straight day, the defense essentially shut down the offense, outhitting the offense and capturing an 11-9 victory in the practice-ending team period.

- The Trojans finished practice Thursday evening only about 13 hours before their next one early Friday morning, a pre-sunrise workout at 6:30 a.m. "See you in three hours!" one player joked at the end of the Thursday's practice.

Going to the field

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The Trojans' second-to-last practice of the bye week is starting now on Howard Jones Field, so we'll return with a report after the half-pads workout.

Johnson on the up and up

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The news continues to be extremely positive concerning Stafon Johnson's recovery.

After a slew of tests today, Johnson's status remains very encouraging as he heals from emergency throat surgery following a weightlifting accident 10 days ago.

"We got a great report from the doctors today," Coach Carroll said. "He's progressing ahead of schedule and it sounds like the doctors and surgeons are delighted with his condition."

Carroll said all the well wishes mean so much to Johnson, and Kim Mallory, Johnson's mother, echoed that sentiment.

"Thank you all for your continued prayers," Mallory said today. "From my heart, Stafon and I appreciate the cards, prayers and your ways of showing us you care. Stay prayed up because we still have a ways to go."

Talking Irish

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For the first time this week, Coach Carroll discussed with his players the Trojans' next opponent, a Notre Dame team that's currently 4-1 but one that "could be 5-0 easily."

"This is a different Notre Dame than we've seen over the last few years," Carroll said during this afternoon's team meeting, during which he briefly introduced the Irish. "They have all kinds of energy, juice and excitement right now. It's not the 38-3 team we've seen -- it's a team that knows how to win.

"It's a helluva matchup and it's going to be a great game."

'It was like déjà vu all over again'

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Christer Hokanson is one of the very few people on this earth who knows what Stafon Johnson is going through.

In an absolutely unbelievable set of circumstances, Hokanson suffered the same rare throat injury while bench-pressing seven years ago, and -- to make the story even crazier -- he's a former Trojan athlete.

Hokanson, who played on the USC men's volleyball team in 1985, had to go through major reconstructive throat surgery after the bench bar fell on his throat while weightlifting in 2002. He underwent extensive surgeries and rehab, and he now talks with a slight rasp.

Needless to say, when news came about Johnson's injury, it hit home for Hokanson.

"It was like déjà vu all over again when I heard about Stafon's injury," said Hokanson, who now lives in Idyllwild.

Like Johnson's, Hokanson's injury was life-threatening and "pretty intense."

"I'm fortunate to be alive," he said.

A walk-on to the volleyball team in 1985, Hokanson played in four matches as a senior on a squad that reached the NCAA finals. He graduated from USC's film school that year and has been in the movie industry for most of the last 25 years.

To complete the full circle of this incredible connection, Hokanson was planning on meeting up with Johnson this week and offering his support and encouragement for an injury that he said he has never seen other than his own and Johnson's.

"The attitude and belief to get through this and be full healed is absolutely critical," Hokanson said. "I want to offer him the opportunity to see someone who went through exactly what he did and come out fine on the other end."


Christer Hokanson (No. 11, back row, fourth from the left) was a USC volleyball player in 1985 and, in 2002, suffered the same rare throat injury while weightlifting as Stafon Johnson. "It was like déjà vu all over again when I heard about Stafon's injury," he said. [Photo courtesy of USC Sports Information]

Clarke passes away

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Leon Clarke, an all-conference wideout who led the Trojans in receiving in 1954-55, passed away on Monday. He was 76.

Moving on up

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Thanks to your support, Coach Carroll has risen from 10th to seventh over the last three days in the voting for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award.

So keep on voting once a day for Carroll! If Carroll wins, $50,000 will be donated to A Better LA, the inner-city charity he helped found.