September 2010 Archives

UW Thursday Practice: Notes

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The Trojans were visited at practice by a special guest, Jake Olson.

  • Click here for some action shots from tonight's practice.
  • Allen Bradford did not participate.  Lane Kiffin would not elaborate, but the powerful running back did not appear to have any physical issues watching from the sideline. 
  • Marc Tyler fumbled during a competitive portion, which earned him a lap and Kiffin's ire.
  • Combining the two, Dillon Baxter has a chance to have his biggest week in a Trojan uniform.  The freshman seemed to be sliding down the depth chart judging by how he was used against Washington State, but neither Bradford nor Tyler have grabbed a hold of the position.
  • C.J. Gable is still sitting idly by.  He had a couple of explosive runs in practice.
  • LB Devon Kennard was the story of Spring practice on defense.  However, through four games, he has been under the radar.  LB coach Joe Barry is happy with his progress, "I'm totally pleased with where he is at.  I think he has made the transition seamlessly."
  • Kennard's improvement will be tested this week by Jake Locker's feet and experience.  "He stresses all 11 guys on the defense," said Joe Barry.  "The guy is 6'4" 220 pounds, runs like a running back, but then he can throw the ball like John Elway.  He can kill you with his arm and he can kill you with his feet." 
  • As the quarterback of the defense, Kennard will be locked in on UW's signal-caller, but the Trojans won't employ a spy to keep him from running.  "We have never really got into that," Barry said of the tactic.  "When you a play against a player like him, you get so concerned with just him that you lose track of everybody else." 
  • If Steve Sarkisian installs a spread-option look a la Oregon, Kennard could be tasked with hauling down Locker in space.  ""We always have someone keying on Locker if they do that," Kennard said.  "We just have to come up and rally and make plays on him."
  • Selfishly, Kennard would like the opportunity to bruise the NFL prospect, but he understands the greater gameplan.  "I'd like him running.  We'd like to get some hits on him.  If we can make him one-dimensional, that's always good."
  • Of course, it's not that simple.  Locker is built like a safety and might be faster than USC's linebackers.  Kennard sounded up to the challenge, "I don't know.  I heard he's pretty fast, so we'll see on Saturday."
  • After the Hawaii game, most teams will look to spread the Trojans out if they have the personnel to do so.  On the positive side, the linebacking corps' lack of depth is not exposed when they play nickel coverage most of the game because they only play two backers at a time.  On the negative, opponents have found success through the air against the Trojans.  "Washington is going to come in here and they are going to come after us and we wouldn't expect anything different," Barry said.
  • Barry sums up best the threat that Washington's offense and Jake Locker present, "We equally have to pay attention to everybody, but especially Jake.  He has forced many long hours the last couple of days for the defensive staff."
  • As for Kennard, he is ready to find out where he stands as a middle linebacker.  "Looking at the schedule, this is the first big game that the coaching staff has talked about," said Kennard.  "I'm really excited personally to go out against a good team and show what we are about, show what the linebacking corps is about and show what I'm about."
  • Tonight's presser got off to a slow start...

Scouting Report: Washington

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Round #5: Washington Huskies

2010 Record: 1-2 (W - Syracuse, L - BYU, Nebraska)

2009 Record: 5-7 (4-5 in the Pac-10)

Series History: USC leads 49-27-4 (Last meeting: 16-13 UW in '09)

Head Coach: Steve Sarkisian (2nd year)

In case you haven't heard, Sarkisian used to coach at USC.  He inherited the Huskies program at an all-time low (0-12).  Last year, they defended their home turf (5-2 in Seattle), but they did not win a single road game.

Players to Watch: QB Jake Locker (Senior, Ferndale, WA) and WR Jermaine Kearse (Junior, Lakewood, WA)

The veteran QB has passed for exactly 6,000 yards in his career, but he's most threatening on the move.  In the first two games of this season, he stood in the pocket and carved up BYU and Syracuse for a combined 555 yards, 5 TDs and 0 INTs.  Against Nebraska, Locker fell apart.  He completed just four of 20 passes, but he'll face the Trojans coming off a motivated bye week.  At his worst, he is a great athlete who struggles with passing accuracy.  At his best, he is the #1 pick in the NFL draft.

While Chris Polk is a solid running back, Kearse has been the Huskies top skill player this season.  He has a TD catch in all three games, including a hat trick in UW's lone win.  As the best wideout USC has faced this season, we'll get a better idea of how the Trojans defend top targets.  Will Shareece Wright shadow Kearse around the field or will USC give the 6'2" receiver a chance to use his height advantage against Nickell Robey?

Strengths: Familiarity and Locker

Steve Sarkisian and Nick Holt learned their craft at USC just like Lane Kiffin.  As Kiffin said earlier in the week, "We watched the same show."  Schematically, the teams are very similar.  "Lane and I are from the same family of offense, but our schemes fit our personnel," Sarkisian said this week.  Meaning, he will hope to use Locker's speed to torment the Trojans as so many mobile quarterbacks have done in the recent past. 

Defensively, the Huskies will be well prepped on the Trojans' tendencies.  They used their advanced knowledge to force three turnovers in last year's contest.  "We have to be prepared for the unexpected," Sarkisian said knowing that Kiffin will be tempted to change his pattern against his former colleagues.  However, does that take USC out of what they do best?

With an extra week to prepare, Washington will likely break out some tricks against the Trojans.

Weaknesses: Run Defense and Rebuild

While Locker was the big dud against Nebraska, the Huskies run defense was equally as culpable for the beatdown.  The Huskers had three different runners top the 100-yard mark.  Washington ranks 104th in the nation in scoring defense giving up an average of 33 points per contest.

Sarkisian took over a true rebuilding project.  If it were not for Locker, the Huskies would not even be on the national radar.  Tyrone Willingham struggled recruiting, so while UW is a dangerous team, they are still a couple of years away from being conference contenders.

Washington Verdict

The Huskies are the first team on USC's schedule capable of emerging victorious without the Trojans completely giving the game away.  However, they cannot go toe-to-toe with USC.  Coming off a bye, Sarkisian will have to dig into his arsenal of gadgets against the more heavily-armed Trojans.

If Jake Locker can throw for 200+ yards and run for 100+, he is capable of pulling off the upset himself.

Matt Barkley missed the UW '09 upset with an injured shoulder.

The Duke

Earlier this week, we published two old photos of John Wayne as Marion Morrison, the USC offensive lineman.

After reading the post, USC associate athletic director J.K. McKay showed me the letter below that "Duke" wrote to his dad, John McKay, after USC beat Texas in Austin in 1966.

Wayne was on the sidelines for the game since he was just across the border filming War Wagon in Mexico.

Here is the pregame story as told by Nick Pappas, former director of Trojans' Athletic Support Groups, in Ken Rappoport's book The Trojans: A Story of Southern California Football

"The kids are all assembled in the locker room at 10 in the morning, and in walks Wayne. Damn, he was fantastic. He walks in with this white 20,000-gallon cowboy hat and black suit - he looked just beautiful. The kids look up, and their eyeballs pop. Here's the REAL John Wayne. And Wayne walks over to the coach and gives him a big hello and squeezes him - you'd think he and McKay were long lost buddies. They had never met before.

"It was beautiful. A former player and all, Wayne gives one of the greatest fight talks you've ever heard - and the kids got all fired up. We win the ballgame 10-6, and back in the locker room after the game, McKay says, 'Hey, guys, how about it? Let's give the game ball to John Wayne.'

"For a moment Wayne stands there - nonplussed. It was probably the first time in his life that he couldn't think of anything to say. Then he looks at the ball for a minute and pumps it like a quarterback. Then he puts the ball under his arm, and the kids break into a cheer, 'Hooray, Hooray.' All the guys joined in. He's still a Trojan."


Morning Papers (9/30/10)

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Familiarity stories.

UW Wednesday Practice: Notes

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Despite lightning in the backdrop (see Lane Kiffin's presser), USC still lacked energy in practice.

  • Kiffin called the Trojans "sloppy" today.  He emphasized the defense's inability to force turnovers, but dropped balls offensively were apparent to all spectators.
  • However, Dillon Baxter was jolted a couple of times.  In 7-on-7, LB Will Andrew buried him on a crossing route.  And in the team portion, Baxter coughed up the ball when he was clocked by a linebacker.
  • The kickers took a field trip to the Coliseum during practice.  While the season feels in full swing, USC has played only one home game.  Joe Houston's field goal was the difference that night and it's the only one that he has made this season.
  • While you will not hear about freshman TE Randall Telfer this year, I would bet on his future success based on his work ethic.  Telfer stays after practice consistently to work on his routes and hands with the service team quarterbacks.   No coaches around, just a young player's desire to improve.
  • Speaking of talented tight ends, Blake Ayles ended practice with an ankle-breaking run after the catch.  DB Marshall Jones was the would be tackler caught going the wrong direction. 
  • Freshman QB Jesse Scroggins is playing Jake Locker this week.  "I just try to watch as much film as I can to give the defense a good look," Scroggins said of his Locker impression.  Actually, he has met the UW superstar and came away impressed.  "I think he's a ballmaker, a gameplanner, a lover, a winner.  I got to meet him on a first name basis and I like the guy."
  • "He's such an athletic kid that he's going to be able to show the defense a little bit of game speed with his feet as well as a very strong arm," QB coach Clay Helton said of moving Scroggins this week.
  • While he is focusing on his mobility this week, Scroggins is not a running quarterback.  "I'm a pocket-passer all the way," Scroggins made clear.  "I just have the ability to run.  It's pass first, run second."
  • While the freshman does not figure to play for at least two years, Helton is impressed with his ability to learn the system and adjust to working underneath center.  "He has all the physical attributes that you want as far as arm strength and as far as vision."
  • As for the starting quarterback, Helton has ambitious goals for Matt Barkley.  Currently ranked 13th in the nation in pass efficiency and #2 in the conference, Helton wants him to be #1 in both.  "You can throw as many touchdowns in the world, which he leads the country right now in touchdown passes, but you can't do the interceptions."
  • In breaking down Barkley's four picks in the last two games, he never once mentions physical mistakes.  "You are talking about one of the more arm talented kids that there are in the country," Helton praised.  "He can fit the ball in such tight windows with his arm strength and his accuracy."
  • The QB coach calls his pupil "a gambler," but he would rather have to reign him in than force him to be aggressive.  "The kid has incredible vision.  He's made throws throughout his career that baffle us.  As you progress as a quarterback, you start to learn that there's another guy that's going to be open in the offense." 
  • Watch Kiffin's electrifying press conference...

Double Rainbow!

While the football team remained focused on practice, the crowd was mesmerized by the changing weather.

Not to be alarmist, but says there is a 97% chance we have an earthquake the next two days.  I trust Miss Cleo for my earth rattling predictions.

Anyway, we can all be comforted by rainbows...and DOUBLE RAINBOWS!!!

Photo by Ben Weiss

USC/UW Coverage Map

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If you cannot make it to the Coliseum Saturday, the Trojans/Huskies battle will be aired on ESPN2 in most markets.  If it is not in your market, you can find the game on ESPN GamePlan PPV or 

Here's the ESPN coverage map for the USC game this weekend:

10-2-10 Washington @ Southern Cal.jpg

Lane and Sark

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It's hard to avoid the story of the week. 

Pete Carroll's coaching prodigies squaring off inside the Coliseum that once saw them grow as an offensive tandem.

Lane Kiffin was only 25 when he arrived at USC in 2001 to coach tight ends.  Green on his resume, but full of guile.

Steve Sarkisian was 26 upon his first arrival at Troy as an offensive assistant.  A Norm Chow pupil from BYU, he would soon take responsibility for the quarterback position.

Kiffin would eventually tutor some of the greatest receivers in USC's history, Mike Williams, Keary Colbert, Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith.

Sarkisian worked voice-in-helmet with Heisman-winning signal-callers Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart.

Like quarterback-to-receiver, Lane and Sark were the perfect duo to build a high-powered offensive staff around.

When master Chow left for the NFL, the rising stars shared offensive gameplan responsibilities with Kiffin calling down the plays from on high and Sarkisian cultivating the message below.

In 2005, they combined masterfully to lead one of the greatest offenses in the history of college football.

Kiffin left Troy a season later only to eventually return as the head coach.  Sarkisian stayed at USC a few years longer only to leave for the Washington job.

And now they are back together, yet opposed. 
Thumbnail image for Kiff-and-Sark.jpg

Sarkisian admitted that last year he wanted to "impress" Pete Carroll, but he only wants to beat Lane Kiffin.  Kiffin hopes to deflect attention away from the personal matchup and restore the team-first focus.

But both men concede that they keep in fairly constant contact.

"It's a good friendship and one that keeps us healthy in the profession," Sarkisian said of their tendency to bounce ideas off of each other.

And the communication channels are still open even as gameday approaches.

"He'll send text messages to manipulate something or try and trick me into something," Kiffin said earlier this week.

Sark texted Kiffin the other night at 2:30 a.m. saying he was just going to bed.  Kiffin wished him goodnight and asked him what sleep is like.  He was still up working.

Sarkisian called the Trojans "the most talented team in the conference" to which Kiffin responded, "That's an old Lou Holtz trick that he learned watching TV a long time ago."

After talking down about his own team, a reporter quipped, "That's also an old Lou Holtz trick."

Kiffin: "We watched the same show."

UW coaches Nick Holt (bottom row 2nd from left) and (next to Kiffin) Steve Sarkisian in 2006.
2006 Coaches photo.JPG

From the Basement of Heritage Hall (9/29/10)

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Since one of you asked, we went digging through the archives for famed USC offensive lineman Marion Morrison.

Of course, you know him better as truly famed actor John Wayne.

Legend has it that Morrison injured his shoulder in a body-surfing accident, which curtailed his blocking career and led him down the cinematic path. 

Here are two photos of Morrison from 1925-26:

john wayne 2008.jpg

john wayne 1007.jpg

UW Tuesday Practice: Notes

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The heat cleared as the Trojans prepare for Washington.

  • Wes Horton is the big injury question.  He was limited in practice today, but considering the amount of pain he was in leaving the Martin Stadium turf last Saturday, he appears to be in good shape going forward.
  • CB T.J. Bryant was also limited.  He has moved up into the #3 corner spot, so we'll keep an eye on his availability for Saturday.  After the Hawaii start, every team will look for opportunities to spread the Trojans out if they have the personnel to do it, so healthy corners become crucial.
  • Joe Houston is 1/4 this season on field goals.  What is his confidence level right now?  "It's fine," Houston said today.  "It has to be there.  I don't have a choice.  I need to step it up.  Whatever kick comes next against Washington, I'm going to go out there and make it."
  • "I think he's frustrated as anybody would be," special teams coach John Baxter said.  "We as a coaching staff are not going to let him doubt himself."
  • "I'm not worried if he makes them from now on," Lane Kiffin said in his Q&A yesterday.  "I'm not as concerned as I normally would be if he was kicking the ball poorly.  He's close.  We've just got to stay with him."
  • Kicking seems to be an inexact science.  Houston is missing by such small margins, but neither he nor his coaches can pinpoint the cause.  "They miss them in the NFL," Baxter said.  "You're a freshman until you play.  He's going through all the first year blues of a first year player.  He's a good player and he's going to continue to be.  He doesn't need to reevaluate everything that he's doing because he sliced two uprights."
  • "There's no X-factor really; they've just been off," Houston said.  "Kicking is not inches, it's millimeters."
  • As I mentioned in my Wazzu observations, Baxter has made special teams "cool."  How did he do it?  "You get what you emphasize," Baxter explained.  "A special teams meeting here is not like anywhere else.  We've got a lot of music and creative energy and we jump up and down.  It's fun."
  • Add Allen Bradford to the list of players that are begging Baxter to get involved.  "People support what they help create," Baxter said of the popularity.  "Whenever it's fun, it's their idea.  And when it's their idea, it's the best idea."
  • While the Trojans have made special teams plays in the first four games, the sense is that Baxter and Co. are just getting started.  "That's for me to know and you to find out," he mused.
  • Speaking of amusing coaches, Lane Kiffin brought up Lou Holtz's name a couple of times tonight.  Listen in...

Catching Up with Taylor Mays

Former Trojan hard-hitting safety Taylor Mays took a day out his busy NFL schedule to jump down to L.A. and visit his old friends at USC. reporter Rob McPherson caught up with the 49ers rookie in Heritage Hall.

Captain Convo

2009 USC captain Taylor Mays is back at Heritage Hall today and he shared a moment with current captain Matt Barkley.

Mays has been playing mostly special teams for the San Francisco 49ers, who are at Atlanta this week.

The rookie could be in line for more playing time as starting safety Michael Lewis was benched this week.



Lunch Date

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Pat Haden and J.K. McKay shared lunch with a very special companion today, 96-year-old Lillian Rosenthal. 

Lillian took in her first USC game in 1924!

"Little Pat Haden," an overjoyed Rosenthal said when the athletic director greeted her.



Breast Cancer Awareness USC Tee-Shirt

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As a collaborative effort between USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital, the USC Trojan Bookstore and USC Athletics, we invite the Trojan Family to support breast cancer research efforts this week by purchasing a specially designed pink USC tee-shirt.

The shirt features the USC Norris logo and the slogan, "For a breast cancer cure.  Fight on."

"I am delighted to invite everyone to support breast cancer research by buying a T-shirt or contributing at the bookstore, while we raise awareness of this disease and our efforts to eliminate it," said Dr. Agustin Garcia, who is a breast cancer expert at USC Norris and conceived the fundraising idea.  "We hope to see many pink T-shirts at Trojans home games during October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Our goal at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital is to make cancer a disease of the past, and we can only achieve this goal through research."

On Saturday at the Coliseum, USC Norris breast cancer experts will be made available to fans in the Doctors of USC booth between 12 and 5 p.m..  Free giveaway items and educational material plus pink ribbons will be handed out. 

You can also make donations at the USC Bookstore checkout lines or online at

Morning Papers (9/28/10)

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Link you very much...

  • Round5-Poster.JPG

  • Steve Sarkisian on USC, Kiffin

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    During Pac-10 media day, we caught up with Steve Sarkisian.

    Here's what the UW coach had to say on the Trojan image and his buddy Lane Kiffin...

    The Flashback: Washington State

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    Click this link to watch all the highlights from USC's most comprehensive win of the season, including behind the scenes footage, locker room sound and live radio calls.

    Here's a teaser of The Flashback: Washington State...

    Compliance Corner: Prospects at Alumni Events

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    In part three of our compliance series, we educate fans and boosters about the rules regarding prospects at alumni events.

    DO NOT invite prospective student-athletes, high school or junior college, to alumni events. NCAA rules prohibit contact between alumni and friends at both on-campus and off-campus sites. Alumni association chapters CAN entertain prospects under certain conditions that do not involve singling out athletes for special treatment. For example, it is permissible for alumni chapters to invite all high school seniors who have been accepted for enrollment at the university to an alumni event.

    DO NOT bring your son or daughter or any other guest to an alumni gathering if he/she is participating in athletics on the high school or junior college level and is therefore a prospective student-athlete.

    DO tell athletic department personnel invited to speak at alumni functions if prospective student-athletes will be in attendance. There are certain time periods when coaches are prohibited from any contact with prospects off campus, so it is important for them to know ahead of time if prospects will be in attendance.

    We know that Trojan fans are the most dedicated and supportive in the country so please if you have any questions about NCAA rules, contact the compliance office at any time at (213) 740-3832 or e-mail

    Projans: NFL Week 3

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    We hand out our weekly awards to the best Sunday performances by Trojans.

    Heisman Worthy

    Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs - 16/27 for 250 yards, 3 TD/1 INT

    The former USC back-up is front and center in Kansas City's ascension to the top of the AFC West.  Cassel registered a 111.7 QB rating en route to a 3-0 start in his second season in K.C..  I wonder if Mitch Mustain was watching somewhere...


    Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets - 15/28 for 256 yards, 3 TD/0 INT in a 31-23 win

    Sam Baker, OT, Falcons - Protected Matt Ryan's blind side in a 27-24 OT win over the champs

    Frostee Rucker, DE, Bengals - Recorded Cincy's lone sack in a 20-7 win

    David Buehler, K, Cowboys - 2/2 in FGs (40, 49) and 9 points total in a 27-13 win

    Steve Smith, WR, Giants - 9 receptions for 103 yards in a losing effort

    Monday Night Football

    Clay Matthews brings his NFL leading six sacks into Soldier Field as the Packers battle the Bears.


    Lane Kiffin Washington Q&A

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    USC head coach Lane Kiffin sat down with me today for our weekly Q&A looking back at the comprehensive victory over Wazzu and ahead to this week's match-up with Steve Sarkisian's Washington Huskies.

    USC vs. UH: Rivals on the Field, Partners Off

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    Written by Chris Roberts, Assistant Sports Information Director

    As USC and Hawaii traded offensive explosions in what has become a competitive rivalry between the two schools on the football field, one might be surprised to find out that the two programs are teammates off the field in one very special cause.

    Once the tackling has stopped, the pads have come off and the final score has been tallied, all differences are put aside to rally around Swim With Mike, a charitable organization created to provide scholarships to students who have overcome life-threatening accidents or illnesses.
    This year as Swim With Mike celebrated its 30th anniversary as well as its 10 millionth dollar raised, the program continues to grow nationwide in hopes of reaching even more students looking to pursue their educational hopes and dreams.

    So as the excitement for the start of the 2010 college football season came to fruition for the Trojans and the Warriors in the islands of the Pacific, it also was a fitting time to celebrate the strides Swim With Mike has made over the years as well as the deserving individuals the program has touched.

    During the third quarter of the school's highly-anticipated Sept. 2 matchup at Aloha Stadium, the cause took center stage. In a presentation featuring Swim With Mike co-founder and chairman Mike Nyeholt, this year's recipients were honored.  Previous recipient Tusi Mailo, a senior who attended BYU Hawaii and the brother of former USC offensive lineman Faaesea Mailo, was in attendance to congratulate Joe Broc, a senior from Hawaii Pacific who received a scholarship.  Hawaii athletic director Jim Donovan and USC A.D. Pat Haden were on hand as well.

    On April 23, the sixth annual Swim With Mike Hawaii raised $28,000, bringing the total amount raised at all the swims in 2010 to $1,003,330. In addition to the annual event at USC and now Hawaii, Swim With Mike has built strong relationships with Connecticut and Stanford, both of whom now host annual swims for the cause.

    Originating at USC in 1981, Swim With Mike is an annual swim-a-thon fundraiser for the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund. At the event, student-athletes and special guests such as Will Ferrell, Jack Johnson, Christopher Reeve, Tommy Lasorda and President Ronald Reagan have donated their time and efforts.

    Swim With Mike began as a fundraiser to purchase a specially equipped van for Nyeholt, a three-time All-American USC swimmer, who became paralyzed in a motorcycle accident in 1981. At Nyeholt's request, the excess funds raised that year were used to aid other athletes trying to overcome paralyzing, physically disabling accidents or illnesses and return to school. With the help of Ron Orr, Nyeholt's teammate and now a USC associate athletic director, Swim With Mike was born the following year when Nyeholt returned to campus to swim laps.

    Until recently, the scholarship fund was available only to USC students. However, the organization quickly realized the need to expand the program to qualified students who were not able to attend USC because of the need to be close their homes, doctors and support systems. With the assistance of former of Hawaii associate athletic director and current Hawaii Swim With Mike coordinator Kaia Hedlund, this vision became a reality.

    In 1997, at an athletic awards banquet in Hawaii, Hedlund met Keith Kitamura, a graduating high school senior who had played multiple sports and had already been admitted to UH to play football and baseball. During Kitamura's senior year, he was involved in a car accident that left him a paraplegic.

    It was at this event that Hedlund informed the Kitamura family of the Swim With Mike scholarship and encouraged them to apply.

    Upon hearing that the scholarship could only be used at USC, the family declined the opportunity in order to remain close to home. It was clear to Swim With Mike Organizers that change was necessary.

     A year later, while on other business at USC, Hedlund decided to speak with Orr about the possibility of extending the program to other schools around the country. Interestingly, this very meeting also initiated the talks of a USC-Hawaii football matchup.

    Fast forward to 2004 when Hedlund discovered that Kitamura was starting graduate school at UH and she reached out to him again, this time with better news. In March of 2005, the first Swim With Mike was held on the Hawaii campus and Kitamura was one of the recipients who received a much-deserved scholarship.

    "College student-athletes from UH and USC receive athletic scholarships based on their athletic abilities," stated Hedlund. "It's great to see them rally around Swim With mike scholarship recipients, realizing that they too had the potential too become a college athlete but were dealt challenging circumstances." 

    Nyeholt has devoted his life to the cause along with the help of many of his closest friends.  The program has now funded 101 college scholarships for students all over the nation, some coming from as far away as India. Nyeholt is heartfelt in his comments of a cause he holds so dear.

    "To not be able to play the sport you love can be devastating, but my friend Ron Orr started Swim With Mike to prove there is a support system to moving on, especially when it comes to education," said Nyeholt. 

    A charity that was founded after a tragic event has become a symbol of hope to so many. Despite past adversities, with hard work these courageous individuals can succeed in the classroom and in the real world.

    As for the USC versus UH football game that stemmed from the program, that's just a little icing on the cake that everyone can enjoy.

    For more information please visit or contact Kaia Hedlund at

    swim with mike photo.jpg

    Gauntlet (9/27/10)

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    While we were away in Pullman, the Trojans were taking care of business at home against their rivals.  Here's the first Gauntlet report from the sports information department:

    For those keeping score, USC has jumped out to a 7.5 to 0 lead over UCLA in the annual Crosstown Gauntlet series by virtue of Trojan wins in men's water polo (at the NorCal tourney) and last Friday night in women's volleyball.

    The next scheduled Trojan-Bruin meeting is the Oct. 22 women's soccer clash in the Coliseum.

    USC has won the Gauntlet the past 3 years and in 6 of the 9 years of the all-sport competition between the crosstown rivals.  It takes 57.5 points to clinch the Gauntlet title.


    Lane Kiffin Washington St. Call

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    Click below to listen in on Lane Kiffin's weekly conference call with the media as he looks back at USC's most comprehensive win of the season and ahead at Saturday's familiar foe.



    Videos: USC vs. WSU

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    I handled ESPN radio sideline duties for John Jackson today, who was the analyst on the TV broadcast.  And, Jon SooHoo could not make the trip to Pullman, so we have no photo gallery this week.

    Jon will be back next week for the Washington game.

    Instead, we have some more videos for you.

    Click here to watch Lane Kiffin's post-game media session.

    And,'s Rob McPherson gives you an inside look at Washington State's "high school" locker rooms...

    USC 50, Washington State 16

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    10 takes on USC's final dress rehearsal...

    • John Baxter has accomplished something amazing in only four games this season.  He has made special teams cool.  In the recent past, the punt and kick teams were filled by the lower half of the roster, but Baxter has players like Stanley Havili begging to get involved.  Even OG Butch Lewis wants to play special teams to "get a fat man touchdown."  All that passion and energy is paying off.  USC has blocked three kicks already and has scored two return touchdowns.
    • After two games, the Trojans knew very little about themselves.  After two more, they are starting to build an identity around physical football.  In the secondary, T.J. McDonald and Jawanza Starling were dishing out punishment today.  "We always try to send a message and set a tone back there as a secondary," Starling said after the game.  "We don't want a fly zone back there.  It's up to us in the secondary to bring the pain."
    • The offense has followed suit by establishing the power run and then working play-action to get the passing game going.  The Trojans racked up 285 yards rushing.  "We shoot for 300," Butch Lewis said.  "But we'll take 285."  The downfield blocking by receivers turned solid gains into breakaway runs.  On Havili's opening TD run, Ronald Johnson sprung him for six.  And on Brandon Carswell's catch-and-run to the goal line, David Ausberry mauled the corner to set his teammate free.
    • I told you Lane Kiffin has a sense of humor.  After a week of questions about his starting running back, Stanley Havili was the lone man in the backfield on the first offensive snap.  Havili was so dominant that he might be the best candidate to start at running back.  "I'm a fullback," Havili clarified when I asked if he was throwing his hat in the ring.  I'm not going to argue with him.  "It feels really great to touch the ball," Havili said of being let loose today.  "But the last three weeks have been great also.  If we come away with Ws, I'm happy."
    • The running back situation remains muddled.  Allen Bradford had the best day, but he lost a fumble for the second straight week.  Marc Tyler has scored touchdowns in three of the four games.  Dillon Baxter lost some touches in the all-purpose game with Havili's role growing.  Unless someone distinguishes themselves, they will play the hot hand, which may not be the worst idea.  If I remember correctly, the previous head coach used to like competition.
    • The coaching staff has been patient with true freshman Nickell Robey and it paid off today.  After getting beaten for six on the opening drive, Starling had a message for Robey, "We just told him to relax and he would get another opportunity and he took advantage of two opportunities."  Robey had told me earlier in the week that he was dreaming about his first interception.  "It's all about visualizing," Robey said of his preparation.  "That's what great players do."  Did it live up to the fantasy?  "It was an awesome feeling...just like hard work paying off."
    • With their four easiest games in the win column, the Trojans are ready for the gauntlet to begin with a mostly healthy roster.  The defensive line is the only unit showing some attrition.  Nick Perry got off the mark with his first sack, but he's still hobbling around.  Armond Armstead did not play to rest his shoulder, while Wes Horton was kicked in the back.  Despite the bumps and bruises, they controlled another game.  "I believe we have the best d-line not only in our league, but the whole nation," Butch Lewis said of his practice adversaries.
    • I know what made the fans really failed two-point conversions!  Joe Houston split the uprights on the first four PATs before Mitch Mustain took it himself for the only two-pointer of the game.  Maybe that will keep the two-point message board wolves at bay for one week...
    • Matt Barkley holds the fate of this team on his gifted shoulders.  If he plays like a top two or three Pac-10 quarterback, the Trojans will likely finish in the top two or three.  Otherwise, they will not be able to keep up in what should be one of the most competitive conference races in years.  Barkley has struggled the last two weeks "miscommunicating" with his receivers and today his running backs.  Now that the schedule is loading up, those mistakes will be punished harshly.
    • Despite forcing three turnovers today, USC gave three right back.  They still sit at -1 in turnover margin on the season.  The great Trojan teams of the Carroll era thrived in that department, so you can expect another week of Lane Kiffin stressing ball security and improved decision-making.  Here is a question that I don't have an answer to: Why can't the Trojans force fumbles?  For whatever reason, I cannot remember the opponent putting the ball on the turf this year (not counting the Minnesota heel clip).
    • Here are our players of the game: FB Stanley Havili and CB Nickell Robey

    USC vs. Washington State Live Chat

    | No Comments blog contributor Ben Weiss breaks down the action from Southern California while Jordan Moore updates from the sidelines in Pullman, Wash.

    USC vs. WSU LIVE on

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    SC TV is excited to announce that we will be simulcasting PRIME TICKET's broadcast of Saturday's game in Pullman on

    The game is FREE to SC TV members and $5.95 to all one-time users. 

    The television broadcast is only being aired in the local markets of the two teams, so is your best option for a high-quality live stream with the FSN broadcast team.

    Click here to watch the game or sign-up for SC TV.

    The game kicks off Saturday at noon pacific, 1 p.m. mountain, 2 p.m. central, 3 p.m. eastern and 9 a.m. in Hawaii.  

    As we do each week, we'll also have a live chat on the blog with sideline updates from Pullman. has you covered from Pullman!



    The State of Troy (September)

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    Each month, I sit down with athletic director Pat Haden and get his thoughts on the hot topics at USC plus we'll take a look at what's on his agenda for the coming months and semesters.
    Q.) How do you assess the football team's progress through three games?

    "We are getting better.  We are not playing perfectly.  But you want to be getting better every week.  That is the sign of a good team and a good staff and I think we are.  The defense played very well against Minnesota.  Anytime you stop the run and you can make the other team one-dimensional, you have a pretty good chance to win the game."

    Q.) The women's volleyball team knocked off UCLA Friday night.  How special is it to play in that crosstown rivalry?

    "To me, UCLA is our biggest rival.  On my office calendar, I have all the UCLA match-ups in every sport highlighted just because it is that important to me.  I am going to try to make every UCLA contest that I can.  Playing our rival, there is just something magical about playing against UCLA."

    Q.) How did you first Board of Counselors meeting go?

    "It went great.  There are an awful lot of people who care about this university in such a special way.  Some of them I have known for a long time, but some of them I just met for the first time.  Their passion for athletics is really remarkable.  What I am trying to do is remind them of all the great athletes we have in sports that they do not usually think about.  So, I had four athletes come in.  One was a football player, but the other three were from women's volleyball, women's soccer and men's water polo.  If they got to meet the kids, I thought they would be even more impressed.  One of the things that I want to do is put our incredible student-athletes out in front of audiences, so people can really appreciate them and see what they are all about."

    Q.) Tell us about your new "Redshirt" initiative to re-enlist former athletic support group members.

    "We have lost about 800 members in our various athletic support groups, which are really the lifeblood of the program.  I can understand that it has been tough economic times and that's why some people are not able to support the athletic programs as much as they would like, but we are trying to get those folks back in a variety of ways.  We use the Board of Counselors as almost an internal sales force to call them and say, 'Hey, I know you might have dropped Cardinal and Gold, but this is the time USC needs your support the most and we would like you to rejoin the efforts.'  Hopefully, we will implement that effort here shortly."

    Q.) Other than benefits, why should young alumni get involved with athletic support groups?
    "It is not just being a part of the athletic program, but being a part of this university, which is on the rise and has been for a decade.  It was ranked in the 50s when I went here and now U.S. News and World Report has USC at #23.  I think being associated with excellence is something neat.  Just the ability to be a part of a great academic university that is really doing interesting things like life-changing research and a new understanding of world problems.  Universities last hundreds and hundreds of years, longer than other institutions, and I would think young people would want to be a part of that."

    Q.) What is the scouting report on our men's and women's basketball programs this season?

    "Kevin O'Neill thinks we are going to be much better this year and he is very optimistic about the next two, three and four years.  He really believes we are going to be a very strong team.  And talking to Michael Cooper, he is getting more comfortable coaching and recruiting the college game.  We have a good freshman class that has come in and I think we are going to be much better.  The product is going to be much more fun to watch and now we just need to get some people to watch it in the stands.  The Salute to Troy basketball event on October 24th is a great opportunity for our fans to get to know these teams better."

    cooper.jpgQ.) How do you think Michael Cooper's NBA championship background as a player helps him as a college coach?

    "The fact that he was a champion many times with the Lakers resonates with our young women, even though they were probably too young to see him.  The fact that he played professional basketball and won championships helps him get into the living rooms of families.  And ultimately, our university and Michael sell them on coming here."

    Q.) What do you think of the women's soccer team trying to break the NCAA attendance record for their October 22nd game against UCLA at the Coliseum?

    "I have been following women's soccer for 15-20 years.  I actually went to see Mia Hamm practice when she played at the University of North Carolina.  Women's soccer has been great here.  We won a national championship a couple years ago.  We have a terrific young team that is really on the rise and we have won four straight and have not lost in six straight games.  Playing a natural rival in the Coliseum, it would be fantastic for our young women to get that kind of support.  One of my disappointments is that we do not get enough people watching these incredible athletes.  I would love to see them draw more than 15,000 fans and break that record.  I will be there!"

    Q.) You spent a lot of time in Minnesota working with their athletic department.  What do you hope to learn from your counterparts?

    "I called Minnesota's athletic director before the game and told him, 'I am a new athletic director and I know that we can be doing some things better, so I would love to sit down with you and your staff and go peer-to-peer with our staff.'  We learned a lot of things.  I came back with a to-do list that is eight or ten pages long.  We can always learn by listening.  As my mom used to say, 'You never learn by talking.'"

    Q.) We have great photos of you and J.K. McKay playing doubles against the women's tennisChest_Bump.JPG team.  What's the next challenge?

    "My body may not handle it, but John McKay and I, next up, we are going to be goalkeepers against the women's soccer team.  We are going to see if they can score against us from the penalty spot.  Now, John and I might have to be in the goal together to be able to stop them, but that is the next challenge."

    Q.) We'll keep the results in the top secret file...

    "Of course, results do not matter.  It is all in the effort!"

    Friday Night Video: Washington State

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    Business Trip

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    This is my first journey to the Palouse and Idaho, so I am taking it all in.  It's pretty, but strange.

    The terrain seems to be flattened mountain tops and we landed feet from a golf course.  USC stays across the street from the University of Idaho in Moscow (the Russians are very nice!). 

    The Trojans were in full business mode boarding the plane, but Butch Lewis never misses a photo op.

    2010 Game #4: USC at Washington State

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    5 things USC will want to do on their roadie to Pullman...

    1.) Separate from the Pack

    Marc Tyler was the clear starting running back at Hawaii.  Dillon Baxter was the leading rusher against Virginia.  Allen Bradford dominated Minnesota.  While Lane Kiffin would prefer a lead dog, he has been forced to settle on an inconsistent trio.  With one more rehearsal before the grind begins, the best back should distinguish himself in the Palouse.

    2.) "Stay Positive"

    While Kiffin jokes with beat writers about their outlook on life, he delivers the same two-word message to his team about turnover ratio.  Through three fairly comfortable wins, USC is still -1 on the season in turnover margin.  Coming off a two interception afternoon, Matt Barkley should keep it clean in Pullman, while the increased pass rush from the defensive line could spark a turnover outbreak to flip the Trojans into positive territory.

    3.) Bubble Boys

    Knock on jinx...but the Trojans have stayed fairly healthy so far this season.  Other than Nick Perry aggravating his ankle injury against Virginia, they have not had a player leave the game and not return for health reasons (by my recollection at least).  Starting next week, they will play nine out of 10 Saturdays against physical and often elite competition.  With the natural depth issues, they could use all hands on deck going into that gauntlet.

    4.) Take Out the Trash

    In all three games, the Trojans have given up a late defensive score during garbage time, which did not change the outcome, but left a bad taste going into the locker room.  For that matter, USC's back-up offense yielded turnovers to set-up scoring drives for Hawaii and Minnesota.  If the first team executes to their potential against WSU, the second squad will get plenty of chances to clean up in the 4th quarter.

    5.)  Swagger Jacked

    USC can be average and win this game by two or three scores.  They can play poorly and still probably survive.  But they need a great all-around performance to build confidence going into this tough conference slate.  The Trojans were just a 9-4 team last year.  They were blown out twice, which had not happened in nearly a decade.  Then sanctions hit and now three average performances.  If they are going to get revenge on elite teams like Stanford and Oregon this season, they need to regain their swagger first.

    Dillon Baxter is still looking to break one.

    Wazzu Thursday Practice: Notes

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    Competition and intensity are the stories of the day...

    • In case you missed it, you can watch Saturday's game LIVE on  Scroll down to the previous post for more info.
    • Marc Tyler has been limited all week with a sore hip flexor, he reported to the media.  He said they stretched him out and, "It went away."  Otherwise, no new injury news.
    • For the second straight day, practice ended on a T.J. Bryant interception.  After recovering from facial surgery, Bryant has worked his way into the nickel position, which he held last year.  Lane Kiffin praised his "ball skills."
    • Nickell Robey will start at corner opposite Shareece Wright, but Bryant and Torin Harris continue to put heat on the youngster. 
    • More competition, Michael Reardon is starting to work at guard to push Butch Lewis.  Kiffin is happy with the way Lewis has responded, but he expects both players to contribute at that spot on Saturday.
    • The coaching staff has still not made an official decision on the starting tailback.  "They have not said anything to me," Marc Tyler said today.  "But I cannot control that.  I just have to stay ready."
    • Kiffin said the coaches will look at practice film to determine the starter, but Tyler "didn't really do much this week" thanks to the injury. 
    • Tyler is "disappointed" with how he played last week, but the fumble that he was benched for should have been overturned by a replay.  Nevertheless, it opened the door for Allen Bradford.  Tyler does not want to dwell on the mistake.  "When I think about [ball security] too much, I start running differently." 
    • The junior back has not lost his sense of humor.  He took a shot at his old man, Wendell Tyler, who was a running back at UCLA.  "I'm not horrible like my dad was with fumbling," Tyler joked.  "I have seen pictures of the way he used to hold the ball."
    • On the other side of the ball, Chris Galippo has not been playing as much at linebacker, but special teams has kept him busy.  He is on all four punt and kickoff teams, which could help him hold down a spot in the NFL.  "It's definitely something that scouts look at as versatility," Galippo said of his special teams work.  "Obviously, rookies that come into the NFL have to play special teams."
    • After Robert Woods kickoff return for a touchdown last week, Galippo and the rest of the "Convoy" sprinted down the field to celebrate with the freshman.  However, Galippo had to cover the resulting kickoff, so he was sucking wind with his hand in the ground and John Baxter cheering him on from the sidelines.  "One of the rules of special teams is that we celebrate all plays," Galippo said.
    • As practice intensity picked up today, OL Kris O'Dowd and DT Hebron Fangupo got into a little skirmish.  It was broken up and both players were benched for the rest of practice.  Without tackling, we have not seen much in-fighting, which is typical of football practice.
    • Here is Lane Kiffin on the week's preparation...

    Scouting Report: Washington State

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    Round #4: Washington State

    2010 Record: 1-2 (W - Montana St., L - SMU and Oklahoma St.)

    2009 Record: 1-11 (0-9 in the Pac-10)

    Series History: USC leads 57-8-4
    (Last meeting: 27-6 USC in '09)

    Head Coach: Paul Wulff (3rd year)

    Wulff was a mastermind at 1-AA Eastern Washington, but he's struggled (4-24) since returning to his alma mater.

    Players to Watch: QB Jeff Tuel (Sophomore, Fresno, CA); RB James Montgomery (Senior, Rancho Cordova, CA)

    Considering the Cougars are 1-2, Tuel is having an exceptional season.  During Pac-10 media day, Wulff compared him to former Wazzu stars Drew Bledsoe and Ryan Leaf.  While those are lofty expectations, he has tossed 5 TDs to just 1 INT this season and passed for 200+ yards in all three games.

    Montgomery is still recovering from a scary injury that he suffered last season when he was rushed to the hospital for acute compartment syndrome, where blood flow to the muscle is restricted.  Doctors were able to save his leg and now he's back in the starting role after knee surgery on his other leg.  He ran for 116 yards and a TD in their lone win.

    Strength: Kicking Game

    Don't laugh!  The Cougars highlight both their kicker and punter near the top of their media guide.  "Each of WSU's last three wins can largely be attributed to the clutch kicking of senior Nico Grasu."  Grasu hit the game-winning field goal to beat Montana State 23-22. 

    Punter Reid Forrest is number two on the Cougars all-time list for punts and punting yards. 

    Weakness: Scoring Defense

    They rank 113th in the nation in points allowed this season (40.7 points per game).  The defense has yielded 457 yards per game.  They are susceptible to the run (184.7 ypg) and pass (272.3 ypg). 

    Washington State Verdict

    We can try and hype this game from all angles (and we will!), but the Cougars should have no answers for the Trojans. 

    Best case scenario from a Wazzu perspective, Montgomery churns the clock and Tuel converts on third down, while USC turns the ball over and commits penalties to kill drives. 

    Worst case, two years ago.  USC romped 69-0 and Wulff conceded that he was just trying to keep his quarterback from getting hurt.

    The Trojans have one last game to eliminate mistakes and settle on an identity before the battle heats up next week with Steve Sarkisian and Jake Locker coming to town.

    In '09, USC jumped out 20-0 behind Brice Butler, but penalties and turnovers marred the win.

    Cushing Counter

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    Former USC LB Brian Cushing is currently sitting out the first four games of the Texans' season after testing positive for PEDs last year, but he's not exactly chilling on the couch watching football.

    He's gearing up for a comeback...

    Morning Papers (9/23/10)

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    Features, causes and other news around Troy...

    STUDENT-Athlete of the Week: Chris Mezger

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    Each week, we shift the student-athlete emphasis to the left side of the hyphen and I have a conversation with a Trojan scholar athlete.
    Name: Chris Mezger

    Sport: Baseball

    Class: Senior

    Major: Linguistics (Minors in History and Classics)

    GPA: 3.80

    Jordan Moore (JM): You are 6'10".  Give me some crazy stat about your height like how tall were you in 6th grade or the first time you dunked?

    Chris Mezger (CM): Haha, OK, I was 6'0" in 6th grade and dunked for the first time on March 20, 2003, when I was in 8th grade (not like I was counting or anything). Also, I grew 18 inches during a four-year growth spurt from age 10 to 14.

    JM: Does your height affect your personality?  You always have to stand out, not easy to hide at that size.

    CM: Absolutely. My grandmother was full of wise sayings about how you'll never have to seek attention when you're tall, but you'll never be able to avoid it either. I get stared at everywhere I go, especially in small spaces like airplanes, but I'm completely accustomed to it and rarely notice. I think that explains why I'm a fairly quiet person: I never have to try and get attentionrandy-johnson.jpg because it always comes to me first.

    JM: On the mound, do you model yourself after other tall pitchers like Trojan alum Randy Johnson?

    CM: I always idolized Johnson (I've carried the nicknames Little Unit or Big Unit several times), but in truth we share very little as pitchers beyond height.  He threw left-handed, side-arm, wildly, and 100+ MPH, whereas I throw right-handed, more over the top, in control, and 90 MPH. So I can't really say I model myself off him since I had no say in being tall.

    JM: You list Roger Federer as your favorite athlete.  He speaks five languages fluently.  As a Linguistics major, how many different languages can you do your Roger-Federer.jpgpost-game interviews in?

    CM: Haha, well if I was writing out answers to questions, I could use three, maybe four. English and French for sure, Latin on paper, and I'm working on Aramaic. I could probably fake Spanish or Italian if I had to...

    JM: What is the most beautiful language in your expert opinion? 

    CM: I still have about 6,996 languages to learn, but of the ones I've ever heard spoken, I like French the most, even though it's so hard to speak.

    JM: Your specialty is the history of languages.  I'm not even sure I know what that means.  Give me a cool example of something that would fascinate me about linguistic history...

    CM: Linguistic history is very comparable to biological history: those languages most able to change to become more utile are those most likely to survive. English, for example, though hard to learn for a foreigner, is so dominant partly because it is so adaptive: English has more diverse loan words than almost any other language because it has facilitated, rather than absorbed, all the languages it has run into. Essentially, it has evolved (and is still evolving) to adapt to its environment.

    JM: You are applying for the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships to do postgraduate work in theQueen_Elizabeth.jpg UK.  England and the U.S. are two countries divided by a common language.  That's my only linguistics joke.  How did we butcher their "proper" English so badly?

    CM: Well, you could ask them instead why they haven't developed our good honest English yet.  It's a matter of perspective. Somebody told me that an English accent when they settled in the New World was similar to an American accent today, so maybe "proper" English is what we now speak anyway.

    JM: You are desperate to go to Europe.  What's the one country that you want to visit most?

    CM: Easily the hardest question yet...I really can't decide among the UK, France and Italy. The UK. No wait, France. I'll let you know, hopefully pretty soon!

    JM: Is the baseball team excited to play for Frank Cruz this season?

    CM: Extremely. With the history he's got, coaching at USC as an assistant and at LMU as head coach, with success following him everywhere, we're all tremendously pumped to play for him. Practice hasn't even started yet, and there's already a great vibe in the locker room, guys are raring to get after it. (Was that enough sports cliches for one answer?)

    JM: Is this core group ready to return the program to greatness?

    CM: That is our overarching goal for this season, especially the six of us who have been around for four years without a winning season. We intend to be the group that puts SC baseball back into prominence, and the first step is to make a regional this year.  You never know what can happen when everyone buys in.


    Wazzu Wednesday Practice: Notes

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    The Trojans were turnover hunting on an energetic night at Howard Jones/Brian Kennedy Fields.

    • Click here to take a look at some photos from tonight's practice snapped by Rich Rodriguez.
    • LB Michael Morgan, RB Marc Tyler and TE Blake Ayles were added to the injury list as "limited," but neither appeared to be seriously hampered.  Freshman RB D.J. Morgan was cleared to practice fully and worked with the service team.  He will likely redshirt as he continues to recover from knee surgery, but he's good enough to go full speed in practice now.
    • Milkshakes were on the line today!  If the offense went the entire practice without a turnover, DB coach Willie Mack Garza owed the offense milkshakes.  If the defense got one, QB coach Clay Helton was on the hook.
    • On the last play of the scrimmage portion of practice, T.J. Bryant corralled a twice deflected pass for an interception, which sent the defense exploding onto the field and Willie Mack rolling on the turf in celebration (see photo gallery).
    • On the list, DE Nick Perry is going with a chocolate shake, while CB Nickell Robey is feeling like strawberry tonight.
    • Quote of the night: "I've always thought coaching here one of your hardest things to do is to get your team motivated when it's not the national game of the week," Kiffin said about his challenge this week.  "These guys have been so programmed to be in so many of those games that these are the games that you worry most about."
    • The defensive line dominated against the run versus Minnesota, but they would like to see more from their pass rush.  "We emphasized it a little bit more this week that we need more sacks," Perry said after practice.  "We're definitely going to come out this week and get that done."
    • Perry is the team's returning sack-master, but he is still waiting to get off the mark after a high-ankle sprain virtually erased Fall camp.  "Just a lot of motivation to get me going this week," Perry said about going after that first sack of the season.  "Just heal my ankle, just getting 100%, I'm going to make the best effort out there when the time comes."
    • DE Wes Horton is tied for the team lead with two sacks.  As a unit he feels they are close, "We have the talent to get there," Horton said.  "We have the right coach to teach us the right things, so it's just a matter of getting there right now."
    • Horton has been as consistent as anyone defensively, which is a huge improvement over last year when he only showed flashes.  "I feel like my pass rush has gotten a lot better from last year to this year.  It's been working, but there's still so much more I need to improve on."
    • As a diminutive true freshman playing opposite Shareece Wright, Nickell Robey has been picked on at times this season.  He has his sights set on getting back at the opposing quarterbacks with his first career interception.  "I know I am ready for it," Robey said of his first pick.  "When I get it, it's going to be the best feeling ever and it's going to make it that much easier as the season goes on."
    • Random fun fact: USC sports information director Tim Tessalone coached kicker Joe Houston on his little league baseball team in Torrance.  Houston was a scrappy little second baseman, who drove the ball to the opposite field.
    • Here is Lane Kiffin's post-practice media session...

    1st Pac-10 Roadie

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    "What's happened in the past with the first game in the conference has nothing to do with this team," Lane Kiffin said Monday.

    Fair enough, but we have to build the hype some way for a game that looks like a mismatch on paper.

    While the Pete Carroll era saw few losing streaks, the Trojans have struggled recently in their first Pac-10 road game on the schedule.

    2009 - Washington 16, USC 13

    With Matt Barkley out, the Trojans started back-up Aaron Corp.  Jake Locker led a game-winning field goal drive in the final seconds.

    2008 - Oregon St. 27, USC 21

    Jacquizz Rodgers' coming out party led to the Trojans only loss of the season.  

    2007 - USC 27, Washington 24

    The Trojans survived a rainy Seattle day when Terrell Thomas recovers a muffed punt to secure victory.

    2006 - USC 20, Arizona 3

    The Trojans streak of scoring 20+ points per game is nearly ended, but the ugly win is a portend of USC's undoing later that season against UCLA.

    2005 - USC 45, Oregon 13

    No problems this year.

    2004 - USC 31, Stanford 28

    Down 28-17 at half, Matt Leinart was forced to execute a 4th quarter TD drive culminating in a LenDale White score to preserve what would be an undefeated season.

    2003 - Cal 34, USC 31

    In a triple overtime thriller, the Trojans take their lone loss of the season.

    2002 - Washington St. 30, USC 27

    In another overtime affair, the Cougars beat the Trojans, which turned out to be the tiebreaker for the Rose Bowl berth that season.

    In most cases, the Trojans came in as heavy favorites as they will do again Saturday.  While the Cougs are coming off a 14-point loss to SMU and sit at just 1-2, conference play is a different beast.

    No one will pick against USC this week nor should they, but if (recent) history teaches us anything, they better not walk into the Palouse expecting to walk out easy winners.

    If nothing else, Wazzu has one of the coolest tunnels in college football. (Photo: LA Times)

    Trojans 360: Ed Orgeron (Part 2)

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    Click here to watch the new episode of Trojans 360: Ed Orgeron as we get inside the mind of the master recruiter and fiery defensive line coach.

    In this episode, Coach O talks about his recruiting philosophy and his Hollywood debut in The Blind Side. 

    Produced by Rob McPherson and hosted by Dan Page, Trojans 360: Ed Orgeron is exclusive, in-depth content about the Trojans that you'll find nowhere else.

    (Photo by Jon SooHoo)

    From the Basement of Heritage Hall

    Digging through the archives, we stumbled across this classic picture of the 1935 USC baseball team practicing the rundown play.

    Behind every great photo is a story...

    From left to right: 3B Johnny Morrow, SS and captain Rod Dedeaux (who would eventually lead the Trojans to 10 College World Series titles as head coach), utility man Ben Franklin (the baserunner), 2B Ken Peters (who went on to be a Naval Commander, superintendent of the Beverly Hills USD and member of the California Board of Education) and 1B Ernie Holbrook (died in combat in WWII).


    Wazzu Tuesday Practice: Notes

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    The Trojans are back on the practice field as they prepare for the Pac-10 opener.

    • On the injury front, DB Drew McAllister is out for the season and will have hip surgery.  True freshman Demetrius Wright, who intercepted Matt Barkley during practice, will move up the depth chart and take his spot.
    • Lane Kiffin did not name a starting tailback.  Allen Bradford received most of the first team reps during the scrimmage portion, but Marc Tyler had already left the field to attend a class.
    • "I'm taking this week as I did last week and just continue to practice and be ready," Bradford said.  He said the coaches have not indicated that the reps will be changed around.
    • "Right now, Marc [Tyler] is going to take the first reps and [Bradford] will be involved in it," RB coach Kennedy Pola said.  Pola described the running back group as "raw," which explains the inconsistency in performances.
    • Kiffin explained that Marc Tyler opened the door by fumbling early against Minnesota.  Bradford lost a fumble late in the game, but he had already seized his opportunity.
    • As for the third man in this trio, Dillon Baxter is satisfied with his role so far.  "I just got here," Baxter said after practice.  "For me to get as many touches as I have is good.  It's really good for me.  I'm excited this week to hopefully make some plays and come out with a victory."
    • Baxter's emphasis this week is on finding his top gear on the practice field.  "I haven't really been going a full 100%.  I need to go hard every practice and give everything.  They say, 'practice makes perfect.'"
    • During the competitive portion of practice, Matt Barkley noticeably threw a lot of balls away.  However, he threw two more interceptions, which he paid for in laps.  "Our defense is doing a great job and they know our stuff," Barkley said.  "You just have to be smart with the ball in those situations."
    • Is throwing interceptions more of a physical problem or a mental mistake?  "I pretty much can put the ball where I want for the most part," Barkley favored the mental side.  "When those picks happen, it usually is because of a miscommunication, which is mental." 
    • While he admitted to forcing the ball at times last year, he credits his Saturday mistakes to communication errors.  "Usually it's that I'm thinking he's going to do this and then he does not do it and then it ends up in the other team's hands," Barkley explained.
    • As a team, the Trojans work extremely hard, but no one puts in as much extra work after practice as Ronald Johnson.  The assistant coaches say that he has an "NFL work ethic," which is exactly where RoJo intends to be next year.
    • Patrick Hall returned from his indefinite leave.
    • Asked if he likes the championship game format that the Pac-12 will institute when Colorado and Utah arrive, Kiffin said, "Sure, if we're in it."  Here is Lane Kiffin talking about practice...

    Pac-10 News

    | 1 Comment
    Three random afternoon notes...

    1.) Troy Polamalu is running a Twitter auction to generate money for A Home in Haiti.  Click here for all the details and to get in the bidding.

    2.) Colorado is finalizing a deal to play in the soon-to-be Pac-12 next year instead of waiting until 2012, according to ESPN's Joe Schad.

    3.) Lastly, Oregon State painted their practice field blue this week in preparation for Boise St.'s Smurf Turf on Saturday night.  The Beavers are the last ranked opponent the Broncos have on their schedule at the moment.


    Week 4 Mailbag

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    Just like last time, these are my answers to your questions.  To clarify, I'm speaking for myself not the coaching staff unless you see quotation marks.

    Time to check in with the fans and readers via email, Twitter and Facebook to get their questions on the first few weeks of the season...

    Q.) Will Joe Houston and Jake Harfman be wearing #10 again on Saturday?  Also, can you elaborate on why the change? - Timothy via email

    A.) As far as I know, the change is permanent for the season.  When I asked Harfman about it, he said, "He hasn't told me, but I bet Coach Baxter has something up his sleeve."  While Harfman is built a little bigger than Houston, they are hard to tell apart with helmets, pads and uniforms on, which could potentially be a strategic advantage.  It sure tripped up the PA announcer in Minnesota, who called Harfman, "Joe Houston" and "Boomer Roepke."

    Q.) What kind of guy is Lane Kiffin?  He has to have a fun side doesn't he?  :) - Josh via email

    A.) Since so many of you have asked about coach's demeanor, I figured I'd give you my two cents.  While he is not smiling and bubbly all the time, he is a very funny, sharp guy.  If you watch most of the pool interviews and press conferences, he never misses an opportunity to be self-deprecating or crack wise.  While Kiffin is different from Pete Carroll, he focuses on staying true to his natural personality, which is a bit "tighter" than Carroll's.

    Q.) Who is going to redshirt? - Jesus via Facebook

    A.) Kiffin said last week that "anyone who has not played yet will likely redshirt."  As of now, DT George Uko, WR Kyle Prater, DB Dion Bailey, LB Hayes Pullard, TE Randall Telfer, TE Xavier Grimble, RB D.J. Morgan, QB Jesse Scroggins, OL Giovanni Di Poalo and DB Anthony Brown are eligible to redshirt without needing a medical hardship waiver. 

    Q.) How about just kicking the ball through the uprights?  - Vince via Facebook

    A.) Ah yes, the two-point conversion debate.  Lane Kiffin has provided two explanations for it.  One, if they get it, the other team has to chase the points all game.  Two, future opponents are forced to spend a lot of their practice week preparing for all the different formations and plays USC runs in that two-point set.  Personally, I'd expect to see it happen less and less as the games get tighter against the Pac-10's elite.  However, John Baxter is unorthodox and the Trojans have also returned two kicks for TDs in three games, so special teams has been a considerable net gain.

    Q.)  The Washington State game is on PRIME TICKET, which I do not get in Arizona.  Do you know of any other way to get the game? - Robert via email

    A.) Unless you have a comprehensive satellite package, Saturday's game is only available on television locally in Southern California and Washington.  We are looking into steaming it live on, so stay locked into the blog for further information.

    Q.) What was on the magazine cover that students were throwing on the field Saturday? - Eddie via Twitter

    A.) It was a souvenir Sports Illustrated celebrating great Minnesota football players (see photo below).  The lesson here is don't give any student section dangerous projectiles. 


    Morning Papers (9/21/10)

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    Some articles and a fun radio interview...

    Five-0 Promo

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    "The Spirit of Troy" was hard at work during the Trojans road trip to Hawaii earlier this season. 

    First and foremost, they provided the soundtrack to USC's victory, but they also found time to film this commercial for the new Hawaii Five-0, which premieres tonight on CBS.

    The Flashback: Minnesota

    | No Comments
    Click this link to watch The Flashback of USC's win over Minnesota, including exclusive locker room interviews breaking down the big plays and behind-the-scenes sights and sounds.

    Allen Bradford took the game over in the second half.

    Compliance Corner: Social Media Sites

    As we continue our weekly series clarifying NCAA compliance rules, here's a look at the social networking bylaws from the Compliance Office.

    NCAA Bylaw 13.01.4 prohibits a booster from "making in-person, on- or off-campus recruiting contacts, or written or telephonic communications with a prospect or the prospect's relatives or legal guardians."

    Thus, NO written, telephonic or in-person communication is permitted between a recruit and a booster of an NCAA institution regardless of the medium.

    If any fans, boosters, alumni or other supporters of USC have any contact (e.g., in-person, instant message, Twitter, Facebook or My Space, text message, e-mail, fax) with a recruit, especially to encourage their attendance at USC, there could be serious consequences such as:

    • USC would have an NCAA violation to report to the NCAA enforcement staff;
    • The recruit would become ineligible to participate in athletics at USC, and before any of the Trojan coaches could continue to contact the recruit, USC would have to rule him/her ineligible and then seek reinstatement through the NCAA office; and
    • The fan/booster/alumni involved could jeopardize their standing with the USC athletic department.
    We know that Trojan fans are the most dedicated and supportive in the country so please if you have any questions about NCAA rules, contact our office at any time at 213/740-3832 or e-mail

    Lane Kiffin Weekly Q&A

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    Each week, I sit down with head coach Lane Kiffin to discuss the previous week's game and the upcoming opponent.

    This week, I asked about Allen Bradford's push for the starting spot, the psychology of two-point conversions, Clay Matthews story and much more.

    Projans: NFL Week 2

    | 1 Comment
    A great Sunday from the Trojans featuring three Heisman worthy performances, but we can only have one winner.

    Heisman Winner

    Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets - 21/30 for 220 yards and 3 TDs/0 INTs in a 28-14 win over the Patriots

    Sanchez played the best game of his young pro career.  He completed a personal best 21 passes and three touchdowns.


    Troy Polamalu, DB, Steelers - 1 INT (Tied for NFL lead with 2), 3 tackles

    Clay Matthews, LB, Packers - 3 sacks (NFL leading 6 in 2010), 5 tackles

    Fili Moala, DT, Colts - Recovered a fumble in the end zone for his 1st career touchdown

    Sam Baker, OL, Falcons - Anchored a 444-yard, 41-point outburst by the Falcons offense

    Fred Davis, TE, Redskins - 62-yard catch

    Monday Night Football

    Saints vs. 49ers - Sedrick Ellis and Reggie Bush lead the champs against Chilo Rachal and rookie Taylor Mays in San Francisco.

    Mark Sanchez comes of age...

    Lane Kiffin Minnesota Call

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    Lane Kiffin takes questions from the media on the Trojans best performance of the season and the upcoming Pac-10 opener against Washington State.

    Click the link below to listen in on the call...



    Photo Galleries: USC vs. Minnesota

    | 1 Comment
    Here are three photo galleries documenting USC's third win by the lens master Jon SooHoo.  The first one is entitled "Faces," the second "Environment" and the third "Action."

    Lane Kiffin Minnesota Post Presser

    Scroll down to read my 10 takes with quotes from the stars and a video with game MVP Allen Bradford.

    But first, here's the coach on the victory (note: it cuts off abruptly, but that's the last question)...

    USC 32, Minnesota 21

    10 observations from round three and an interview with our player of the game...

    • The Trojans did not play the complete game that Lane Kiffin desired, but they played a complete half.  The second half was the best all-around performance of the season ignited by Robert Woods 97-yard kick return for a never-look-back touchdown.  Overall, USC played well enough to earn the right to sing the fight song (twice actually) in the locker room after the game for the first time in the Kiffin era.

    • Down 14-13 with just over five minutes to play in the 3rd quarter, the Trojans felt the first real game pressure of the season.  Electrifying freshman Robert Woods alleviated the sideline anxiety by riding the "Convoy" across the TCF Bank Stadium field turf.  "Excitement," Woods described the feeling.  "Just don't get caught and then I get to celebrate with my team."  While Woods gets the highlight, he gives all the credit to the call made by special teams coach John Baxter.  "After I scored, I ran over and gave him a hug cause that was all him right there."

    • Allen Bradford was my player of the game (interview below).  His USC career is patience and perseverance personified.  While Marc Tyler was the starter today, Bradford seized his opportunity to pound the rock and enforce his physicality on the contest.  "We'd like that to be our personality," head coach Lane Kiffin said of the power running style employed by Bradford en route to a 133-yard afternoon.

    • Defensively, USC's run defense was "the story of the game," according to Kiffin.  The Gophers ran for just 83 yards despite 37 attempts.  They challenged the Trojans front four, which responded, led by Jurrell Casey's team-leading nine tackles.  "Every time they came directly at me," Casey said of Minnesota's gameplan.  "I just made sure to split the double team and make the play."  While the defensive line did not have a sack, they stuffed the run and consistently pressured the quarterback for the first time this season.

    • Forced turnovers was my story of the week and the defense responded by tripling their season's output.  On the first interception, Jawanza Starling added a degree of difficulty to the easiest pick he'll ever get.  The ball was floated to him thanks to a Wes Horton pressure, but he felt like it took forever to get there and then bobbled the catch only to make an athletic recovery.  "I got the first one out of the way," Starling said.  The entire defense believes that turnovers are contagious, which proved true as a lucky foot clip and a late deflection led to two more before the 60 minutes were up.

    • Unfortunately, the Trojans are still -1 in turnover margin for the season as Matt Barkley tossed his first two interceptions.  On the first one, Rhett Ellison never turned around on the route, so either the timing or communication was off.  The second pick falls squarely on the QB, who forced a ball in a 2nd and 22 situation, which leads us to the dreaded...

    • ...P-word.  Penalties.  After a six penalty first half with another undisciplined personal foul, the Trojans got out of their own way in the second stanza.  Successful offensive play-calling is so dependent on manageable down and distances, so chop-blocks and holding flags are the quickest ways to kill a drive or lead to forced passes.  USC committed just one penalty in the second half.

    • Lost in the shuffle of knockout #3, redshirt freshman DE James Boyd took the field for the first time in his USC career.  He was ecstatic bouncing around the sideline in anticipation.  "I'm so happy for you man," DT Hebron Fangupo said to Boyd on the sideline.  Boyd has moved from the service team to contesting for playing time. 

    • The second corner spot was a clear weakness for USC today.  Nickell Robey struggled on the Gophers first TD drive when he lost his man going across the middle and then was flagged for holding in the end zone.  Later, he was beaten on a sideline route for six.  T.J. Bryant has moved up in the mix, while Torin Harris still gets consistent playing time.  Meanwhile, opposing quarterbacks rarely attack Shareece Wright, so the second and third corners will be under fire all year.

    • Matt Barkley was "out of it" for a little while after the facemask penalty, which gave the Trojans a first down.  As a result, Kiffin sort of stumbled into the power rushing sequence, which culminated in Bradford's 56-yard TD burst.  Here is Bradford recounting the night and the love he got from his teammates and coaches after the run...

    USC vs. Minnesota Live Chat

    | 3 Comments blog contributors Stephanie Graves and Ben Weiss bring you live commentary of today's game, featuring updates from the field courtesy of Jordan Moore.

    USC/Minnesota Pregame

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    Jon SooHoo is here taking pictures and we'll post a complete slideshow upon our return to Los Angeles.

    In the meantime, here's my look at the "Calm Before the Storm" at TCF Bank Stadium, including a 360 degree video look at the sparkling new on-campus facility at the University of Minnesota.


    USC/Minnesota Gameday Schedule

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    Here's the Trojans plan for the day...

    All times central

    7:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. - Mandatory Breakfast

    10:15 a.m. - Special Teams Meeting (Offense and Defense Walk-Thrus)

    10:45 a.m. - Pre-Game Meal (Taping and Treatment)

    12:10 p.m. - Clap Session

    12:20 p.m. - Buses Depart for TCF Bank Stadium

    12:35 p.m. - Arrive at Stadium

    1:25 p.m. - Kickers, Snappers and Holders Begin Warm-ups

    2:20 p.m. - LIVE CHAT Begins on the Blog

    2:30 p.m. - Trojans Take the Field

    2:35 p.m. - KICKOFF Round #3


    Friday Night Video: Minnesota

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    Check out the video that the Trojans watch to get fired up for Saturday's game!

    This week's song is "Not Afraid" by Eminem.

    By the way, we will have another Live Chat on the blog during the game tomorrow, so be sure to join in.  Ben Weiss and Stephanie Graves will be running it and I'll be providing updates from the USC sideline.

    2010 Game #3: USC at Minnesota

    | 1 Comment
    Here's how the Trojans can brave the Midwest chill...

    1.) Speed Kills

    Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State...  USC has had great recent success against the Big Ten mostly due to their speed advantage.  While the Trojans bring size off the bench with David Ausberry and Jordan Cameron, the outside starters are blazers.  Ronald Johnson and Robert Woods can flash their sprinter speed if Matt Barkley has time to let the routes develop.

    2.) Weber State

    Four-year starter Adam Weber is the key to this Gophers offense and their chances Saturday.  He does not run nearly as much as he used to, but that always seems to be a problem for the Trojans hard crashing ends (Hawaii's Bryant Moniz was not known as a runner either).  If they can put some disciplined pressure on Weber, the turnovers might finally start flowing.
    3.) Tackle Box

    Minnesota RB Duane Bennett has been explosive this season with four runs of 20+ yards.  The no-tackling policy was barely mentioned after last week's solid defensive effort against Virginia, but Bennett will expose USC if they are not fundamentally sound when bringing him down.  Even more, the Trojans have struggled with speedy backs this season, so they'll need to set a hard edge on the outside and keep Bennett boxed in.

    4.) Big Ten Football

    The conference is known for physical, grind-it-out football, which is not typically USC's style.  While they want to get big plays from RoJo and company, the offensive line needs to reestablish their identity after an off week.  With Marc Tyler running downhill, the Trojans should rack up ground yards like they did against Hawaii and beat the Big Ten at their own game.

    5.) P is for...

    Hopefully not penalties.  Lane Kiffin wants toughness and discipline.  After two games, the Trojans have fallen short of the latter goal.  USC leads the nation in flags, which became particularly embarrassing during last Saturday's Coliseum flagfest.  The coaching staff has not uttered the word this week in an attempt at reverse psychology.  The scientific study will be put under the microscope tomorrow.

    The offensive line wants to regain that Hawaii swagger.

    Photo Gallery: Minnesota Friday

    | 1 Comment
    While the weather is overcast, the temperature is pleasant. 

    • The Trojans went through an abbreviated practice without pads at a local high school.  Nothing on the field to report as the team looks relaxed, yet focused on tomorrow's task.
    • As you'll see in the photos, De La Salle High School has an idyllic Midwest feel and backdrop.  The small private school (600 students total) sits on an island between the Mississippi River and the Mississippi River (the river splits).  As a result, the team is called the Islanders.
    • The field is brand new, but the grass was a Charlie Weis special (see photo).  As Lane Kiffin predicted, the people are extremely friendly.
    • On one end of the field is a train track and a long train passed by during practice, while the other angles look out onto downtown Minneapolis.  It really was a cool background for the Trojans walk-thru.
    • At one point, a horse carriage strolled by, so needless to say, we're not in Los Angeles anymore (you can see it in the background of one of the pics).
    • After practice, I did a little sightseeing, so you can get a taste of the town.  I had never been here before, but it's similar to Cleveland in the way that the arenas and stadiums are on top of each other in the heart of the city.
    • The Target Center (home of the Timberwolves) is right across the street from Target Field (the brand new home of the Twins, which they were kind enough to let me walk in and snap some photos).  Both are also next to historic music club First Avenue, which was the setting for Prince's "Purple Rain."
    • The statues outside of Target Field are Kirby Puckett (my childhood favorite ballplayer) and Rod Carew (for you Angels' fans). 
    • As you'll see in one shot, the entire city is connected by elevated, covered walkways, so pedestrians do not have to brave the cold when the weather gets frightful.
    • Here's a look at a day in the land of 10,000 lakes...

    Morning Videos

    Kind of a gray day here in Minneapolis, so let's stay inside and watch a couple of movies. was on campus this week.  Yesterday, we showed you a teaser of the Matt Barkley feature.  Here is the full length interview.

    Also, they checked in with Ed Orgeron about recruiting...

    Minnesota Friday Schedule

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    Good morning!  Here is the rundown of the day ahead...

    All times central

    9:30 a.m. - Wake-up Call and Breakfast

    10:30 a.m. - Special Teams Meeting

    11:00 a.m. - Offense/Defense Meetings

    12:15 p.m. - Lunch

    1:30 p.m. - Trojans Board Buses for Local High School

    2:00 p.m. - Walk-Thru

    2:30 p.m. - Head Back to the Hotel

    3:00 p.m. - Staff Meeting

    5:30 p.m. - Dinner

    7:00 p.m. - Special Teams Meeting

    7:30 p.m. - Offense/Defense Meetings

    8:00 p.m. - Team Meeting

    8:15 p.m. - Snack and Treatment

    9:00 p.m. - Chapel and Mass

    10:00 p.m. - Bed Check

    Plenty more to come from here in Minneapolis...  Stay tuned!

    Project Trojan: The Beginning

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    Check out this great new episode of Project Trojan as SC TV takes a Hard Knocks look at the 2010 USC football season.

    In this installment, we go behind-the-scenes for the Hawaii opener, including great video of the Trojans splashing around the day after the game.

    On the field, we take a closer look at penalties "the p-word" featuring exclusive interviews with Kris O'Dowd, Malcolm Smith, James Cregg and Joe Barry. 

    If you want a true in-depth look at the 2010 season, Project Trojan is a must watch.

    It's all part of your SC TV subscription package on
    PT producer Rob McPherson hard at work with LB Malcolm Smith.

    Minnesota Thursday Practice: Notes

    | 1 Comment
    With a plane to catch in mere minutes, we don't have much time to talk.

    • Turnovers again flowed freely, which is a good sign for the defense.  Deflections and tips in the secondary led to picks, so look for the Trojans to be more active in that department.
    • Blake Ayles made one of the highlight catches of practice.  The talented tight end is still figuring out how to maximize his potential.  "You've got to come out and work hard and push yourself to get better," TE coach Keary Colbert said on Ayles fulfilling his promise.  "It's about taking advantage of the time you've got out there and making plays."
    • Jordan Cameron is still listed as limited, but he looks good to go for Saturday coming off two strong games.  "Being that this is his first significant time and action at playing tight end, he's done a good job of picking up the nuances and assignments," Colbert said of Cameron.  "He can only go one way at this position starting from where he started at."
    • The tight end unit has provided surprising production from a group that was not highlighted much coming into the season.  Starter Rhett Ellison had a TD catch against Hawaii and then Cameron followed suit versus Virginia.  "Overall, I appreciate their effort," Colbert said.  "They've been working their tails off and that's the main thing that we ask for.  They've done a tremendous job of playing hard and playing fast."

    Scouting Report: Minnesota

    | No Comments
    Round #3: Minnesota Golden Gophers

    2010 Record: 1-1 (W - Middle Tennessee St., L - South Dakota)

    2009 Record: 6-7 (3-5 in the Big Ten)

    Series History: 4-1-1 USC (Last meeting: 24-7 Trojans in 1980)

    Head Coach: Tim Brewster (4th year)

    Brewster was hired over Lane Kiffin in '07, but he went 1-11 in his first season.  The Gophers are 13-13 over the last two years, including two bowl appearances.

    Players to Watch: QB Adam Weber (Senior, Shoreview, MN); RB Duane Bennett (Junior, Fairview Heights, MN)

    Weber is the first three-time captain in the history of the Golden Gophers program.  The four-year starter enjoyed his best success as a freshman in 2007 (24 TD passes), but he's off to an extremely efficient start in 2010 (3 TD/0 INT).  His mobility has suffered over time (617 rush yards in '07, but -133 in '09).

    Bennett led the Golden Gophers in rushing last year (376 yards), but he's almost topped that through the first two games this season (291 yards).  He's currently sixth in the nation in rushing yards per game (145.5).

    Strength: Explosive Offense

    Taking advantage of a soft schedule, Minnesota's offense has racked up some pretty impressive numbers.  They rank 18th in the nation in rush offense (242.4 yards per game) and 29th overall in terms of total offense per contest (446.5).  Without the graduated Eric Decker, converted QB MarQueis Gray is their top receiver, but they get the big plays from Bennett, who already has four runs over 20 yards.

    Weakness: Pass Defense

    Matt Barkley, Ronald Johnson and the rest of the aerial attack have to be salivating at what Middle Tennessee St. and South Dakota were able to do to this Gophers defense.  Minnesota ranks 97th in the nation in pass defense and 88th in scoring defense allowing 29 points per game.

    Minnesota Verdict

    If USC does not show improvement, Minnesota will be another "flip-flop" game.  Unless the Trojans kill themselves with penalties and turnovers, they will put up numbers against the Gophers defense.

    However, if the defense from Hawaii shows up, we could witness another shootout. 

    Adam Weber has the second most career starts of any QB in the country (Houston's Case Keenum is #1), so he won't be intimidated by the Trojans and RB Duane Bennett will test the no-tackling in practice policy.

    Head coach Tim Brewster is on the hot seat.  Now that Minnesota has a new stadium, they expect to vault up the Big Ten into annual contention.  After a home loss to South Dakota, Brewster's bunch will be geared up for USC.

    The horseshoe shaped TCF Bank Stadium is their first on-campus venue since 1981.

    Arm Chair QB

    | No Comments
    Do you find yourself watching the game at home or at a bar screaming at the television about what the Trojans SHOULD have done?

    We've provided an outlet for your frustration.

    At halftime of the game against Minnesota, fans will be able to text in their suggestions about what adjustments the coaches should make in the second half.

    To participate, simply text USC to 51234 or sign up on

    This is your chance to tell the Trojan Family what needs to be done to secure another USC victory.


    Barkley Video and Papers

    | No Comments
    A few links and then a cool Matt Barkley interview...

    Minnesota Wednesday Practice: Notes

    Turnovers are the story of the night...

    • In case you missed it, click here to see a photo gallery of tonight's practice.
    • On the injury front, the names are the same.  Nick Perry and Armond Armstead are both listed as limited.  If I were to guess, Armstead will likely play against Minnesota, but Perry could be held out, so his ankle does not dog him for the whole season.  TE Jordan Cameron returned to action today.
    • The spirit at practice was as good as its been in a while.  The defense was particularly energetic in pursuit of turnovers.  They had a couple of pick sixes during 7-on-7.
    • USC has forced just one turnover this season.  How do they get more balls on the ground?  "Pressure on the quarterback number one, he's the guy that's always responsible for giving up the most amount of turnovers on offense," Lane Kiffin responded.  "We haven't been close to many turnovers."
    • Kiffin would like to see more tipped and loose balls, but it has not happened over the first two weeks.  "Once you start, they just start coming out," LB Michael Morgan said about opening up the turnover floodgates.  "It's really contagious."
    • With Perry and Armstead potentially hampered, the pass rush might need a boost.  Morgan spent much of last season rushing the quarterback, but he's been kept in the holster so far in 2010.  "I love the rush," Morgan said about getting after the QB.  "If they give me a call, I'll do it."
    • Morgan said the defense's goal is three turnovers per game, so they are five short of that mark so far.  Personally, he's looking to knock out one quarterback per game, so he's one out of two.
    • T.J. McDonald is responsible for the lone takeaway this season (a red zone interception against Virginia).  "We've got to be in the right positions at the right time," said McDonald about getting more picks.  "We've got to hustle to the ball and execute the details of our assignments."
    • I'll have the scouting report tomorrow, but Minnesota has been airing it out this season.  "Any school that throws the ball, we see that as an opportunity," McDonald said.
    • If the weather gets a little sloppy Saturday, it might help the turnover cause, but McDonald is not interested.  "I'm not so much a fan of that, but if I got to, I will."
    • The media has billed this weekend as a homecoming of sorts for Lane Kiffin, who went to high school in Minnesota for three years, but he had a funny line about that today, "Well I've got a lot of homes, we moved like 17 times.  Everywhere we play seems to be a home."
    • In all seriousness, Kiffin had nothing but kind words about the Trojans weekend destination.  "It's a really unique place from the aspect that it's off the charts friendly people and it's a great place to raise kids.  I've got nothing but good memories there."
    • Here's Kiffin's media session...

    Photo Gallery: Minnesota Wednesday Practice

    | No Comments
    Click here to see the entire photo gallery as the Trojans ramp up practice in preparation for the Gophers.


    13 Rounds

    | No Comments
    Lane Kiffin has focused on the same metaphor when it comes to each of USC's 13 opponents. 

    Each team represents a round in a 13 round heavyweight fight. 

    The objective is simple: 13 knockouts.

    As a reminder, this leaflet was on every entrance and exit at Heritage Hall today.

    Conference Check-Up

    | No Comments
    The Pac-10 came into the 2010 football season as an unknown. 

    Perennial top dog USC was under the cloud of sanctions with a new head coach, who inherited a 9-4 team after a decade of dominance.

    Oregon unseated the Trojans last year to earn a Rose Bowl berth, while Jim Harbaugh's Stanford was obviously a team on the rise.  After that, Oregon St. (Jacquizz Rodgers) and Washington (Jake Locker) had great players, but were they going to be great teams?

    The early returns have been excellent for the conference often regarded as a West Coast afterthought. 

    Coming into the season, the Pac-10 had just three teams ranked in the AP top 25 poll (#11 Oregon, #14 USC and #24 Oregon State).  Just two weeks in, the number has increased to five (#5 Oregon, #18 USC, #19 Stanford, #24 Arizona and #25 Oregon State) plus Cal is ranked #24 in the Coaches' Poll.

    USA Today's Jeff Sagarin ranks the conferences through a complex computer formula:

    1.) SEC - 79.75
    2.) Pac-10 - 78.46
    3.) Big 12 - 77.54
    4.) Big Ten - 76.30
    5.) ACC - 75.72
    6.) Big East - 71.64

    Scheduling and quarterbacks have made all the difference. 

    Pac-10 teams consistently challenge themselves in the non-league portion of their schedule, but they are winning some of those top games thanks to experience at the quarterback position.

    The conference boasts four of the top 12 QB rating leaders in the nation led by Cal's Kevin Riley (#3), Stanford's Andrew Luck (#7), Arizona's Nick Foles (#11) and USC's Matt Barkley (#12).

    This weekend, the battle for conference supremacy continues with a slate of headline games.

    #18 USC at Minnesota
    #8 Nebraska at Washington
    Arizona St. at #11 Wisconsin
    Louisville at #25 Oregon St.
    #9 Iowa at #24 Arizona
    #23 Houston at UCLA
    Wake Forest at #19 Stanford

    While the Trojans do not have a bowl game on the horizon this season, they can still win a Pac-10 title, which given the level of competition in 2010, would be a momentous achievement.

    Matt Barkley's 7 TDs without an INT is tied for tops in the nation with Cal's Kevin Riley.

    Heisman Trust Statement on Reggie Bush

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    Here is the official statement from the Heisman Trust:

    The Heisman Trophy Trust is a charitable entity whose mission is to ensure the continuation and integrity of the Heisman Trophy; to foster a sense of community responsibility; and to help service the disadvantaged and afflicted youth of our country. 

    The Trustees of the Trust have been monitoring the NCAA investigation of Reggie Bush and USC since first announced. We determined that no action was necessary by the Trust unless and until the NCAA acted and issued its report.  Since the issuance of the NCAA decision vacating USC's 2005 season and declaring Reggie Bush an ineligible athlete, the Trusteest1_heisman1208.jpg have met, discussed and reviewed all information underlying this decision in an effort to exercise the due diligence and due process required of any decision regarding the awarding of the 2005 Heisman Trophy.

    We are very appreciative of the respect Reggie Bush demonstrated for the Heisman Trust, the whole Heisman fraternity, and the continuing legacy of the Trophy in his public statement issued September 14, 2010. It was a difficult decision to return the Heisman Trophy and he exhibited great  character in acknowledging his mistakes and accepting the consequences.   We intend to explore further his offer to support jointly  "an educational program which will assist student athletes and their families" to avoid the pitfalls that plagued him during his college years as this is a part of our charitable mission as well.

    As a result of Reggie Bush's decision to forfeit his title as Heisman winner of 2005, the Trustees have determined that there will be no Heisman Trophy winner for the year 2005. 

    Morning Papers (9/15/10)

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    A wide range of opinions on Reggie Bush plus some other press clippings...

    Minnesota Tuesday Practice: Notes

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    Reggie Bush was on the media's mind, but the current USC players are trying to plug Gopher holes.

    • USC AD Pat Haden addressed the report that Reggie Bush is returning his Heisman.  "It was a very noble thing for Reggie to do.  In my opinion, he made the right decision.  It was a thoughtful decision by Reggie," Haden said on the Heritage Hall steps.  "It's never a good thing to give a Heisman back.  But at the end of the day, USC did the right thing when we gave our Heisman back and now Reggie did, too.  Reggie was a fantastic football player, one of the most exciting players ever.  But by his own admission today, he made some mistakes."
    • Kiffin on Bush: "I respect any decision that Reggie made. I'm sure it was extremely hard for him."
    • On the injury front, DL Armond Armstead was surprisingly listed as "limited."  Lane Kiffin does not list specific injuries, so we can only guess what is wrong.  Not surprisingly, DE Nick Perry (ankle) and TE Jordan Cameron joined him on the sidelines.   Cameron was banged up making that acrobatic recovery on the on-side kick.  LB Marquis Simmons returned to full practice after a month out following an appendectomy.
    • Without Armstead and Perry, Ed Orgeron is forced to dig deeper into his defensive line pool.  True freshman Christian Thomas and little used Kevin Greene are getting pushed up the depth chart in their stead.
    • Coach O should be listed on the injury report as well.  He needed crutches to get around practice after breaking his foot last week.  If you have the patience to get through tonight's media session, Kiffin tells a great Orgeron story near the end.  Coach O refused to walk up the tunnel Saturday night.  He RAN up on a broken foot!
    • The offensive line went back to work today after a rough outing on Saturday.  "I'm just upset that we were not as productive as we could have been," LT Matt Kalil said after practice.  "We're fixing it and we'll get rolling."
    • Kiffin pinpointed the first quarter as the real problem period for the offensive line.  Kalil attributed that to "jitters" not being flat.  "In Hawaii, we were a little more relaxed.  I'm more nervous when I'm in the Coli, I just want to play so well," Kalil admitted.
    • While Marc Tyler is still the leading rusher in the Pac-10, the running game was slowed on Saturday.  "They were hitting the holes hard," FB Stanley Havili said of his running backs.  "Obviously in Hawaii, we had holes that were as big as trucks."
    • Lane Kiffin admitted that he has tried to preserve Havili since they do not have a recognized back-up and he's such a valuable weapon.  "Every player on this team would like more touches, but there's nothing I can do about it," Havili said on how little he has been used.  "Whenever the ball comes my way, just make plays and the biggest thing is to make plays when the ball is not in your hands."
    • Monte Kiffin held court for reporters tonight.  The venerable defensive guru was asked about having to tailor his defense to the college game.  "It's called the option!" Kiffin said of the biggest change.  "You don't see too many quarterbacks running like that in the NFL, except for Michael Vick."  Jake Locker will be awaiting the Trojans defense at their next home game.
    • The audio on Lane Kiffin's media session is low for the first four minutes, but it gets better.  It was a turf war out there today as the TV cameras wanted their Bush story.

    White House Scrapbook

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    The USC men's and women's water polo and men's tennis teams were in Washington D.C. yesterday to get saluted by President Barack Obama for winning an NCAA championship.

    While they were barely in town for 24 hours, the student-athletes took a sightseeing duck tour of the nation's capital.

    After getting cleaned up and putting on their championship attire, USC headed down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.

    three teams.jpgPresident Obama delivered a speech to the gathered champions of which USC was the most represented with three title teams.

    The Trojans got up close and personal with President Obama.

    handshake wp.jpgThe experience meant a lot to water polo star Matt Sagehorn.

    Click here for a full photo gallery and here for water polo coach Jovan Vavic's recap of the day.

    STUDENT-Athlete of the Week: Zara Lukens

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    Each week, we shift the student-athlete emphasis to the left side of the hyphen and I have a conversation with a Trojan scholar athlete.
    Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Zara.jpg
    Name: Zara Lukens

    Sport: Cross Country

    Class: Senior

    Major: International Relations and Neuroscience (Minor in Spanish)

    GPA: 3.95

    Jordan Moore (JM):  You're from Portland, Oregon, which has become the cradle of American runners.  Does Nike put something in the water up there?
    Zara Lukens (ZL):
    Maybe, but I think it's more about the easy access to really attractive running footwear.  It doesn't get more inspirational than that.  And it probably also has something to do with the weather.  You really need the endorphins when it's overcast nine months of the year.

    JM: Speaking of water, you're applying for 4 different post-graduate scholarships to pursue your interests in water policy and management.  At the crux of the matter is a debate between water as a human right or an economic good, which side do you come down on?

    Definitely the water as a human right side.  I'm still idealistic enough to think that water, the substance most crucial to life, should be accessible to everyone (and I really hope I always will be!).  

    If you get all 4 scholarships (Rhodes, Mitchell, Marshall and Fulbright), which one do you accept or is that a secret?

    I don't know if it's wise to disclose that information... What if the national committees read 

    JM: Good point.  The Rhodes Scholarship definitely "Likes" us on Facebook. 
    Pat Haden is arhodes.jpg Rhodes Scholar.  Has he written you a recommendation?  You should at least find out where the best pubs are.

    ZL: Haha!  I did talk to him about it, but not about the pubs.  He offered to read my personal statement, which was really nice of him.

    Three of the scholarships would take you to the UK or Ireland, but the Fulbright would give you an opportunity to do research in Uruguay.  Is that where the minor in Spanish comes in?

    ZL: I've always been interested in the Spanish language and Latin American culture.  I've known I want to live in Latin America for a long time, and getting paid to conduct my own research would be amazing.  More broadly, Latin America is the US's often neglected Western hemisphere neighbor, and I'd love to help improve understanding and our diplomatic relations.

    JM: With all that knowledge, do you think about all kinds of things while you're running or can you shut it off?

    I mostly think about running when I'm running, which is one reason I like it so much.  The nerves and adrenaline that come with running overpower anything else I might be stressed out about.

    As an Oregon runner, I assume you are well versed on Steve Prefontaine.  Did you like the Jared Leto or Billy Crudup movie version better?
    I must admit I have only seen Without Limits, but I thought Billy Crudup did a pretty mean Pre.

    JM: Do you think you'll always be a runner even if you stop competing?

    Oh totally.  I want to do marathons and half marathons after I graduate.  I think I'll be one of those 90-year-old ladies trying to get an age group record (or maybe just trying to finish).  I don't think I could live without running.

    How has cross country helped you in your life?

    Cross country has really taught me a lot about perseverance.  School has always come fairly naturally to me, but I'm not nearly as talented on the track.  It takes a lot more guts to stick with something you're not the best at than to keep going when you know you'll be successful.

    JM: Do you have any cool running pics that I can add to this post?

    ZL: Here's the best one I could find... I don't have too many because I'm usually running so fast it's hard to photograph. :)


    Photos: Haden/McKay vs. Women's Tennis

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    USC AD Pat Haden and senior associate athletic director J.K. McKay challenged the USC women's tennis doubles team of Alison Ramos and Valeria Pulido to a match yesterday at Marks Stadium.

    In the interest of pride (and my job security), I will not reveal the official score, but you can get the general idea by the girls constant laughter and McKay staring at his racquet in disbelief.

    Here are some photos by Samantha Tulin...

    Morning Notes (9/14/10)

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    We've got a wide assortment of Trojan activities for you this morning.

    • The Flashback: Virginia is up and posted on SC TV.  It's a 5-minute highlight package of the game with locker room reaction, behind-the-scenes footage and live radio calls.
    • The Davey O'Brien Award, given to the nation's top quarterback, has a weekly online fan vote, so you can throw your support behind Matt Barkley, who has an impressive 7 TD to 0 INT ratio this season.
    • In case you missed it yesterday, you can download a USC themed Web browser for FREE!
    • Projans: On Monday Night Football, Mark Sanchez struggled and Joe McKnight was inactive for the Jets, but Matt Cassel led Kansas City to an upset win over the Chargers.
    • TrojanWire won our initial Coliseum Press Box contest.  We're choosing a different blog or fan site for each of the first five home games, so email me if you have not already applied. 
    • I'd like to do another mailbag this week to answer reader questions about the state of the football team and anything else going on in the Trojan universe.  Please use the "email Jordan Moore" button on the right side of the page to send your questions. 
    • Check out what former USC QB Todd Marinovich is up to.  He's painting!  The acrylic painting below is entitled "Victory" and is on sale for $150.


    Lane Kiffin Minnesota Press Conference

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    As you know by now, Lane Kiffin sits down with me every Monday to break down the previous week's game and look ahead at the upcoming opponent.

    We provide this video to the media, which is why I'm off camera, so it's a "clean feed."  We have also solved the audio issues from last week.

    Here's the coach breaking it down...

    Compliance Corner: Contacting Student-Athletes

    In the spirit of compliance, our department wants to better educate the boosters, supporters and fans as to what activities are allowed and what should be avoided.

    This week, the compliance office breaks down the rules regarding contact with currently enrolled student-athletes.

    Trojan fans, boosters and supporters of USC may not a provide a student-athlete any benefit or special arrangement that would not be offered to the rest of the student population.

    Such a benefit may cause a student-athlete to lose his or her eligibility.  Such benefits include but are not limited to:

    • Use of the name, picture or appearance of an enrolled student-athlete to advertise, recommend or promote a commercial product or service of any kind.
    • Provision of awards or gifts to a student-athlete.
    • Use of your telephone to make free calls, or use of a free or discounted automobile, housing or a service of any kind.
    • Entertainment of student-athletes and/or their friends and family.  However, if you live within a 30-mile radius of USC's main campus, you may invite an enrolled student-athlete (but not their family or friends) to your home for an occasional home cooked meal, but you may not take a student-athlete to a restaurant.  Any contact or planned activity with an enrolled student-athlete should be cleared by the Office of Athletic Compliance prior to the occurrence of the activity.

    We know that Trojan fans are the most dedicated and supportive in the country so please if you have any questions about NCAA rules, contact the Compliance Office at any time by calling (213) 740-3832 or emailing

    Projans: NFL Week 1

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    Each Monday, we'll hand out awards to the best Trojan performances from Sunday.

    Heisman Worthy

    Mike Williams, WR, Seahawks - 4 receptions for 64 yards

    While other USC alums put up bigger stats, Williams wins the week 1 award for perseverance.  Under Pete Carroll, he appears destined to return to former glory.


    Clay Matthews, LB, Packers - 2 sacks (NFL leading), 7 tackles (team leading)

    Pete Carroll, Head Coach, Seahawks - 31-6 rout of the 49ers to get his first win

    Terrell Thomas, CB, Giants - 1 INT, 4 passes defended and 4 tackles

    Keith Rivers, LB, Bengals - 7 tackles (team leading) and 1 pass defended

    Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals - 34/50 for 345 yards passing and 2 TDs

    Troy Polamalu, DB, Steelers - 1 INT, 1 pass defended and 3 tackles

    Monday Night Football

    After starring roles on Hard Knocks, Mark Sanchez and Joe McKnight are taking their show to basic cable against the Baltimore Ravens.

    In a season-opening doubleheader, Matt Cassel will quarterback the Kansas City Chiefs against the San Diego Chargers.
    "Big Mike" is finally coming to life.

    Trojans 360: Ali Khosroshahin (Part 2)

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    USC had an undefeated weekend led by the women's soccer squad, which won the Trojan Invitational by taking out Auburn in overtime and Northern Arizona.

    As we dig deeper into the man behind the soccer program, click here for part two of Trojans 360: Ali Khosroshahin.

    In this episode, we cover his expectations for the Women of Troy this season, his thoughts on adding a men's soccer program and his take on the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

    This is subscription content exclusive to SC TV.  If you want the most comprehensive coverage on your Trojans, subscribe to today!

    Here is Coach K after the big Auburn win...

    Lane Kiffin Virginia Call

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    USC head coach Lane Kiffin put a bow on the Virginia win during a Sunday conference call with the media.

    Click the link below for all the questions and answers...



    USC Champs D.C. Bound

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    On Monday and Tuesday, we'll cover the Trojan champions trip to the White House. 

    Here is the official release by assistant sports information director Darcy Couch:

    The White House will get a splash of cardinal and gold on Monday (Sept. 13) when three USC teams join a group of other NCAA champions invited by President Barack Obama for a ceremony honoring the 2009-10 national championship teams.
    Last year, the Trojans led the nation with three teams winning NCAA titles - men's water polo, women's water polo and men's tennis. Those teams will travel to Washington, D.C., to attend the reception, which will include congratulations and remarks from President Obama at 5:45 p.m. ET.
    In 2009-10, the storied USC water polo program saw head coach Jovan Vavic pull a championship sweep, with the Trojan men winning the 2009 NCAA crown and the Women of Troy claiming the 2010 NCAA title. It was the second straight national championship for the USC men - a first for USC water polo - and the women's victory marked the third time in program history that the USC men and women have won championships in the same calendar year.
    On the tennis courts, head coach Peter Smith saw his Trojans serve up similar results. The Trojans also successfully defended their previous NCAA crown, claiming back-to-back national championships with a victorious run in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
    Included among the three Trojan teams are 18 All-Americans, three national players of the year, and national coach of the year honors going to both Vavic and Smith.
    The last USC teams invited to the White House for an NCAA ceremony were women's golf and women's soccer following their respective national championships in 2007-08.
    President Obama is continuing a tradition begun by President George W. Bush to honor NCAA championship teams at the White House. President Obama plans to acknowledge the teams and student-athletes for their championship accomplishments as well as efforts in the classroom and in the community.

    Photo Gallery: USC vs. UVA

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    In case you missed them, here are the pregame shots from photographer Jon SooHoo.

    And, here's a look at all the game action through Jon's lens...

    USC 17, Virginia 14

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    10 observations and our players of the game...

    • Lane Kiffin called this a "flip-flop" game.  The defense flipped the script after being shredded against Hawaii, while the offense flopped due to an excessive number of penalties.  Penalties and discipline are the buzz words to take out of this one.  The Trojans committed 13 penalties for 140 yards, including holding penalties that called back a touchdown and a 4th down conversion.  Plus, Rhett Ellison was ejected in the dying seconds.  "We have to keep our composure in tough situations," captain Malcolm Smith said of his message to the team.  "We have to make sure we practice with a discipline nature and things will handle themselves."
    • Nickell Robey was one of many bright spots in the secondary, which improved dramatically from week one.  While the freshman wore out against the Warriors, he rose to the energy of the home crowd tonight.  All week, the coaches emphasized getting turned on deep balls and forcing the receiver to the boundary on fades, which Robey executed on two different sideline routes.
    • The defensive line lost Nick Perry again (no real update, but he was on crutches after the game with what appeared to be a similar injury to his high ankle sprain in camp), but they got a boost from DT DaJohn Harris, who picked up a confidence building sack.  "I had a bad game (against Hawaii), jumped offsides twice, but I just wanted to come back and prove to the coaching staff that I can play and that I am 'a guy.'"
    • Punter Jake Harfman would have to be a dark horse candidate for game MVP honors.  He punted seven times at a 42.7 yard average plus a great pooch kick inside the five.  He also does a pretty decent David Buehler impression on kickoffs.
    • Matt Barkley concentrated on his diet and fitness in the offseason and it paid off tonight.  His increased mobility took center stage on the TD drive going into halftime.  He scrambled for 20 yards (plus 15 on the penalty) and bought time before hitting Brandon Carswell for the score.  "I feel great," Barkley said.  "Who knows if I would have been able to make those plays last year?"
    • Speaking of Brandon Carswell, he seems to be moving up in the pecking order to the #4 or #5 receiver.  "It feels good," Carswell said in the locker room.  "I've been hurt almost the whole time I've been here.  Just a broken play, found the open spot and I got the touchdown."  Carswell's rise could spell a redshirt season for Markeith Ambles, but the coaches don't have to make that decision for another couple games.
    • The offense caught fire in the two-minute drill for the second straight week, which could lead to a no-huddle package going forward, but Lane Kiffin is wary of losing balance in his offense.  He recognizes that Barkley excels in that scenario, but he regards it as dangerous to throw upwards of 40 times per game.
    • The offensive line had a rough night after a dominant opener against Hawaii.  They were at the center of the penalty problem, the lone turnover on a strip sack and the rushing mediocrity (3.8 yards per carry).  "I guess it didn't go quite how we thought it was going to go, but we're going to get back to our X's and O's and grind it out on the field this week," OG Butch Lewis said.  Lewis was impressed with Virginia's stout front four.
    • For the second straight week, USC struggled with speedy running backs.  While they did fairly well to bottle up power runner Keith Payne, 5'8" Perry Jones averaged 5.5 yards per carry.  With Jacquizz Rodgers and LaMichael James on the schedule, they'll need to solve that problem.  "A couple of times we just got out of whack and lost our assignments," Smith explained on losing outside contain.
    • As many of you may feel frustrated with the first two performances, you can take solace that the players are about as disappointed as a 2-0 team can be.  Lane Kiffin called it the most disappointing win of his head coaching career.  "The disappointment mostly is for the Trojan Family, the Trojan fans, I know how excited they were," Kiffin said about the atmosphere.  "The crowd was great and we disappointed them.  Even at half as they were hanging around, if we had just blown it open, it would've been like the old days.  I think that's probably the biggest disappointment."
    • Matt Barkley (7 TDs to 0 INTs this season) and T.J. McDonald (red zone interception) were our players of the game.  Click here to watch their press conference plus Lane Kiffin's media session.



    USC vs. Virginia Live Chat

    | No Comments blog contributors Farren Benjamin and Ben Weiss bring you the sights and sounds from the Coliseum during the Trojans' matchup against the University of Virginia.

    Calm before the storm

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    The team is walking down the peristyle as this post is being scribed. Here's a picture of the presently vacant locker room, taken by Jonathan Brebner.

    photo (1).JPG
    Nothing quite like a fresh set of threads for the home opener.

    Friday Night and Jock Rally Videos

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    The Friday night video is up and posted on and Facebook.  This is the same video the team watched last night to get fired up for today's game.

    Plus, take a look at the Jock Rally dance party from yesterday as shot by Rob McPherson and produced by Ben Weiss...

    Jock Rally: Virginia

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    The football team, band, Song Girls and supporters crammed into Heritage Hall for the "Jock Rally" on the eve of the home opener against Virginia.

    As tradition goes, one coach and one player climb the ladder to get the crowd fired up.  Plus, one senior leads the band in "Conquest" to close the festivities.

    Tonight, senior WR Ronald Johnson jacked up the gathered masses and struck up the band, while offensive line coach James Cregg let out a scream that shook the trophy cases.

    Here's a look:

    2010 Game #2: Virginia at USC

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    Here are the keys to a successful Saturday at the Coliseum:

    1.) Secondary is Primary

    Hawaii spread the Trojans out and poked holes in a young nickel package to the tune of 459 yards passing in the opener.  While Virginia features a more traditional pro-style attack, the Cavaliers got career days out of their top two receivers against Richmond.  USC's pass defense gets a boost with the return of CB T.J. Bryant and pass rushing specialist Nick Perry.  More than anything though, USC has talented players that will likely be more settled in their second game.

    2.) The Dillon Effect

    Marc Tyler was exceptional against the Warriors and he remains the starting tailback, but Dillon Baxter is capable of things that no other USC runner can mimic.  While he might open some eyes by opening up defenses, Lane Kiffin wants the freshman to focus on protecting the ball.  If he comes through tomorrow with a solid performance, the "Dillon package" will likely increase as the year progresses.

    3.) The Long Armstead of the Law

    Armond Armstead was moved back inside this week to wall off the running game in tandem with Jurrell Casey.  Lost in all the pass defense struggles, Hawaii's running backs accounted for 127 ground yards on only 15 carries.  Virginia's Keith Payne will hope to wear down the defensive front and control the clock.  If Armstead and Casey can push him backwards, UVa won't last long in obvious passing situations. 

    4.) RoJo Rerun

    Ronald Johnson was Heisman-good in his 4 TD opener including a signature punt return.  Tomorrow, he'll likely matchup with Thorpe Award candidate Ras-I Dowling on the outside.  Dowling is trying to overcome a hamstring injury, so look for Kiffin to stretch him out at some point by sending RoJo long.

    5.)  Get Kick Started

    Jake Harfman punted just twice in game one, while Joe Houston did not attempt a field goal.  Despite the offense scoring seven touchdowns, Houston actually only kicked three extra points.  Virginia is expected to be more sturdy defensively than Hawaii, so the "Bomb Squad" and the "Score Team" will likely get more opportunities.

    Houston was ready for Hawaii, but he was barely used.

    USC/UVA Game Day Schedule

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    The Trojans home opener kicks off in about 30 hours. 

    Tonight, USC will have a brief walk-through practice at 4:00 p.m. in shirts and shorts.

    At 4:45 p.m., the team, the band and the Song Girls convene in the lobby of Heritage Hall for a Trojan tradition, the "Jock Rally." 

    We'll document it for you with a photo gallery and an awesome new video. 

    The team departs for its downtown hotel at 5:30 p.m. at which point we say goodbye to the boys until the "Trojan Walk" at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.

    As Lane Kiffin said last week about his pregame routine for the team, "It's a little bit different approach.  It's a little bit tighter.  The last approach won 34 straight games and 7 straight conference championships, but you have to be yourself.  We'll be a little bit tighter with them and not quite as loose.  That's just how we'll approach it."

    Because of this, the game day coverage you'll get here on will also have "a little bit different approach" than what you might have been used to in years past.  Different in some ways, enhanced in other ways.

    For example, we know some of you liked the behind-the-scenes photos at the hotel, but we'll cut back on that for now with Coach Kiffin's "tighter" philosophy.

    However, we think you'll enjoy the enhanced game day experience you'll get from us.  For instance: 

    Los Angeles Dodgers and USC photographer Jon SooHoo will shoot behind-the-scenes pics and live action. 

    I'll get the pregame pictures loaded up on Facebook just after kickoff and then a gallery on the blog after the game.

    Blog contributor Ben Weiss will host a live chat on the blog during the game, so fans can interact with each other and Ben.  Plus, he'll post my sideline reports and photos in the chat. 

    Also, you can follow us on Twitter for up-to-the-second updates of all the happenings on the Trojans sideline.

    After the game, we'll be streaming Lane Kiffin's press conference LIVE on plus we'll have interviews, observations and more on the blog.

    If you have any suggestions of ways that we can improve your game day coverage experience, please email me and I'll let you know if it is feasible.   

    Here is the Trojans schedule tomorrow:

    8:00 am - Breakfast (open until 10:30)

    10:30 am - Position Meetings

    3:00 pm - Special Teams Meetings

    3:30 pm - Pre-game Meal

    5:10 pm - "Clap Session"

    5:20 pm - Buses Depart

    5:30 pm - "Trojan Walk"

    6:26 pm - Kickers, Snappers and Holders begin warm-ups

    7:30 pm - Trojans take the field

    7:35 pm - Kickoff


    Coliseum: Fresh Paint

    If you remember a few weeks ago, we posted pictures of the Coliseum floor covered in dirt ramps and jumps for the X Games.

    Now just hours from kickoff, she looks pristine and green with a fresh paint job and a new conference logo.



    Virginia Thursday Practice: Notes

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    USC went through their last practice in pads before the home opener against Virginia.

    • Here are tonight's practice photos shot by yours truly.
    • Lane Kiffin was underwhelmed by the team's energy level and attention to detail citing dropped passed and missed assignments.
    • Dillon Baxter will be in the spotlight Saturday night, but Kiffin has a real simple goal, "Dillon needs to take care of the ball."  If you watched Hard Knocks last night, you got an idea how seriously coaches take ball security.  As an excited freshman, Kiffin wants Baxter's focus on the little things.
    • On the injury front, CB Shareece Wright disputed my claim that the hard cast on his thumb would hamper his ability to intercept passes.  "I got my fingers still.  I don't need the thumb," Wright said after practice.  "It's just a thumb that is not going to move, so it's easier to catch."
    • If you missed the Virginia scouting report (scroll down), Ronald Johnson will have the opportunity to go one-on-one with top NFL prospect CB Ras-I Dowling.  "It's a great opportunity," Johnson said of going against Dowling.  "I know he's a great player."  RoJo changed his number in the offseason to the more NFL friendly #83, so he realizes the draft implications a matchup like this could have.
    • Johnson is one of the only current Trojans who contributed in the blowout win at Virginia in 2008.  "Good memories," Johnson recounted.  "My first touchdown, a deep one from Mark Sanchez and it felt great."
    • RoJo does not feel the pressure to back up his 4 TD performance at Hawaii.  "My thing is to go out and have fun.  No matter what happens, God be with me and just go out and have fun."
    • On the other side, freshman WR Robert Woods wants to improve on his stellar debut.  "Routes and just getting more physical," Woods said.  "I've got to make sure I get my blocks down and my routes have to be more fluid and quicker."
    • The rookie was not nervous against the Warriors, but he'll be playing in front of 14 friends and family at the Coliseum (not to mention about 90,000 fans).  "It's going to feel good.  This is where we grew up our whole life.  This is our NFL team.  It's going to feel like I'm playing at home again."
    • The Trojans will have a short, no pads practice Friday followed by the traditional "Jock Rally."  They'll depart for the hotel to make final preparations at 5:30 pm.

    Scouting Report: Virginia

    | No Comments
    Opponent #2: Virginia Cavaliers

    2010 Record: 1-0 (34-13 over Richmond)

    2009 Record: 3-9 (2-6 in the ACC)

    Series History: 1-0 USC (Only meeting: 52-7 Trojans in 2008)

    Head Coach: Mike London (1st season)

    London was the head coach at Richmond the past two seasons, but he promptly dispatched the Spiders in his first game as the Cavs head man.  He was UVa's defensive coordinator before taking the Richmond job.

    Players to Watch: RB Keith Payne (Senior, Herndon, VA); CB Ras-I Dowling (Senior, Chesapeake, VA)

    Payne is a bruising 255 pound 23-year-old back, who returned from a year off to run for a career-high 114 yards and a UVa modern record-tying 4 TDs in the opener.  He'll test the Trojans tackling ability.

    Dowling is one of the top corner prospects in the nation.  The preseason Thorpe Award candidate missed the Richmond game with a slight hamstring pull, but he's unlikely to sit out a primetime matchup with Ronald Johnson.

    Strength: Balanced Offense

    While Richmond is not USC, the Cavs were efficient and effective in all aspects of their offense in game one.  QB Marc Verica was 24/35 for 283 yards and 1 TD.  He'll primarily aim for receivers Kris Burd and Dontrelle Inman, who are coming off career games.  And of course, Payne brings the power from the backfield.

    London plans to use that balanced attack to control the time of possession against the Trojans.  "USC is a team that plays fast and tries to capitalize on the things that you don't do.  So, we need to make sure that we keep the clock running with the running game, with short passes that are caught, keep the clock moving, keep the chains moving."

    Weakness: All Talent, No Results

    Virginia has won just 22 games in the last four seasons, an average of 5.5 wins per year.  Yet, they continue to produce top NFL draft picks like OL D'Brickashaw Ferguson (#4 overall in '06), DE Chris Long (#2 overall in in '08) and OL Branden Albert (#15 overall in '08).

    While they look better on paper than Hawaii, their traditional pro-style offense plays into the hands of what USC does best.

    London on USC: "When you look at the game, you see athleticism - from everybody.  Even the water boy is athletic and fast."

    Virginia Verdict

    If you can believe it, this is Virginia's first ever football game in the state of California.  More importantly, they'll be kicking off at 10:30 pm body time, so they'll be fighting weary legs if they don't manage the trip well.

    Schematically, Virginia is far more traditional than Hawaii, which will give the Trojans a chance to work against similar formations that they do in practice. 

    They were +2 in the turnover battle against Richmond, including a clean game from the Cavs offense, so they'll need to capitalize on Trojan mistakes and then work the clock with their power running back if they are going to pull off a Coliseum upset.

    With a balanced offense and a defensive-minded head coach, Virginia could win some ACC games this season, but they'll likely be out of their depth Saturday.

    Ronald Johnson caught a memorable TD pass from Mark Sanchez vs. Virginia in 2008.

    Glossary of "Baxterisms"

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    As we covered in the story about USC-G, special teams coach John Baxter is the master of the metaphor.

    He teaches fundamental concepts by opening up his players' imaginations.  

    As you prepare to cheer on the 2010 Trojans and their new emphasis on special teams, here are some new terms that you can get creative with.

    "Sharks" - Punt Block/Punt Return

    When you see the players put their hands on their helmet to signify a fin, you know the sharks smell blood in the water.  Feel free to do it with them.

    "The Bomb" - Punt Returner

    Baxter: "If you're not explosive, you're not back there."

    "Bomb Squad" - Punt Team

    They are "messing with explosives."

    "Strikeforce" - Kickoff Coverage

    They are "the tip of the spear."  The other team is just "bowling pins.  If you're going down, pick up a spare."

    "Convoy" - Kickoff Return

    Baxter quotes the dictionary definition, "Any group traveling together to ensure the safe delivery of a load."

    "U-Haul" - Kick Returner

    Baxter: "If you can't haul the load, you are not back there."

    "Score Team" - Field Goal and Extra Point

    Baxter: "All they do is score.  Every down they play for points."

    "Regulators" - Field Goal Block

    Baxter: "The ball has to pass through us before it passes through the uprights."

    Our FlipsIt crew checked in with the players to get their favorite "Baxterisms"...

    Morning Notes (9/9/10)

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    If you want minute-by-minute links, videos and photos, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

    Two things today...

    1.) As we posted on Twitter yesterday, former USC basketball phenom Harold "Baby Jordan" Miner has finally broken his media silence.  Miner gave Yahoo! the story to dispel the rumors about being a recluse and other crazy myths.

    2.) As we countdown to Coliseum kickoff, we are releasing the last two Coliseum intro videos on Facebook today and tomorrow.  This year, the team will come out to a new song.  Can you guess what it is?

    Virginia Wednesday Practice: Notes

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    The tempo was high and the kids were energetic as they draw closer to the home opener.

    • No new injury news, but Shareece Wright is sporting a hard cast on his thumb.  He's playing through the injury, but it will obviously inhibit his ability to intercept the ball.
    • Armond Armstead continued to play defensive tackle alongside Jurrell Casey.  While Armstead worked almost exclusively at end during camp, he's fine with the move.  "I like the move," Armstead said after practice tonight.  "The coaches felt like it was the best decision, so I'm going with it."
    • Armstead is already at 295 pounds, which is big for a defensive end, so he won't have to gain weight for the position switch.  "The techniques are not that different.  You just have to change your mentality when you are playing inside."
    • Armstead and Casey played side-by-side at the tackle spots as freshmen, so they are excited to reconnect and wreak some havoc.  "Having him inside and having our four best defensive linemen will be a great opportunity for everyone to get out there," Casey said referring to Armstead's move enabling Nick Perry and Wes Horton to play at the same time.
    • Casey and his line mates are focusing on staying in their rush lines this week, so the opposing quarterback cannot scramble with the same effectiveness that Hawaii's Bryant Moniz did. 
    • While Michael Morgan had the knockout blow against Hawaii, Casey lifted a defender off the ground to pave the way for Ronald Johnson's punt return for a TD.  "It was pretty nice.  I liked it," Casey said about the block.  Check it out on Flashback: Hawaii on SC TV if you missed it.
    • Nick Perry's health is paramount to the Trojans pass rush and Armstead making his move permanent.  Kiffin listed him as "limited" in practice, but Perry said, "I'm good."  Judging by practice reps, Perry will start unless he reaggravates the injury.
    • "I promise you that we're going to do better this week," Perry said about the defensive line.  LB Devon Kennard remarked that the defense is playing with a "chip on our shoulder."  Kiffin concurred that he expects a big week out of the defense.  Basically, everyone who has been around this team was surprised by the defense's performance in the first game, so I predict a resounding bounce back performance on Saturday.
    • T.J. Bryant is starting to work his way into the mix.  He is a fairly proven commodity in a defensive back pool that is mostly untested, so don't be surprised to see him win back the nickel corner position.
    • The defensive backs were being drilled on turning around against the deep ball, which was a huge problem against Hawaii.
    • Matt Barkley celebrated his 20th birthday today.  There was no formal announcement.  Kiffin said they have to win a lot more than just one game before they start prioritizing birthday parties.
    • Here's what else he said...

    Virginia Weekend

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    USC and Virginia are headed for a showdown doubleheader at Troy this weekend.

    On Friday night, the women's volleyball teams square off at the Galen Center as the #8 Trojans are trying to "white out" the Cavaliers. 

    Tickets are as low as $3 and the first 2,500 fans will get a free "White Out the Cavs" tee-shirt.  First serve is at 7 pm Friday night at Galen.

    On Saturday, September 11th, the Trojans and Cavs will clash helmets on the fabled Coliseum turf. 

    Before the 7:30 kickoff, USC will honor all fire, police and military in attendance by bringing down 75 uniformed officers for the national anthem.  During the "Star-Spangled Banner," we'll remember 9/11 through photos on the scoreboard and a video address from President C.L. Max Nikias and AD Pat Haden. 

    Remember, we're offering 2 for 1 tickets to all military personnel and their families as part of our "Joint Forces Day."

    At halftime, we're saluting USC's three NCAA championship teams from 2009-10 (men's and women's water polo and men's tennis). 

    In other weekend action, the USC women's soccer team has two home games at McAllister Field, Friday vs. Auburn at 3:30 and Sunday vs. Northern Arizona at 1:30.  Plus, the back-to-back national champion USC men's water polo team will defend McDonald's Swim Stadium against Long Beach State on Saturday at 3 pm followed by the alumni game.

    The Trojans are coming home to kickoff the fall season!


    Monday Morning Quarterback

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    "Monday Morning Quarterback" has returned for the 2010 season, so take advantage of this great opportunity to hear head coach Lane Kiffin break down the previous week's game and look ahead at the upcoming opponent.

    Those in attendance will review game film and share a Q&A with the coach.

    All fans are welcome!

    You can purchase a season pass for $375, which includes a buffet lunch and reserved seating in the Galen Center Kennedy Founders Room.

    We accept walk-ups for lunch and the program ($35 for athletic support group members with a valid membership card and $40 for all others) or just the program ($10 for athletic support group members with a valid membership card and $15 for all others).

    The first MMQB is Monday after the Virginia home opener on September 13th at 11:15 for the luncheon and 12:00 for the program.

    All the info...

    Dates: Sept. 13, 20, 27; Oct. 4, 11, 18; Nov. 1, 8, 15, 22, 29

    Time: Lunch at 11:15 and Program at 12:00

    Parking: Fee $8.00

    Parking Locations: PS2 (Behind the Radisson), PSX (Figueroa and McCarthy), PSD (Jefferson and Royal)

    Location: Galen Center Brian Kennedy Founders Room (Check-in entrance at the West doors facing Figueroa)
    Lane Kiffin will run the room this season.

    "The Flashback: Hawaii"

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    Did you miss any or all of the island opener against Hawaii?  Do you want to relive the Trojans first win in the Lane Kiffin era?

    Check out The Flashback: Hawaii to see an abridged version (all the best plays) of USC's week one win, including post-game interviews as the star players break down their big plays and behind-the-scenes footage.

    Click here to watch The Flashback: Hawaii!


    Lane Kiffin Virginia Press Conference

    With the holiday yesterday, Lane Kiffin's weekly press conference was pushed to Tuesday. 

    As I mentioned last week, the format has changed.  Basically, it's a one-on-one sit down between Kiffin and myself, which we make available to everyone.

    This week, Kiffin looked back at Hawaii and ahead to the home opener against Virginia.

    Virginia Tuesday Practice: Notes

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    The Trojans got back to work as they prepare for the home opener against Virginia.

    • USC did not tackle in practice today as Lane Kiffin is sticking with his health-first policy from Fall camp citing the short injury list as his best argument.  The Trojans will focus on tackling during individual drills, but they were already doing that.
    • Actually, USC got even healthier this week.  DE Nick Perry is back to full practice, which is a welcome boost to the pass rush.  CB T.J. Bryant is back to 100% as well, so he could start working his way up the depth chart. 
    • "During the time I had away, I remembered how much I love the game and I never want to lose that feeling," Bryant said after practice.  "You've got to give it your all every play because you never know when the opportunity to play is going to be taken away from you."  During last Thursday's game, Bryant put on his "coaching hat" and tried to instruct his young secondary teammates.
    • Kiffin has always made it clear that the depth chart is fluid, so it's no surprise the defense could be shaken up after a 36-point yield to Hawaii.  As of now, the biggest move could be switching Armond Armstead back to defensive tackle from defensive end, which would enable Wes Horton and Nick Perry to play at the same time.  They experimented with that front four during parts of today's practice.  Basically, Kiffin is trying to put his best four defensive linemen on the field at the same time.
    • Along with the return of some injured players, the Trojans reactivated RB Dillon Baxter, who could play a huge role Saturday.  According to Baxter, the punishment hit home.  "That's probably the worst thing I've been through football-wise, besides when I was 7 and my mom took my trophies away," Baxter described the feeling of watching his teammates play without him.  "That's probably the worst feeling I've had in football so far, not being able to be out there with my team and to work for this."
    • For the record, Baxter's trophies were taken away when he did poorly on a science test as a kid.  I'm not sure I even took science tests when I was that age, so I can't hold it against him.
    • Nickell Robey is still working with the first team.  The freshman took his lumps at times during the game last Thursday, but he learned a lot from the experience.  "Just keeping poised and replaying what you did in practice," Robey said.  "Although you're going to make mistakes here and there, you just have to keep going and playing hard."
    • "Special teams kind of got me a little bit," Robey said on Kiffin's remark that the staff wore him down.  "It was like a big difference [length of game from high school] and I was a little gassed at the end of the game." 
    • Jawanza Starling's one of the vocal leaders of the secondary and he's usually responsible for being the deepest man on the field.  "We were being lax in our back pedals and our coverage, not realizing that this is a different level from practice," Starling said regarding the issues giving up deep balls.  "Game time is go time.  I guess we got lax in our mental preparation and not getting back and staying on top of the deep balls."
    • As for tackling, "In practice we don't bring them to the ground, but it's not an excuse for not being in position to make the tackle and get our feet right, the fundamental things about tackling."
    • Since many of you have asked, you'll be pleased to know the Trojan Walk tradition will continue approximately two hours before kickoff.
    • Here is Lane Kiffin's post-practice presser...

    Official Football Policies

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    Below, you can find the official policies that USC has developed regarding access to the sideline at football games, to the football post-game locker room and to the football team charter. 

    These were developed so that USC remains in compliance with NCAA rules and the recent NCAA sanctions. 

    Also, see below for the official waiver that those who get access to the football sideline must complete.

    Football Field Sideline Policy.pdf

    Football Locker Room Access Policy.pdf

    Football Charter Travel Policy.pdf

    Sideline Waiver.pdf

    Final Football Practice Policy.pdf

    Lane Kiffin USC Football Weekly

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    Lane Kiffin USC Football Weekly premieres tonight on PRIME TICKET at 10:30 pm. 

    Every Tuesday throughout the football season, PRIME TICKET will step inside the athletic program - with an emphasis on football - to feature players, coaches, film sessions with Lane Kiffin and even the sounds of the previous game...for all of the former Trojan Rewind fans out there.

    Away from the field, the show will track down former Trojan athletes to highlight post-graduate successes and profile select student-athletes and their current athletic endeavors.

    Catch this and much more throughout the season, only on PRIME TICKET.

    Click the link below for a preview as Lane Kiffin breaks down the film with Lindsay Soto. 

    Morning Papers (9/7/10)

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    Let's check the web for some Hawaii fallout, Virginia prep and Trojans headed for a big Sunday...

    Alex Jupiter led USC to an island statement.

    Lane Kiffin Hawaii Call

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    Each week, USC head coach Lane Kiffin will dial up the media for a conference call to look back at the previous game and ahead at the next opponent.

    Click the link below to listen in!



    Photo Gallery: Trojan Baywatch

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    With their first win in the books, USC let loose in the lagoon.

    USC/Hawaii: Matt Barkley Interview

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    Matt Barkley pulled off an amazing feat last night.  Somehow, someway, he managed to stay under the radar, while tossing a school record tying 5 touchdown passes.

    Statistically, he was at his very best in a Trojan uniform going 18/23 for 257 yards.

    Here's what he had to say after the game...

    Morning Papers (Post-Hawaii)

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    Compiled by blog contributor Stephanie Graves

    Aloha! Here are some of top stories surrounding the Trojans' island victory last night:




    Photo Gallery: USC vs. Hawaii

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    The Ihilani internet matches the pace of life on the islands...SLOW!  So, I could only load a sampling of pictures (28) into the photo gallery.

    For all the pics from start to finish (119 in all), click here. 

    Otherwise, enjoy a look through a lens at USC vs. Hawaii...

    USC/Hawaii: Lane Kiffin Presser

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    USC 49, Hawaii 36

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    10 observations and an interview with our player of the game...

    • Lane Kiffin is 1-0 as USC's head coach.  However, he's neither happy nor satisfied.  Discipline was Kiffin's first priority upon arrival at Troy, so he was particularly disappointed with 11 penalties for 100 yards, including two personal fouls.
    • Marc Tyler is the tailback.  True to his word, Kiffin gave Tyler the opportunity to get into a rhythm and it paid dividends late.  With Hawaii pushing back, Tyler ripped off a 44-yard TD run to cap the scoring.  He finished with 17 carries for 154 yards.  Allen Bradford and C.J. Gable each had eight.
    • The Trojans have tricks up their sleeve.  With their unorthodox alignment, they saw two opportunities to go for two out of an extra point formation.  Mitch Mustain had a little too much adrenaline on the first ball, but he made up for it with a run.  "I'm glad I got in and finished the night off well," Mustain said.  "Redeem myself for that first two-point."
    • I won't be surprised if USC does some tackling in practice this week.  They made it through the game without any major injuries, but they struggled bringing players down in the open field.  With the amount of offensive talent left on the schedule, they'll need to get that fixed.  "Wrapping up, I think we need to do a better job of wrapping up," Shareece Wright said after the game.
    • The offense had the ball for 10 drives and scored seven touchdowns.  They were perfect in the red zone, which was a problem last season.  "We had them from the start," OL Kris O'Dowd said.  "We have a lot of improvement to do, but at the same time, I'm really happy with our preparation and how we played as an offensive line and an offensive unit."
    • Monte Kiffin and Ed Orgeron are two of the best defensive football coaches in America.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that USC gave up 588 yards, 36 points and allowed three different Hawaii receivers to get over 100 yards for the game. 
    • Without much pressure on the quarterback or tight coverage in the secondary, the Trojans were unable to force a turnover.  With Brandon Carswell's fumble, they were -1 for the game.  The best Trojan teams from the last decade were notoriously opportunistic, so I'm sure turnovers will be a talking point next week.
    • The offense struggled on 3rd down last year, but they were fantastic tonight.  While matching a school record five touchdowns, Barkley's efficiency was even more impressive.  He finished 18/23 for 257 yards, no interceptions and just one sack.  Plus, the offense was 9 of 12 converting 3rd downs.
    • Being game one, the coaching staff had no good tape on Hawaii, so the newly installed pistol offense caught them off guard.  They were working off last year's offensive scheme, which was different.
    • Ronald Johnson has been consistently dominant since the new staff's arrival.  He was so good in Spring ball and Fall camp that we almost took it for granted.  Tonight, he could not be ignored.  He caught three touchdowns, returned one and grabbed a two-pointer, so he accounted for 26 points.  Let's here from the star of the game...

    Tweets from Hawaii

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    Jordan Moore's tweets compiled by blog contributors Stephanie Graves and Ben Weiss on the mainland.

    Hawaii 2.jpg

    The view from outside Aloha Stadium, with obligatory rainbow

    Hawaii 1.jpg

    Pre-game view from the field level of Aloha Stadium

    3 hours, 30 minutes before kickoff: I'll be providing periodic updates from the USC sideline. It's about that time...

    2 hours, 30 minutes before kickoff: Trojans en route to Aloha Stadium. 

    "Police Escort" would be a good nickname for a fullback. They sure know how to a clear a path.

    2 hours before kickoff: Pullin into the stadium. Trojans fans are representing. 

    1 hour, 45 minutes before kickoff: Trojans getting taped, dressed and focused inside the locker room. Alotta headphones...

    45 minutes before kickoff: USC's captains have a "C" on their jersey to signify their leadership role. That's new to Kiffin era.

    20 minutes before kickoff: The horn sounds a final Trojan retreat before the return from the locker room with bad intentions

    10 minutes before kickoff: Former American Idol contestant singing American and Hawaiian anthems

    2 minutes before kickoff: Game on. Now, the tip of the spear...

    1st Quarter 

    HAWAII 3.jpg

    Baxter's Strikeforce

    13:07: On 3rd down, "Sharks up." Team in unison, "Sharks." And the fins go up...

    10:07: Can't manufacture adrenaline. I cannot tell you how many times I've seen them execute that 2 point play to perfection.

    6:33: Check out 6'7" Matt Kalil on the field goal block team. He'll swat one away eventually.

    1:38: Two drives, two Matt Barkley TD passes. Also, true to his word, Kiffin has stuck with one primary ball carrier, Marc Tyler. 

    2nd Quarter

    7:27: Bend but don't break defensively so far. Expect more pass rush in the 2nd half when O-line wears down.

    1:06: Joe Houston has to be the happiest person in the stadium. Finally, an extra point! Great answer drive with J. Cameron showing up as a weapon


    • Just guessing, but pass defense particularly the pass rush will be a topic A at halftime.

    3rd Quarter

    8:05: CB Torin Harris headed to the locker room. Brian Baucham in the hot seat now.

    7:17: Now, Shareece Wright to the locker room, but another senior Ronald Johnson runs right by him on the way in.

    5:54: Daniel Harper has replaced Shareece Wright. Robey on the outside now.

    1:25: The trojans are digging deep into the defensive roster. 4th and 5th corners, 3rd string defensive end. The good news: Harris and Wright jog out of the locker room.

    Final: USC 49, Hawaii 36

    Thanks to all who followed tonight. Glad to go home with a win, and happy to see the Lane Kiffin era of USC offense back in full-force! Fight On!


    Hawaii: Final Preparations

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    The Trojans are in their final closed door meetings on campus before they fuel up with a pre-game meal and get taped and treated. 

    We'll have a ton of pics for you after the game as I'll shoot from start to finish, but here's a look at some final preparations.

    Plus, I'll be keeping you updated from the sidelines on the blog and Twitter and hopefully a few iPhone photos.

    2010 Game #1: USC at Hawaii

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    If the Trojans execute their gameplan, they will walk away comfortable winners, so let's focus on USC's keys instead of breaking down the match-ups.

    1.) Win the Physical Battle

    It's not a fair fight for the line of scrimmage.  With Butch Lewis and Khaled Holmes now healthy inside Tyron Smith and Matt Kalil surrounding Kris O'Dowd, USC can bully the Warriors up and down Aloha Stadium.  The current crop of Trojan runners are not dancers.  Marc Tyler and Allen Bradford will hit the whole paved for them and finish runs by lowering their shoulders.  If the Trojans stay with it, they can sap the Warriors will before the clock hits zeroes.

    2.) No More Gold Jerseys

    DE Armond Armstead and DT Jurrell Casey have spent most of camp bursting past blockers, but pulling up short of driving the quarterback into the turf because of course, no one gets to hit the golden boys.  Hawaii QB Bryant Moniz does not have that same luxury.  He'll likely drop back to pass between 30-50 times, so the Trojans will have ample opportunities to introduce themselves to his ribcage.

    3.) Nickell's Nickel

    Freshman CB Nickell Robey has opened eyes on Howard Jones/Brian Kennedy Fields, but as we know, there are not that many eyeballs watching practice anymore.  Robey will likely be locked up with senior WR Greg Salas, Hawaii's best weapon, throughout the game.  If the rookie can tame the veteran on ESPN, he won't be anonymous for long.

    4.) Barkley-to-Woods

    If you are looking for the identity of Lane Kiffin as an offensive play-caller, think back to his days as a USC wide receivers coach.  He takes great pride in the rapid development of Mike Williams, Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith, etc..  The Trojans have not had an impact freshman receiver since Kiffin left the program.  By listing him as a starter, Kiffin has shown the confidence that the Matt Barkley-Robert Woods combo will bear fruit for years to come.

    5.) Sharks in the Water

    Before the home opener, I'll give you a full list of John Baxterisms, so you're prepared to support the special teams properly.  Even on TV, you might notice the punt block team use their hand to make a fin on top of their helmet.  They are known as the "sharks" and the band will queue them with the Jaws theme song.  After all the preparation, a shark attack feels imminent.

    The local paper gives the QB edge to Hawaii's Moniz over Barkley. (sorry blackberry pic)


    Hawaii Gameday Schedule

    Here is the Trojans itinerary for their opening game of the 2010 season:

    (All times Hawaiian)

    8:00 am - 10:00 am - Breakfast

    10:15 am - 1:00 pm - Position and Special Teams Meetings

    1:00 pm - Pregame Meal

    2:20 pm - Clap Session

    2:30 pm - Buses Depart for Aloha Stadium

    4:00 pm - Warm-ups and Stretching Position-by-Position

    5:00 pm - Trojans Take the Field

    5:05 pm - Kickoff

    John Baxter's special teams unit will get the season started by acting as "the tip of the spear."

    Another Baxterism: "Be the Hammer" not the nail.

    Friday Night Video: Hawaii

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    Happy gameday Trojan family! 

    I know you've been counting down the days until kickoff, but just in case you need a little more juice, here is the video that the team watched last night to get fired up to beat the Warriors.

    Share it on Facebook with all your Trojan friends.

    Fight on!

    Smack Talk

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    San Francisco 49ers teammates Taylor Mays and Hawaii alum Isaac Sopoaga talk a little trash before their alma maters clash.

    USC FlipsIt: Hawaii Quiz

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    The USC FlipsIt duo prepared the Trojans for their trip to the islands with a Hawaiian terminology quiz.

    Let's see how they did...

    Hawaii Walk-Thru: Notes

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    The Trojans went through a 45 minute walk-thru at local Kapolei High School.

    • Spirits were as high as I've seen them.  While they still have to wait another 24 hours, the players are starting to taste it.  It has been a long offseason for this program and these kids, so you can understand why they are so excited to start making news on the field.
    • Plus, they really, really, really want to hit someone!
    • The 45 minutes was broken into even thirds starting with special teams then offense and then defense.  I can honestly say that I am excited to watch the Trojans play special teams.  With the amount of work they have put into it, they expect to be a dominant unit.
    • On the whole, the practice focused on specialty situations like on-side kicks, two-minute drills and Hail Marys.
    • USC was treated to an aerial show and it had nothing to do with Matt Barkley.  The high school is near Hickam Air Force Base, which also borders Pearl Harbor.  Quoting Top Gun lines is pretty much the extent of my military plane knowledge, but we saw a couple of old-school crafts take-off and some giant bombers fly over.  I'll post a picture or two in the photo gallery.
    • The players did not wear pads just crisp, new Nike shirts, shorts and shoes.
    • No new injury news to report.  Lane Kiffin seconded the disappointment about Hawaii-native Abe Markowitz having to undergo foot surgery in Los Angeles instead of traveling home with the team.
    • The Trojans have the afternoon off, but they have been instructed to rest, preferably out of the sun.  Hydration has been stressed, although it's not particularly hot (88 degrees) or humid (granted I'm from New Jersey, so my humidity ratings might be different than yours).
    • The weather is likely to be the same tomorrow (high of 86), but Aloha Stadium has some old school turf, which will steam up the playing surface.
    • The training table meals have a little Hawaiian flair (chicken teriyaki), but the players are loading up mostly on chicken, fish and pasta.  The new coaching staff has really cracked down on sweets and sodas.  Even on the team plane, the players were limited to juice and water.
    • Lane Kiffin gave us a minute back at the hotel, which is the same hotel the NFL Pro Bowlers used to stay in by the way.  The video is up for FREE on SC TV.
    • As I know you love your pictures, we'll have a photo gallery up every day that we are in Hawaii.  And remember, we hired Jon SooHoo, one of the best sports photographers in Los Angeles, to shoot every game except for this one.
    • Today's walk-thru shots were snapped by Rich Rodriguez.

    "Project Trojan: Leadership"

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    As you get fired up for Thursday's opener against Hawaii, check out a new webisode of Project Trojan on SC TV as we focus on how important leadership is to overcoming the adversity that has beset the program.

    In particular, seniors WR Ronald Johnson and CB Shareece Wright have helped to usher in the next generation of Trojans by mentoring their freshmen protegees WR Robert Woods and CB Nickell Robey. 

    From Johnson and Wright to Matt Barkley and Malcolm Smith, USC football has strong locker room voices to lead the 2010 campaign.

    Check out Project Trojan, a Hard Knocks look at USC football, and become an SC TV subscriber today!

    RoJo has taken the freshman receiving trio under his wing.

    Aloha Kakahiaka Means Good Morning

    As Lane Kiffin mentioned this week, his pregame routine for the players is "tighter" than Pete Carroll's.  The team has a business trip approach to this first game despite the beautiful tropical surroundings.

    The team arrived late last night and went immediately to their rooms after seeing the hammerhead shark in the lagoon and of course a snack, although I did see native Hawaiian Simione Vehikite reconnect with his family in the lobby after "a long time," he said.  He was excited to get some home cooking.

    We just awoke this morning to a perfect Oahu day, but the players have breakfast followed by a morning of team meetings. 

    They'll do a short walk-thru at a local high school, which we'll be there to cover and then back to the hotel to rest and hydrate.  They have no scheduled team activities planned like previous trips to the islands.

    At night, they have more meetings and an optional chapel or mass. 

    For minute-by-minute updates, you can follow @USC_Athletics on Twitter.  On the blog, we'll be posting a practice report with a photo gallery and I'll let you know if they get into any afternoon water activities.

    That's the plan from Hawaii!  The Trojans are of a singular mind, return home 1-0, no distractions.

    The hammerhead looks like it'd make for a great linebacker or maybe a fullback.

    The State of Troy

    Each month, I'll sit down with athletic director Pat Haden and get his thoughts on the hot topics at USC plus we'll take a look at what's on his agenda for the coming months and semesters.

    Haden's first day in Heritage Hall was August 3rd, so this month's questions are centered around his initial observations behind the new desk, his plans to emphasize the STUDENT in student-athlete and a personal message to the fans and athletic support group members.
    (Note: If you'd like to ask Pat Haden a question, please e-mail it to me and we'll choose the best one each month.)

    Q.) How have your first few weeks on the job been?  

    "It has been a whirlwind.  There is a lot for me to learn.  I have never been an athletic director before, although I am highly confident that I can do the job.  I am really blessed to have an experienced senior staff that has been here a long time.  They can help me navigate through the university and the athletic department.  It has been fun though.  It has been very energizing for me working at a school that I love."

    Q.) While you're new to the office, you grew up at USC, so it must be an exciting feeling to return to the athletic department that has brought you such joy?

    "I grew up going to USC football games with my father when I was seven or eight years old.  We used to buy season tickets for $20.  I went here.  I met my wife here.  My kids went here.  All my closest friends are still here.  I was on the board for 19 years.  I had 40 some odd meetings on the campus last year, but none of them in the athletic area.  While I have been around USC the last 30-40 years, I really have not been around the athletic department that much other than going to games.  It is a new day and a new experience and one that I am really loving thus far."

    Q.) What did you find in terms of the foundation that was built for you by previous AD Mike Garrett?

    "Mike Garrett did a phenomenal job in many ways.  We have got to build ongarrettx-large.jpg what he did.  He championed 23 national championship winning teams.  We have had great development in the non-revenue sports teams and we want to continue on that path.  And, he raised a lot of money.  We do not have to restart here.  We have to continue on with what Mike did and continue to improve."

    Q.) What are your immediate priorities as the new school year begins?

    "We have to comply with NCAA regulations.  We are under NCAA sanctions, so we are being extra careful in terms of compliance.  In the case that something is vague, we are erring on the side of 'over-compliance.'  We cannot have people on the sidelines or at practice.  For example, my sons are Cardinal and Gold members, so they are considered boosters, which means I cannot bring my sons to any events.  The first order of business is making sure that we are in absolute compliance with the NCAA's rules and regulations, but we want to do it without smothering the fun and excitement that kids are supposed to have playing sports.  That is the delicate balance."

    Q.) Thinking more long term, what are the goals that you have set for this office?

    "We would like to close the gap on academic achievement between student-athletes and the general student population.  We would like to get student-athletes involved in the university not just in the gyms, pools, tracks and fields.  There are a ton of opportunities percolating on this campus like "Visions and Voices," which has about 70 presentations per year.  I would love to see the student-athletes take advantage of that.  I want them to have a real robust college experience not just an athletic experience."

    Q.) You said that you wanted to pick a women's sport and get directly involved.  Which one did you choose?

    "I am going to haveDSC_0287.jpg women's tennis report directly to me.  It is not that I know anything about tennis, but I wanted to have a sport.  J.K. McKay is going to do men's and women's golf, so he has a sport to work with other than football."

    Q.) Also, you are a champion of the Title IX legislation.  How has it changed the college sporting landscape for women?

    "Title IX was the most important piece of legislation in athletic history.  It really leveled the playing field for women, who represent half of the population.  I have witnessed the direct result of Title IX not only on the fields, but opening up doors in business for women to run companies and win public offices.  The athletic experience has helped women in so many different ways."

    Q.) Are you considering adding an additional women's sport at USC?

    "I have not gotten there yet.  Right now, I am just trying to get a handle on the 19 sports that we have.  I inherited some discussion about that subject, but right now nothing is imminent."

    Q.) On the other side of your job, how are the plans coming along for the new football building?

    "Max Nikias has promised me that we are going to get under way with this shortly.  It is important to me and it is important to Max.  We have a president who is very supportive of the athletic department.  He understands the tradition of athletics here at USC.  Heritage Hall was built in 1972 and not much has been done to it.  We do not have the facilities, other than basketball and volleyball, that our student-athletes deserve."

    Q.) As the program rides the storm of sanctions, what kind of response would you like to see from the fans and support group members?

    "If you are really a USC fan, these are the times we need you the most.  We really do.  I get it.  I was one of those fans who liked to bring their kids to Salute to Troy, so they can meet the quarterback and get autographs.  You like to be on the sidelines, the locker room and to be in the know.  We cannot do that right now.  It was easier to raise money when we could do that for you and the football team was winning.  The football team is going to continue to win, but we cannot do those other things.  My message to the fans is that we need your support now more than ever.  While they cannot interact with the football team as much, they can with our other sports.  I hope to introduce them to some really cool athletes.  And I hope myself, personally, to do something with them in lieu of the football team."

    Q.) As an old school football player, what are your thoughts on Lane Kiffin contemplating 'iron man' football (playing both ways) in the next few years? 

    "I was not good enough to play on defense, but kids like that phenomenon.  They likepathaden_display_image.jpg that uniqueness.  I have actually seen that on the college football landscape and I would not be surprised to see Lane utilize that here."

    Q.) Here on the blog, we will recognize an outstanding scholar athlete each week.  How do you want to change the reputation of the student-athlete?

    "They are not mutually exclusive.  I hope to spend as much time and energy on the left side of the student-athlete hyphen as the right.  We have hundreds of athletes that are stars in the classroom and not just their sport.  We want to highlight those men and women who are doing exceptionally well in both areas.  We have world class athletes and world class students."

    Q.) Finally, it had to bring a smile to your face to see USC rocket up the national academic rankings to #23 ahead of UCLA?

    "We are excited about our ranking in the latest U.S. News and World Report.  The ascent that the university has had over the last decade or more has been staggering.  Former president Steve Sample did a terrific job of getting everybody moving in the right direction.  Max Nikias has a new found energy to keep the ascent going.  Surpassing our rivals makes it all the more sweet!"

    Note: If you would like to become an athletic support group member or want more information about giving to the department, please check out the development website on