Written by Sarah Bergstrom and Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributors
After a long week off, the Trojans returned to the field Monday night with their sights set on Las Vegas and a 10-win season.
- Announced yesterday, USC will face the Fresno State Bulldogs on December 21, and interim head coach Clay Helton is looking forward to his opportunity to lead the team in its final game of the season. "You'd love to be in the media guide one day as the coach that went 1-0," joked Helton. "It's an extreme honor. I want to thank Mr. Haden and Coach Sarkisian for giving us the honor to lead this team in the bowl game. We've been through a lot with these guys and to have the opportunity to finish off with them just speaks volumes of Mr. Haden and Coach Sarkisian," said Helton.
- Junior center Marcus Martin (knee) and junior guard Aundrey Walker (ankle) suffered season ending injuries against UCLA and will not play in the bowl game Coach Helton announced at practice today. According to the interim head coach, Walker's ankle surgery was very successful and he will be ready to go next season. Also, Marquis Simmons (elbow) is expected to be back in time for the bowl game.
- Though losing Martin and Walker is a tough blow for the Trojans, Helton is confident in the versatility of his offensive line, although depth does remain a concern. Nate Guertler will be moved back to offensive tackle after helping at tight end toward the end of the season. Abe Markowitz will move to center and John Martinez to right guard. Finally, Helton praised sophomore Max Tuerk for his ability to play any position. "Thank goodness we have a Max Tuerk on our team," he said."He's one of the few guys in the country that can play center, guard, and tackle and can do it very well. He's the emergency blanket at all positions."
- Despite being mild-mannered in interviews, Helton described his coaching style with a comparison to Jekyll and Hyde. "I'm a little bit different on the practice field than I am off the field. I like having a lot of energy on the field. I'm old and fat now. I wish I could still play the game but I can't, I just act like I can. I like having fun with the guys. I've got two weeks with them and we're going to have a blast," said the interim head coach.
- The team has gone through an emotional transition but quarterback Cody Kessler isn't worried about their focus. "This team has gone through so much but we came out here today and didn't miss a beat," said the quarterback. "We had the same tempo we've had the last eight or nine weeks. Everyone was loud, flying around, and competing. That's what we're about, that's what this school is about, and that's who these guys are. I'm excited to play this game and to have one more game with these guys."
- Senior running back Silas Redd is one of the Trojans who will play in their final game wearing Cardinal and Gold. When asked what the team is playing for, Redd said, "10 wins, pride, Coach O, each other. We have a lot of things to play for. Trust me, we're not going into this game without any goals or any motivation."
- The Trojans must come prepared as Fresno State boasts one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in Derek Carr. The senior has racked up 48 touchdowns to a mere seven interceptions on the season. Helton knows just how much of a threat Carr, and the rest of the Bulldog offense will be. "He's more than dangerous. He's the best quarterback in the country right now," explained Helton. "He does everything that you want a great quarterback to do: great decision making, great timing, and great accuracy. He has a group of wideouts that is one of the top receiving cores in the country. This is a very dangerous team offensively. Thank goodness we've got Clancy Pendergast and a bunch of good defensive players on this team who are looking forward to getting out there to compete."
- In just two weeks the Trojans will end a season unlike any other. As the year comes to a close, Kessler explained why this is a season he will never forget. "It's always hard when the year comes to an end but that's why we cherish these moments, these practices, and this unique group," said the quarterback. "Coach Helton said today that guys who have played here before have told him that this is their favorite team in the last 20 years. With everything we've gone through, I think the guys have responded great. We have a chance to win 10 games, which only a few teams in college football get to do. I think we've put ourselves in the right position."
- Here is Coach Helton's first post-practice presser. We apologize for the brevity of the clip due to technical difficulties...