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Clay Helton media call tidbits (9-23)

Thoughts on JT Daniels

I was happy with his execution of the two-minute offense, his poise and decision making, he was very decisive.

The way the Trojans finished the game

As a coach you’re greatest pleasure is to finish the game like that, to run the clock and not give them a chance.

Talk about the play of the linebackers in this game

We knew their quarterback got rid of the ball quickly and at times we were going to drop 8-9 guys, which meant our linebackers were going to have some tough coverage assignments. And then you look at the end of the game at Cameron Smith and John Houston, and they’ve combined for 22 tackles, which means they did their job.

Give your thoughts on Talanoa Hufanga

In his first start he wasn’t perfect but he played extremely well. He’s picked up the defense a lot more, probably hit on 95% of his assignments in this game and didn’t miss a single tackle. He gets the ball down to, he had a huge one late.

What kind of impact did Porter Gustin make when he came back in?

It allowed us to move their QB off his spot. We weren’t getting a lot of pressure early on but he helped us down the stretch.

What were your impressions of special teams?

I thought we took a step forward. We had a blocked kick that happened to come at the most clutch time by Jay Tufele. I thought our punt team jumped forward, and our kickoff coverage team continues to shine.

What is the update on Ced Ware?

He was really limited last week, something that was nagging him but he was great telling me “I’m ready to make a play when needed.” But it was a case where the other two guys had practiced well so I made the decision to go with them.

What needs to happen to get the defense playing the way you want them to?

The money downs hurt us in this game – 3rd and 4th down. We gave up 10 of 19 on third down, which is better than 50%, and our goal is to be at 30% or less. And on 4th down they were 3-3, so they extended a lot of drives.

Their quarterback was tremendous. Very accurate, got ball out quickly, had over 50 passes with only 1 sack, we can do better than that. Clancy kept trying different blitzes but their guy made some good decisions.

Stephen Carr had a strong start, do you think there is more he could be doing right now?

I thought between him and Vavae they did a good job by combining for over 150 yards. Stephen also gave us good field position on a kickoff return, and we’ll continue trying to get him the ball.

You ran the ball well early, the whole first drive, and then it seems like you started throwing more. How does that go with your desire for balance?

I feel like we did end up being balanced through the night; 31 rushes, 27 passes. The early drive was very successful, they made some adjustments, we made some adjustments, that’s the chess match of football. And I liked the way we ended the game running the ball.

Is there anything more you could be doing to create turnovers?

I thought both teams did a good job of protecting the football, credit the ball carriers for that one. We usually target getting 3 turnovers per game but obviously that didn’t happen. We do drills all the time in practice, the turnover circuit, we talk to our guys about where their turnovers come from, which players, which angles.

How do you see Vavae’s development as a running back?

He’s become an everydown back. And being a larger player we feel comfortable with him as a pass blocker.

How has your relationship with Lynn Swann been?

It’s been great. One thing I’ve appreciated from both athletic director’s I’ve had is that they are both football guys. We visit every Monday, we talk about the team, he’s been so supportive and we’re talking about a guy who has worked with the best of the best in this profession. I always say the best gift you can give to someone is your time and he does that. His strength is the wide receiver position, obviously, or how he would view things as a player.

How do you improve on 3rd and long as a defense?

I thought we were good earlier in the year, WSU did a good job to find the windows. A good pass rush helps and we’re not getting there right now. We played a little more zone, the 3rd downs were bad but the 4th downs really hurt.

Garry Paskwietz

A 1988 graduate of USC with a degree in Sports Information. Worked in sports marketing for LA Lakers and Miller Brewing Company. Began covering the Trojans in 1996 with the Trojan Football Fax. Founded WeAreSC in November 1998 with stints at Scout and ESPN. Emmy-winner while covering high school football at Fox Sports West.

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