By Johnny Curren
With USC set to play in a rare Friday night game at Colorado this week, the Trojans took part in a shorts-and-shoulder pads practice session on Monday that mimicked their normal ‘Competition Tuesday’ routine. With his team on a three-game winning streak, and coming off a dramatic 38-30 comeback victory over Arizona, USC interim head coach Clay Helton called the hour-and-a-half workout one of his team’s best practices of the year.
“I just told the guys how appreciative we are as a staff for them to come out with a championship mentality like they did today,” Helton said. “For them to come out and give the effort they gave, with a late-night game two days ago – really, really incredible. But we have to get to work. This is a quick week.”
The Trojans hold a 9-0 series mark against Colorado and have thoroughly dominated the Buffaloes in head-to-head match-ups since they joined the Pac-12 in 2011.
And while Colorado has dropped five of their last six games, the Buffaloes have proven to be a pesky bunch at times this season, and Helton is determined to ensure that his team doesn’t take them lightly.
“This is a different Colorado team than the one we’ve faced over the last couple of years,” Helton said. “I just look at them and I know the wins aren’t coming to them like they would like, but you look at the way they’re competing against some really quality teams right now, and they seem like they’re in every game. This is somebody that we better take a championship attitude into their place, or just like any game in the Pac-12, you’ll get beat if you don’t bring you’re A-Game.”
JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cameron Smith both limited
Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and linebacker Cameron Smith were both limited in practice on Monday due to injury.
Smith-Schuster, who underwent surgery on his right hand early last week but still caught eight passes for 138 yards and one touchdown against Arizona, ran routes in some individual drills, but took a majority of the day off to rest his hand. He does, however, appear to be on pace to play again on Friday.
“You literally have to take the guy’s helmet away from him to make him stop, so I talked to him prior to practice and said, ‘Hey buddy, let’s rest the hand today,’” Helton said. “You saw him run routes today, but we didn’t want to put any extra pressure on the hand for right now. As we get later in the week, we’ll get him those reps that we need as far as catching the ball.”
Smith, the starting ‘mike’ linebacker as well as the team-leader in tackles (72), injured his shoulder against Arizona and will undergo a precautionary MRI, but he is also expected to suit up against the Buffaloes.
“It’s kind of preventative, just to make sure it’s OK and that he’s doing well, but we expect him to play and we’ll manage him throughout the week and get him as many reps as we can,” Helton said. “We just wanted to limit him from contact today.”
Lamar Dawson went with the No. 1 defense in place of Smith during all of the 11-on-11 periods on Monday.
News and notes
– Also limited on Tuesday was safety Leon McQuay III, who injured his knee in the week leading up to the Arizona game.
– Cornerback Jonathan Lockett (groin) took part in the entire practice session after missing this past weekend’s game.
– Tailback Tre Madden (knee) again had a light day of work.
– Olajuwon Tucker blocked a punt that was scooped up by Quinton Powell and returned for a touchdown.
– Adoree’ Jackson spent the day on defense and put on a show during an early one-on-one period, breaking up a pass on a slant pattern to De’Quan Hampton, as well as a deep ball down the sideline to Darreus Rogers.
– Jackson and fellow cornerback Iman Marshall got extra work in after practice and were the last two players to exit Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field.
– Rasheem Green took extensive reps with the No. 1 defense at defensive end alongside NT Antwaun Woods and DT Delvon Simmons.
– Alex Wood connected on 3 of 5 field goal attempts. He missed both attempts from 33 yards out. Cody Kessler was the holder in place of Conner Sullivan, who has handled those duties throughout the fall.
– Wide receiver Ajene Harris, who is sidelined for the year after undergoing hip surgery, was not suited up in pads, but he did run some routes during an early individual period.
– USC athletic director Pat Haden was in attendance, as were Senior Associate Athletic Directors J.K. McKay and Steve Lopes.
– Also on hand were scouts from the Houston Texans and Washington Redskins.
– John Plattenburg and Co. stopped Justin Davis for no gain.
– Uchenna Nwosu stopped Ronald Jones II after a four-yard gain.
– Dawson stopped J. Davis after a short gain.
– Kenny Bigelow stopped Aca’Cedric Ware for no gain.
– Ware broke off a run outside for a gain of 10 yards before being pushed out-of-bounds.
– Kessler hit Rogers over the middle for a gain of around 10 yards.
– Kessler connected with Deontay Burnett outside for a gain of close to 20 yards before Chris Hawkins made the stop.
– Kessler hit Tyler Petite over the middle for a gain of 15 yards.
– Max Browne hit Robby Kolanz over the middle for a gain of 8 or 9 yards.
– Browne hit Burnett deep for a 50-yard touchdown.
– Browne connected with Jalen Greene for a gain of close to 10 yards before Nwosu made the stop.
– Kessler hit Taylor McNamara outside for a gain of 10 yards.
– Kessler hit Steven Mitchell Jr. over the middle for a gain of close to 20 yards before Dawson made the stop.
– Bigelow stopped J. Davis for no gain.
– Kessler tried to hit Petite outside but Nwosu broke up the pass.
– Kessler went deep to Mitchell along the sideline, but Lockett got a hand up deflected the pass away.
– Jones ran right and made a nice cut inside for a gain of around 10 yards before Matt Lopes made the stop.
– Kessler went deep to Greene but Lopes broke up the pass.
– Kessler hit Mitchell over the middle for a gain of close to 10 yards.
– Kessler hit Hampton along the sideline for a gain of close to 30 yards with Lockett in coverage.
– Kessler connected with Kolanz outside for a gain of 10 yards.
– Kessler hit Hampton deep over the middle for a 50-yard touchdown.
– Noah Jefferson sacked Browne.
– Browne hit George Katrib over the middle for a gain of around 10 yard