By Johnny Curren
Coming off a big victory over UCLA, the Trojans kicked off preparations on Tuesday for another highly anticipated rivalry matchup, this time with Notre Dame, as they took part in a two-hour practice session on Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field.
“When you talk about the history of football, how can you not talk about this game,” said USC head coach Clay Helton. “You know, USC-Notre Dame, and what it means to both schools. Two elite programs, both academically and athletically. That shillelagh is a very, very important thing to both schools, and it’s been away from us. And just like keeping the Victory Bell with us, there’s a lot of pride toward that trophy. It’ll be a great rivalry game.”
Having now won seven consecutive games, the Trojans are riding a wave of momentum right now. Practicing in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets, they were in noticeably high spirits throughout the workout, but well aware of the fact that the Fighting Irish would like nothing more than to come away with an upset victory on Saturday, Helton’s team remained focused on the task at hand.
“After watching a lot of tape on Notre Dame, you come away feeling their record does not match the personnel that’s on the field right now,” Helton said. “When you look at the total story you see a very dangerous team. You see a team that is 4-7, but you also see a team that’s lost six games by seven points or less. That seventh game they lost by eight points. They’ve had an opportunity to win each and every game down the stretch.”
Smith-Schuster gets light work in
Trojans wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster suited up and took part in early warm-ups and individual drills on Tuesday, before being held out for the rest of the day.
The standout junior put together a solid performance this past weekend against the Bruins, hauling in eight passes for 78 yards, despite suffering, among other injuries, a hip pointer early in the contest when he caught a 28-yard pass along the sideline, and extended his body toward the goal line in an effort to try to score a touchdown.
“I got the hip pointer, I bruised my shoulder and sprained my wrist all in that one play when I went deep, just from stretching and trying to score a touchdown,” Smith–Schuster said. “But right now it’s more the hip. I’ve got my shoulder back and my wrist is coming back a lot better.”
Following practice, Smith-Schuster was asked about the potential of this being his last game as a Trojan in the Coliseum – should he decide to declare early for the NFL draft after this season.
“I haven’t thought about that yet,” Smith-Schuster answered. “It’s 50-50.”
Celebrating his 20th birthday on Tuesday, Smith-Schuster was doused with a bucket of ice water by freshmen receivers Tyler Vaughns and Trevon Sidney as he exited the practice field.
News and notes
– Cornerback/wide receiver Adoree’ Jackson (ankle) was a full participant in practice, and he did not appear to be hampered by the injury.
– Offensive tackle Chad Wheeler (wrist) and center Nico Falah (finger) were also full participants.
– Defensive tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu (ankle) was limited in an effort to preserve him for Saturday. Jacob Daniel filled in with the No. 1 defense in his place.
– Predator outside linebacker Porter Gustin (ankle) also appeared to be limited, with Olajuwon Tucker lining up with the No. 1 defense in his place during some of the 11-on-11 periods.
– Defensive tackle Josh Fatu (ankle) suited up and got some light work in, but he appeared to take most of the day off. He did not play against the Bruins.
– Defensive back Jonathan Lockett (hip) suited up and took some reps at the nickel back spot, although Ajene Harris continued to take the bulk of the reps there with the No. 1 group.
– Keyshawn “Pie” Young (concussion) did not participate in practice.
– In the opening service team period Uchenna Nwosu made a fantastic leaping interception at the line of scrimmage on a pass thrown by Matt Fink.
– Connor Murphy came up with an interception at the line later in practice, this time off a pass thrown by Sam Darnold that the big outside linebacker tipped into the air before grabbing it and running it back for a score.
– On a play that closely resembled his long touchdown grab against UCLA, De’Quan Hampton jumped up high in the end zone over Ykili Ross to pull down a 30-yard touchdown pass from Darnold.
– Vaughns had a very solid day, making a number of catches, including a beautiful leaping reception along the sideline from Max Browne where he just got one foot in-bounds – despite tight coverage from Iman Marshall.
– Isaac Whitney caught two long touchdowns from Darnold during the 11-on-11 periods.
– USC president Max Nikias was on hand.
– USC athletic director Lynn Swann was also in attendance, as were fellow former Trojans players Tony Burnett, Sam Cunningham, John Mazur, Jim Obradovich and John Papadakis.
– Darnold hit Darreus Rogers along the sideline for a gain of close to 25 yards.
– Darnold hit Jalen Greene over the middle for a gain of 15 yards.
– Ronald Jones II weaved for a gain of close to 10 yards.
– Aca’Cedric Ware ran outside for a gain of around 10 yards.
– Darnold hit Whitney down the seam for a 35-yard TD.
– Browne hit Vaughns along the sideline for a long gain.
– Tucker stopped Ware after a short gain.
– Darnold hit Whitney again down the seam for a 35-yard TD.
– Browne hit Vaughns over the middle for a 10-yard gain.
– Browne hit Vaughns outside for a gain of around 15 yards.
– Darnold hit Michael Pittman Jr. for a 35-yard TD.
– Darnold hit Rogers outside for a gain of around 10 yards.
– Oluwole Betiku sacked Darnold.
– Murphy tipped a Darnold pass at the line, picked it off and returned it for a score.
– Darnold hit Pittman over the middle for a long gain.
– Browne hit Josh Imatorbhebhe outside for a gain of close to 10 yards.
– Darnold hit Justin Davis outside for a gain of around 15 yards.
– Hampton came up with a leaping 30-yard touchdown grab on a pass from Darnold.
– Browne hit Cary Angeline outside for a gain of over 20 yards.
– Browne hit Angeline outside for a gain of around 10 yards.