News and notes from Clay Helton’s media call following USC’s 31-26 win against Arizona State, including a small injury report, some standouts of the game, and how this team has dealt with injuries.
* Marlon Tuipulotu missed the game with a back issue. Helton said he will be evaluated tomorrow and Helton will have more information following Tuesday’s practice.
* Palaie Gaoteote missed the game with knee and ankle issues.
* He said defensively, the goal was to shut down the running game, so he was pleased with Arizona State’s numbers there, forcing a 2.6 yards per carry average for Benjamin and two fumbles.
* Helton said the “playmakers came to play,” mentioning the numbers put up by wide receivers Michael Pittman and Amon-Ra St. Brown, as well as running back Kenan Christon. Punter Ben Griffiths also received praise, as Arizona State was forced to start drives at the 9, 1 and 10-yard lines following punts.
* Helton said the turnovers they forced were huge, and it was “great to see us on the plus side.”
* He thought the offensive line played extremely well, especially in the pass game. Arizona State ran a variety of pressures and they allowed Kedon Slovis “enough time to do his job.”
* He wanted to commend the offense for the Matt Fink drive that ended in a field goal. The Trojans lost Slovis and center Brett Neilon on that drive and Drake London was eventually able to come up with a phenomenal play on a jump ball to put USC in field goal range, which would give USC an 11-point lead. Helton said the light has “clicked on” for London the last three games and that the coaches figured he would play an integral part of this offense, but they didn’t know how fast it would happen.
* Helton said he has “never been more proud of a staff” and that this is “one of the better jobs [he’s] seen of assistant coaches.” Helton commended the group for getting backups ready to play and for being prepared to make adjustments on the fly when injuries have taken guys out mid-game.
* Helton blamed injuries for Arizona State climbing all the way back into the game following USC’s 28-point first-quarter outburst. “I’m glad that we maintained the lead all the way through the ballgame. That’s your hope each and every game.” Helton said they beat a good Arizona State team at home that had two weeks to prepare, and that he’s thankful “our kids played for the full 60 minutes.” He said it was extremely positive that “this was a game that last year down the stretch, we lost some of these games.” Helton said you’re sometimes going to have close games on the road, and they found a way in a hostile environment to get the win. “I’m going to take that as a positive.”
* Right now, Helton said he believes their strength is “strength in numbers,” and that he likes USC’s ability to win ballgames even when they are in the situation they are right now, injury-wise.