* Because of Thanksgiving on Thursday, Wednesday’s practice time was adjusted to a 3 p.m. start. The Trojans did stretching to rap music, and the mood was rather subdued until the later third of practice. If you didn’t know better, one would have no idea that this was Notre Dame Week. As the practice moved toward to its halftime point, the day became the type of cool autumn evening on Howard Jones/Brian Kennedy Field generally associated with Notre Dame Week especially when the game is being played in Los Angeles.
* The Trojans’ scout team was dressed for the rivalry occasion donning green jerseys to add some Irish flavor to practice.
* The team was attired in helmets and shorts, although there was some hitting done in the 11-on-11 drills. There seemed to be some added intensity when the Trojans worked on their run game against a makeshift Irish defense.
* The Men of Troy worked this afternoon primarily on third down opportunities, and Clay Helton said the team would work on red zone opportunities on Thursday morning, which is closed to the media.
* Helton said the team would get Thursday afternoon off for Thanksgiving festivities.
* The Trojans worked extensively on special teams, which was a bright spot in last week’s disappointing UCLA loss.
* Defensively, Clancy Pendergast was loud and animated working with the different defensive sets that he expected to use against the Irish.
* Trojans blind snapper Jake Olson was taken over to a group of fans near the end of practice to meet some well-wishers and admirers.
Injury report: Clay Helton said there was really nothing new to report. DB Olaijah Griffin and WR Devon Williams were still out with shoulder issues. LB John Houston (hamstring) is day-to-day with true freshman Palaie Gaoteote getting work in Houston’s place.
Clay Helton was asked about Saturday night’s Senior Day and what makes this class of seniors special: “I said this before, to me it will be an emotional day because this is a group we’ve been in this thing together for four years now, and they were the ones as freshmen that helped fight for a Pac-12 South title and helped me get the job. We look up and we went to a Rose Bowl together and a Pac-12 title together. It’s a group that has not only played well but led well. It’s a group that has done some much for me and my family as well as our university and our football team.”
Clay Helton on if this is the best Notre Dame team he has seen at USC: “I would say so, definitely, it’s an 11-0 football team that’s playing at a very high level in all phases. From a defensive front standpoint, like I said yesterday, they’re the best we’ve faced all season. The quarterback (Ian Book) is playing extremely efficient. They’ve really got really good skill around him making plays. At the end of the day, he’s making the decisions to distribute the balls in the right places and not making mistakes. Defensively, they’ve played lights out. They’re a really, really good college football team and deserved where they’re ranked. I don’t see any weaknesses across the board. They will get our best effort.”
Clay Helton was asked about the atmosphere he expects in the Coliseum, especially with an anticipated large Notre Dame following: “Well, I hope, one, that there is a lot of Trojan fans, too. This is a great group of young men that I know the results are not what we’ve all wanted. This is a group of young men that have done a lot for this program and for this university and have represented (well). I hope everybody comes out and celebrates a Cam Smith, a Porter Gustin, a Marvell Tell and a Biggie Marshall, an Isaiah Langley, a Toa Lobendahn, a Chris Brown, a Chuma Edoga, a Ced Ware. I hope they came out and celebrate what those kids have done. I hope it’s a great atmosphere, a great college atmosphere, because when you talk SC and Notre Dame that’s why you come here for those big games and the national spotlight.”
Defensive Coordinator Clancy Pendergast on the Notre Dame offense: “It starts with their offensive line. I coordinated against them in 2013 and their offense was very well coordinated. Their offensive line works very well together, and this year is no different. Their backs run hard and just another impressive Notre Dame rush group. They’re a little bit different this year but the same blocking schemes. They’re a little like everybody we’ve played. The biggest thing this year is our guys reading their keys and getting off blocks.”
Defensive Coordinator Clancy Pendergast on Irish quarterback Ian Book: “I think he’s very talented and does a really nice job running their offense. You can see they give him a lot of leeway with the things that they do. He makes a lot of plays with his feet in a designed running game for the quarterback, and he’s dangerous in the pocket and can break containment when things aren’t there in the passing game. I think he’s having a really strong year for them.”
ILB Cameron Smith on playing Notre Dame speaks: “I am sure it’s the same here coming to USC and them going to Notre Dame. It’s so much tradition behind that game. So much of what we saw growing up and watching a game like that. Rivalry games are always emotion packed and full of excitement. It’s going to be special for the seniors, and my goal is to have a lot of fun. I kind of put them in the same category as Stanford. They’re going to play to the whistle and that’s what is fun playing them. No dirty stuff, it’s hardnose football and that’s how it should be.”