USC looks to turn around season at Arizona State
By Joey Kaufman
The past week has not been easy on USC.
The Trojans suffered a humiliating loss at Notre Dame that not only mostly eliminated them from contention for the College Football Playoff, but also marked their second-worst ever defeat at the hands of their longtime rival.
“It was kind of like a hit to the body,” center Nico Falah said.
In the days after returning from South Bend, their increasingly depleted roster was hit some more with injuries, including the loss of two starters on defense. An MRI of cornerback Iman Marshall’s left knee on Sunday showed a sprain, and in practice on Wednesday, defensive end Christian Rector suffered a broken hand.
To make their recovery more challenging, they face surging Arizona State in another road test on Saturday night. The Sun Devils, who looked unlikely to reach bowl eligibility in September, have since upset No. 12 Washington and Utah in consecutive weeks, led by a defense that allowed a combined two touchdowns in the two wins.
No. 21 USC has again arrived at a point where its season threatens to spiral.
Before ending last season in the Rose Bowl, it was 1-3.
The Trojans began this fall at 6-2 overall, but have dropped two of their past four games, with further conference losses threatening to dash hopes of winning the Pac-12 South.
Amid the critical junction, Coach Clay Helton has kept his calm approach. The team, he believed, remained headed in the right direction, and so he saw no reason to rip into them this week.
“I coach them hard,” Helton said, “but I also love ‘em, and I believe in ‘em, and I always will. I truly believe these kids, even with injuries, can be a great football team and win a Pac-12 championship. So I’m honest with ’em, but that doesn’t mean I have to berate ’em. […]