A lot of people were surprised that a 3-3 USC team was a favorite against unbeaten Utah last week. Well, as it turned out, Vegas knew what it was talking about.
The Trojans whipped the Utes, 42-24, in Southern Cal. USC trailed 14-7 after the first quarter but went on a 35-3 run, forcing four turnovers and scoring a defensive touchdown.
“We didn’t really look at it as a huge game,” Trojans linebacker Scott Felix said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “We just wanted to approach it the same way that we have been. I think the biggest difference was we were paying attention to the smallest details possible. That’s obviously what wins you big games like that.”
USC entered the game having lost two straight, including a 41-31 loss to Notre Dame. The Trojans had also lost 41-31 to Stanford in mid-September. When it happened again in South Bend, many were left questioning the toughness of the Trojan defense.
“We just came out with a chip on our shoulder and wanted to prove everyone wrong with people saying that we’re soft guys,” Felix said. “That’s probably the worst thing you can say to a defense before a big game like that. So we really took that to heart and really practiced with that mentality the entire week. The offense came out and lit up the scoreboard, so we were firing on all ends.”
Felix’s roommate, linebacker Cameron Smith, led the way for USC, recording three interceptions and returning one 54 yards to the house to make it 28-14 late in the second quarter.
“Ever since he got here, I kind of sat back and observed how he was,” Felix said. “I really liked what I saw. I really took him under my wing, just tried to show him how it is around here, how our reputation is supposed to be upheld, and he hit the ground running. He was making plays all over the place in spring and then he came up again in fall camp and let us know it’s no coincidence. To see him go out there and do that, I was real happy for him. I was running as hard as I could to go try and block somebody for him so he could get another touchdown, but it’s no coincidence. The dude does it all the time.”
USC is 1-1 since Steve Sarkisian was fired. Felix said that interim coach Clay Helton has been a good leader in the face of adversity and has made practices “a lot shorter” and “more crisp.” Helton wanted his players to get back to the basics – competing, focusing on the small details, and having fun.
“We’re a lot more precise on how we train,” Felix said. “A lot more tactical, I’d say.”
USC (4-3) plays at Cal (5-2) this Saturday at 3 p.m. ET. Cal has lost back-to-back road games against Utah and UCLA but will still be a challenge. That’s because junior Jared Goff (2,265 yards, 20 touchdowns, nine interceptions) is one of the top quarterbacks in the country.
“That guy is insane on tape,” Felix said. “The passes that he throws are just absolute dimes. But that just gets us a little more pumped up to go rush him. We definitely want to affect him because if you don’t affect Goff, you’re going to suffer the consequences.”