LOS ANGELES – USC returned to the practice field this week in search of an offense that has been missing the previous two games. The Trojans’ loss against Notre Dame last week pushed them down to No. 18 in the Associated Press poll. They had previously dropped to No. 10 after narrowly defeating Arizona in triple overtime at the Coliseum. USC now enters a critical crossroads in the season with a home game against Utah.
Here are three takeaways from practice this week:
Caleb Williams turns the page on his first bad game
Notre Dame’s defense put up an impressive performance in the first half of the game , managing to intercept three passes from Caleb Williams. This was an unusual setback for Williams, who had been performing exceptionally well through USC’s 6-0 start. After practice on Wednesday, Williams talked about his performance in South Bend.
“It’s my first bad game in college, I’d say. So you endure, conquer and keep going.” said Williams.
Williams also addressed the Notre Dame fan that ran onto the field after the game and took a selfie with him as he tried to walk off the field with his teammates.
“I mean, everybody wants to be in these two 12.5 shoes right here. I’m not worried about some kid running out on the field that doesn’t have anything really associated to Notre Dame other than possibly their family going there or him going there himself. Got a lot of guys over here that I’ve got to lead, so some opinion of a sheep, lions don’t worry about that stuff. Keep moving on, keep fighting. Fight on.”
Lincoln Riley is moving on from not winning
Ahead of their big game against Utah, USC coach Lincoln Riley spoke with The Sporting Tribune on Thursday about how he plans to keep his team motivated and positive.
“I mean, you got to get past the disappointment of not winning, you got to get past that first, that’s the first thing. Then you got to look at reality, and reality is you’re undefeated in the best conference, probably, in college football right now.”
Riley understands the game’s importance, especially after last year when Utah beat USC twice, including in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
“The big deal is don’t let not playing well last week get you twice, the rebound is respond, and that’s what champions do.” He continued “We went through the same thing last year, we sat here last year after the first Utah game and everybody thought our season was over and everybody thought well you can’t do this and can’t do that and you just got to hang in there.”
USC has one of the most difficult schedules in the country to close out the season with games against Utah this week, followed by Washington, Oregon and UCLA.
“Main thing for us is go take advantage of it and go play a lot better brand of ball and that’s what we’re looking forward to doing this Saturday,” Riley said.
Mason Cobb reminisces about his grandfather Paul by sharing memories
The passing of Mason Cobb’s grandfather last Friday was tough for the linebacker as prepared for Notre Dame last week. Cobb explained Tuesday that it was his grandfather’s dying wish to have his nephews and grandchildren dig his grave, but it came with one important stipulation.
“He said, no machines. My nephews and grandsons will dig the grave.” Cobb said. “It’s not no grass. It’s like gravel and boulders.”
The Cobb family attended the funeral on Thursday back home. Cobb will return home to help dig the grave. While watching his father work hard even after retiring, repairing mobile homes, Cobb learned many valuable lessons from him, and he talked all about it.
“I would say perseverance is the biggest lesson,” he said. “Just go. There’s no excuse for you not to work hard. From a young age, I’ve seen him work circles around everybody from when he was 60 to when he was 90. It was just his mentality. That guy just taught me how to work.”
The advice and leadership that his grandfather instilled in him have helped him succeed on the field. This season, Cobb has been a key player on defense, ranking third on the team with 31 tackles.
Cobb is expected to play against Utah after attending the funeral.
The game between USC and Utah will kick off Saturday at 5 p.m. PT, and will be broadcast live on FOX. USC is favored by -7 points.