Nickell Robey got caught looking. The freshman gave up a touchdown at Minnesota as a result, but not in the way most cornerbacks fall victim.
Instead of peeking into the backfield, Robey was looking back at linebacker Malcolm Smith as the senior was mistakenly running off the field, allowing Golden Gophers wide receiver Da'Jon McKnight to get behind him for a 31-yard touchdown.
While Robey has been absolved of blame by the USC coaching staff, he understands the nature of the position.
"Things happen," Robey said. "The best get thrown at like that. Just got to keep your head up and have a short memory. Any play can be your play. The odds of you getting a ball caught on is pretty high, so it doesn't really matter."
The first true freshman to start at corner in the modern era for the Trojans, Robey has 13 tackles, three pass breakups and three passes defended through three games. And while Robey thought he might be in danger of losing his job this week, coach Lane Kiffin said no change is imminent.
"I wouldn't necessarily say we've reopened it, but we're always evaluating it," Kiffin said.
"I just keep looking forward. I don't worry about who is behind me or who's in front of me. I just stay locked in and go hard." Robey said.
The biggest adjustment in Robey's favor has been a reduced workload. After playing more than 90 snaps against Hawaii, including special teams, those numbers have come down the last two weeks. That should be the case again against Washington State, with Kiffin saying he hopes to use a heavy rotation of players.
"He's doing a good job, he really is because he works so hard and gets better every game. Every snap is a new experience," assistant head coach Monte Kiffin said.
Kiffin said the Trojans would continue to make use of their swinging gate formations on extra points, which give quarterback Mitch Mustain the option to go for two if he sees a mismatch.
Mustain has thrown once and rushed twice, converting only one of his three attempts. That forced USC to try four other two point tries out of conventional offensive looks, resulting in just one successful conversion and drawing scrutiny across the nation.
Giving a look into his thought process, Kiffin said, "Our goal is to win games, not to impress pollsters or cover spreads.
"It's not working very well right now. They haven't worked as planned, so it's forced some other ones to catch up. If people give us an advantage that we think is in our favor, we'll still try to take advantage of it and hopefully we'll execute better."
"Maybe we'll be 5-0 and out of the Top 25," he added, referencing the Trojans' drop from No. 14 in the preseason AP poll to No. 20 after their 3-0 start.
-RB Marc Tyler, LB Michael Morgan and DE Armond Armstead and Nick Perry were limited Wednesday. LB/FB Simione Vehikite was out.
-CB T.J. Bryant intercepted a twice-tipped Mustain pass, earning milkshakes for the defense courtesy of quarterbacks coach Clay Helton. If the offense had gone through practice without committing a turnover, defensive backs coach Willie Mack Garza would have done the same for the offense.