Notebook: USC defeats Arizona

Ed Orgeron picked up his first career win as USC's interim head coach Thursday night as the Trojans defeated Arizona 38-31...

Culture change
It's only been 12 days. It's only one win.

But what a difference 12 days can make and how different one win can make a team feel.

Maybe USC interim head coach Ed Orgeron put something extra in the cookies the team has been eating at training table since Sep. 29.

Or maybe they just bought into what he was selling: that this USC football team needed to have more fun to win.

Whatever the exact recipe was, Orgeron and USC need to duplicate it over their next seven games after proving Thursday night it worked.

USC defeated Arizona 38-31, giving Orgeron his first win as USC's interim head coach.

"I'm really proud of our team," Orgeron said after the game. "They came out and started fast and I am really proud of the coaching staff and leadership of our team."

From the moment players stepped through the Peristyle and descended the steps onto the Coliseum grass, the atmosphere just seemed different.

The routine certainly was.

The team circled around the "SC" in the middle of the field to say a prayer before beginning warm-ups. After the game, every player ran over to the band to sing the fight song.

"It's a great feeling," said linebacker Hayes Pullard after the game. "The team that prays together stays together. We are one big family… Coach O emphasized that we are a unit, so it was great to bring everyone together."

The Trojans were in sync. They were having fun and it showed.

Players said after the game to credit "Coach O" for their victorious outcome.

"You want a coach that you would go to war for every time," quarterback Cody Kessler said. "And this guy here to my right, and I don't just speak for myself, we would go to war for him."

"We love Coach O like a dad," said linebacker Hayes Pullard. "We love him and look up to him."

After the clock expired in the fourth quarter, players drenched Orgeron with a Gatorade bath. It's a tradition usually reserved for bowl game victories and championships, but it seemed fitting for a team looking for a new identity, a team desperate to finally celebrate.

"I think it's nice of them," Orgeron said, smiling. "This isn't about anything I do, it's about them. We set out one game at a time. Our coaching staff did a great job. Everyone stayed together and fought through adversity."

Six games into the 2013 schedule, it's a new season for USC.

The Trojans are 1-0 (4-2, 1-2). Up next, Notre Dame in South Bend.

Tailback roulette
Five USC tailbacks were available to play Thursday night for the Trojans.

All five were utilized throughout the game.

Senior Silas Redd made his season debut, as expected, since recovering from a torn meniscus that has taken an extended period of recovery time than originally expected.

Redd finished with a team leading 19 carries for 82 yards. Orgeron and the Trojans leaned on their senior late in the fourth quarter to secure the ball, drain the clock, and eventually gain a big first down to guarantee the win.

"It was great to have him on the field," said Kessler after the game. "He is always the guy in the locker room getting the team pumped up. He is definitely a guy I want to model after."

Redshirt sophomore Buck Allen walked away from the win as happy as any player on the roster. Allen, who was the only back able to maintain his health throughout fall camp, rushed for 37 yards on six carries including two touchdowns.

Freshmen Justin Davis carried the ball nine times for 42 yards, including a touchdown. Fellow freshman and five-star recruit Ty Isaac, who has seen limited carries this season, rushed for 36 yards on three carries. "We have seen at practice, Ty Isaac is a tremendous young freshman," Orgeron explained. "We want to go out and get big, strong running backs. I was very pleased to see Ty out there, the way he ran."

Perhaps the quietest of the backs was the player who carried the offense to this point in the season – Tre Madden. Madden was limited to five carries for 28 yards. He was sidelined in the game due to a hamstring issue.

Together, USC's five tailbacks totaled 44 carries for 225 yards and three touchdowns.

Career best for Agholor
USC offensive coordinator and play caller Clay Helton opened up the Trojans offense Thursday night.

The beneficiary?

Sophomore receiver Nelson Agholor.

With Marqise Lee unavailable due to injury, Agholor became Kessler's go to receiver. It resulted in a career night for the Florida native.

Agholor caught seven passes for 161 yards including a 62-yard touchdown bomb from Kessler. "I thought it was a great throw by Cody," Agholor said after the game. "The coaches called a great play."

Agholor's 161 receiving yards were a season high for the Trojans. Asked after the game if he enjoyed having a larger role in the offense, Agholor said " I just want to do what the team wants me to o to win. If I was able to catch three passes, seven passes, it doesn't matter."

Tavai tackles
J.R. Tavai started Thursday night's game in place of Morgan Breslin, who continues to recover from a hip strain.

What a night it was for the junior outside linebacker.

Tavai was all over the field on defense, collecting ten tackles, 3.5 for a loss.

"JR has been one of our better players," Orgeron said after the game. "He's very elusive – has good hands, good hips. He had one tremendous game."

Injury report
As expected Thursday night, junior receiver Marqise Lee was unavailable for the Trojans. Lee sprained his knee in the fourth quarter of USC's 62-41 loss Sep. 28 at Arizona State. Lee told FOX Sports SCPlaybook after Thursday's game that he will be ready to go next Saturday at Notre Dame.

The Trojans were also without receivers Darreus Rogers and Devon Flournoy as both continue to recover from ankle sprains.

Tight end Xavier Grimble left the game in the first half. USC announced Grimble suffered a shoulder sprain. He did not return.

Tailback Tre Madden also left the game early with "hamstring issues," according to USC.

Morgan Bresin was unavailable due to a hip strain.

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