Upbeat Trojans' Thanksgiving

There was something special going for USC Thursday. Was it Thnaksgiving? Or the approach of the Notre Dame game Saturday. We'll see when we see.

Lots of noise coming out of the closed Thursday practice on Howard Jones-Brian Kennedy Field. But Steve Sarkisian wasn't taking the credit nor even saying it was Notre Dame in two days.

And as much as he wishes there was a way of predicting these things -- like how your team is going to play based on how it's been practicing -- there's no science here.

But there is this. "The kids were energized," Sark said. "Maybe they might be a little giddy" thinking about Thanksgiving dinner with their teammates and their families.

"I wish there were a secret formula that the way you practice you'll play," Sark said. In fact, there was one -- although not exactly day-to-day or game-to-game -- but over time that Pete Carroll believed in and, you might say, "practiced."

But maybe one of the problems with predicting for these 7-4 Trojans, who lost two at the buzzer and failed to show up for two more, "I will say we do respond well."

So an energized USC team on Thursday might -- or might not -- be predictive of what will take place at 12:30 Saturday in the Coliseum on Fox against Notre Dame, also 7-4.

But then there's this. Sark talked about his own Thanksgiving Day experience. "All I remember as a kid growing up that it was fun to be playing football on Thanksgiving Day . . . or if you were practicing, it meant you were pretty good."

Or at the least, you had a game scheduled for the last Saturday in November, which of course the Trojans always do. How good they are -- or will appear to be for the 2014 regular season -- could in part be determined by what happens Saturday.

How much better does 8-4 look than 7-5. And ending the losing archrival losing streak at five would be big going into a bowl game and Sark's second offseason not to mention the finish of his first full recruiting year.

Here are some quick hits from Sark after practice:

Buck Allen/Justin Davis: As to Buck's "struggling" recently, Sark said he has had a talk with Buck and shown him cutups of his successful big runs early. "He had so much success," Sark said, and now there just don't seem to be the seams so the goal now is for Buck to "run the run," Sark said and not to try too hard to hit a home run. Let it play out and see what happens. "That's the goal."

As to Justin Davis, Sark said one place he's improved while "running hard": "his hands," that were a negative last spring and are much-improved with his receiving TD last week. "It's unbelievable to think that we'd go through the entire season with just two scholarship tailbacks . . . a tribute to Johnny Nansen and our strength and conditioning staff."

3rd-quarter offense: Sark said he and Clay Helton have been consulting on what's going on there and there's not an obvious answer. "It's not characteristic of us," he said. "At Washington we were No. 1 in the nation the first drive of the third quarter." But at USC this season, "I think we've only had three first drive third-quarter scores."

On the UCLA interception call: Sark said USC did submit it to the league office and they upheld the call -- that Eric Kendricks had possession before his foot touched the sideline. "You could probably argue it either way," Sark said. "When was the possession?" And surprise, surprise, the call went against USC on the field, in the booth and in the Pac-12 office.

On USC-ND in 2014: "The seasons are very parallel . . . both teams have lost games they'd like to have back . . . proud programs with great coaches and players."

On no senior tunnel Thursday: That will happen before the actual final game, Sark said, at the last bowl practice when seniors get saluted by running through a tunnel of underclassmen as they leave the practice field for the last time. "Hopefully we'll get 15 more practices for the bowl game . . . they're needed."


Freshman Bryce Dixon remained on schedule, Sark said, to be cleared Friday from his post-concussion symptoms after the UCLA game . . . the freshman tight end has prepared but without contact for the Notre Dame game yet to be finally cleared after post-concussion symptoms from the UCLA game . . . Didn't notice any more seniors in their high school jerseys Thursday . . . not sure if that tradition continues or not . . . Trojans' Thanksgiving morning practice went from 9:45 to 10:45.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.

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