No more Mr. Nice Guy. This was a stern-faced Steve Sarkisian after Holiday Bowl practice No. 7 telling his team they didn't get it done Wednesday.
"You can take your vacation Dec. 28 to Jan. 11," Sark could be heard sending the Trojans off after the first day of installing the Nebraska gameplan. And if the truth be told, this workout wasn't worse and probably better than a number of late-season similar install days.
But it tracks exactly with the Sark we saw after the Notre Dame game who pledged that going forward, this would be a physical, hard-nosed, tough-minded Trojans team. He would demand it. As he did on this day.
"I thought today we were extremely average," Sark said, admitting that he understood the deal -- "a couple of days off, finishing up exams." But that was only an explanation not an excuse.
"We have to recapture these guys," Sark said after six competitive, physical bowl practices the past two weeks before the specific prep work for Nebraska. "Today wasn't good enough . . . wasn't good enough for us to win."
Good thing it was the equivalent of "a bonus Monday," in a regular week, Sark said. They get a do-over Thursday.
"The guys understand it," Sark said. "I expect us to be a lot better tomorrow."
Sark big on the Huskers
The problem, Sark seemed to be saying, about facing a Nebraska team averaging 37 points a game, 13th in the nation, is they don't do what they do much the way any other offense that USC has faced this season. And it's not just I-back Ameer Abdullah, although he'll be "the best back we've faced this season," Sark said of Abdullah, who has 1,523 rushing yards and 18 TDs.
The problem is that he's not alone. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong gives NU a double-barreled rushing attack with 664 yards and five TDs on the ground to help the Huskers to an average of 250 rushing yards a game. That's in addition to 2,314 yards passing for 19 TDs. He's "the top running quarterback" USC will have faced as well, according to Sark. And Armstrong will "throw the ball deep," Sark said.
Woods out after surgery
Nose tackle Antwaun Woods returned to the practice field in warmups with his left arm in a sling after having surgery on his torn pectoral muscle from Saturday. He'll be in that sling for six weeks and as a result miss the Holiday Bowl. Replacing him was Delvon Simmons in a defensive front with Leonard Williams and Claude Pelon.
When the Trojans opened in the nickel package in 11-on-11 with the first group, there was no nose tackle. And according to Sark, that nose tackle spot could be manned by Williams or Cody Temple, although Temple was unable to practice with a back issue and spent his time on the field working with trainers on stretching his back.
Trojans will practice the next three mornings before taking off two days Sunday and Monday, then practice Tuesday morning before busing to San Diego that afternoon . . . Sark's hopes that some of the "nicked-up" guys from the weekend would be back and Kevon Seymour more than any after rolling his ankle was back full-speed . . . Steven Mitchell missed the workout but Sark said he was studying for a test and hadn't seen him to know how his knee was doing . . . Ajene Harris was sidelined but in gear for practice after straining either his hamstring or groin over the weekend . . . Uchenna Nwosu (ankle) was limping in a boot and looks a ways off from returning.
For a wrapup of Wednesday morning's practice, check out WEDNESDAY HOLIDAY BOWL PRACTICE 7 GHOST NOTES.You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at email@example.com.