No more Mr. Nice Guy. Things have to change around here, Steve Sarkisian seemed to be saying before Saturday's end-of-camp scrimmage.
And did they ever after Sark, in no uncertain terms and in family-unfriendly language, ranted to his Trojan team as it loosened up about how people had been calling them out for being less physical than their crosstown rivals.
"He usually addresses the whole team," Jabari Ruffin said. "But he was talking to our linebackers. He said it starts with us."
But more than the linebackers heard Sark's words. "It definitely got us fired up," defensive end Greg Townsend Jr. said. "The point was, I think, he was trying to preach to us that we shouldn't need him to fire us up. That we should do that ourselves."
Maybe the offense wasn't listening. Not a great deal of fire, or fire-out ability, from an offensive line too often stalemated or skill people too often sloppy with the ball on a day when turnovers equaled, or exceeded, touchdowns. With no officials here, oddly after having them for most of the week, it wasn't always easy to tell on a fumble.
What it was easy to tell was how Sark, invested so heavily in an offense for which he calls the plays, was not pleased on a day when Cody Kessler, Max Browne, Juju Smith-Schuster, Adoree' Jackson and Tre Madden didn't get all that much done.
"We were very average at best," Sark said, clearly not talking about the defense. "We weren't good enough today." Again, not talking about the defense.
Hey, he'd already talked about them enough beforehand, they said. No need to now.
Sark did like one facet of his offense. Freshman back Dominic Davis. "[No.] 16 showed up," Sark said of Davis, who scored on a kickoff return against the scout team and on an inside run from the 3-yard line and a quick catch from the 14.
"This scrimmage to me was about showing who's going to play," Sark said. On this day, that wasn't his offense. But you could write down these names: Porter Gustin, Antwaun Woods, Su'a Cravens, Delvon Simmons, Osa Masina, Townsend, Ruffin, Scott Felix, Quinton Powell, Iman Marshall, John Houston, Cameron Smith, Ykili Ross, Kevon Seymour, John Plattenburg, Chris Hawkins, Leon McQuay, Marvell Tell, Cody Temple, Kenny Bigelow and just keep writing. There are plenty more based on today.
Now mind you, it wasn't this way the last couple of days of practice. "He got us fired up," Felix said of Sark's words. "We like to hit people, to get people on the ground. And now we have more bodies to do that."
Kessler did manage to throw for two touchdowns with the one to Davis and another to Adoree' from the 5 that had him beating two defenders to the goal line.
And Max Browne, who has been having a good week, had the other on a 15-yard easy out completion to freshman tight end Tyler Petite, who had a couple of nice catches.
But Max also gave up a safety when Porter Gustin chased him down from the backside in the end zone and then a flip-the-field near-pick-six on a lob that didn't quite clear inside linebacker Michael Hutchings at the goal line as he returned it 95 yards on a bobbing and weaving dash -- OK, maybe not quite a dash -- up the sideline.
It was an odd play, coming with Browne unusually under center and throwing the ball as he finished his drop, not from shotgun. It didn't fool anyone but the offense.
"I saw it," Hutchings said, recognizing what was coming and recording his second straight big scrimmage effort. As a junior who looked like he might be getting squeezed between the returning senior starters and the strong freshman four, he's not having any of that.
"I'm not getting squeezed," Hutchings said. "Sure we have talented freshmen and strong seniors but that's just the way it falls. We have talent wherever you look. You name it. But talent alone doesn't win for you . . . it's how close our defense is that does."
Playing "relentless, nonstop, running-all-over-the-field" football does, Hutchings says. "It's all about the ball. And it's all about putting it on film and showing other teams what they're going to face when they play us."
Saturday, it was all about showing the USC offense, and the USC head coach, what it means to face this USC defense.
When asked about how after two weeks, class starts and camp is over and it's back to two weeks of game-week morning practices, Sark said: "I wish we had two [weeks] more. We need to get better.
Against this defense playing this way, they do.
"I feel a lot better," Felix said. "The offense has been getting the better of us this week and then they stole Adoree'. So we needed to make the big hit, fly around and get guys on the ground.
Zach in, Zach out
Freshman Chuma Edoga was in at right tackle on offense for Zach Banner again at times as for a couple of series with O-line coach Bob Connelly talking to him afterwards. Here's Connelly talking about it Friday to our Shotgun Spratling.
"Yeah, Zach decided to do some things that I’ve been asking him not to do for a while," Connelly said. "We’re trying to get his attention with playing time. Sometimes that’s what it takes. He’s got to come out and work to get better in some of the areas that we’re trying to focus on and today [Friday] wasn’t his best day in that area. Chuma is having a good camp, had a very good spring and is doing some good things right now. He’s a guy we’ll be able to implement in the season as we go through. Partly trying to get Zach’s attention and partly deserving so for Chuma. He’s had a good camp in earning the reps."
SATURDAY QUICK HITS:
Dominic Davis on the lone return play that panned out with a length-of-the-field kickoff return TD . . . the couple of times they punted to Adoree', the ball landed so short he could barely scoop it on six or seven bounces even though he did try to run one back . . . Chris Brown at both right and left guard with the ones alternating with Damien Mama out with ice on his right elbow from Friday and Chad Wheeler not released for team contact yet with his knee and the medicine ball hit from Thursday . . . senior D-lineman Claude Pelon out in full pads again despite arthroscopic surgery Thursday to check out his sprained right knee . . . Jordan Simmonsout again with fluid on his left knee . . . "Salute To Troy" followed the scrimmage with teams being honored for their 25th and 50th anniversaries . . . 1965 was Mike Garrett's Heisman year and 1990 was a year of turmoil for Todd Marinovich, who was here in a blue shirt and looking much more like the artist he is today than the big football star he once was . . . Sunday will be an off day for the Trojans as Will Monday for the first day of class . . . Quinton Powell missed a week with a concussion but was back and making plays all over the field . . . Ykili Ross went from trainer's table Friday to a big hit day Saturday. He wasn't alone.CHECK THIS OUT: For more details and play-by-play on Saturday's workout, check out SATURDAY SCRIMMAGE GHOST NOTES.
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