Love is the right word.
"The kids really love him," said a longtime USC staffer who has seen lots of these moments and was in Trojans' locker room after the 27-21 win over Cal Saturday. "They really do."
Which could not have been more obvious from the video he shot on his cellphone and was replaying right afterward. It looked like the first 10 rows of your favorite music festival if everybody was wearing pads and eye black and jumping up and down with the two-fingered "V" salute.
Although this joyfest was fueled solely by guys coming together to accomplish something realizing they had done exactly that.
Like CEO, Clay is a Lane legacy and the best thing the Alabama offensive coordinator did for USC. As bad as the hirings of Lane and Sark turned out to be, two of Lane's staffers were the perfect people to step in and give these kids -- so often shortchanged in their Trojan careers -- a reason to keep playing.
Playing hard. Playing with "passion," one of Ed's and Clay's favorite ways to play football. Playing for their teammates. And their fans. "Fighting On" for the "Trojan family."
And for "Trojan football," Helton said after time and again, going for it, and going for it with a power run game that USC football -- when it's great -- has always been able to call on. It didn't always work. Didn't look like it had been schemed out just right at times.
And yet, there they were: the calls made for "a statement," for "confidence" and for the best in the long Trojan tradition.
It's a thing with Helton. And that's what you have to think when after all that's gone wrong, all the shots the Trojans have had to take -- many unfair and malicious -- and some self-inflicted, someone out there is watching out for USC football.
Someone was around these kids could play for. Someone who would make them better, someone who would listen to them and give them a chance.
Someone who is trying to get himself better every week. And getting them better. Right now.
Not necessarily someone for next year. That's a completely different story. And a discussion for a different day.
But someone for last Saturday. And next Saturday.
That's all. And for right now, that's plenty.
No season-ending injuries that we know of . . . Juju Smith-Schuster will get his fractured right hand tended to after having it casted during the game and playing with it for as long as he could handle the pain . . . that will be the issue this week as JuJu says absolutely he'll play just as he wanted to get back in the second half . . . Tyler Petite's right foot held up, it seems, as did Darreus Rogers' hamstring and Steven Mitchell's ankle with both getting more action than maybe anticipated with five catches between them . . . Taylor McNamara's dislocated shoulder didn't appear to be a major problem and he had an early catch . . . Tre Madden's sore knee was still sore and he walked out with an ice pack on it but it didn't keep him from carrying the ball 14 times for 62 yards and a 14-yard bounce-out play in the final minutes . . . and Chad Wheeler made it all the way through after missing a game with his concussion . . .Ronald Jones II, with some sort of knee/ankle issue (different takes from different folks afterward) that limited him the second half, walked out looking fine so we'll see this week.
BY THE NUMBERS
52,060The noon start may have limited the Cal crowd, down some 10,000 from capacity . . . but USC fans turned out in the same big numbers we're used to seeing for the Weekender, guessing maybe 10,000-12,000 were in cardinal and gold.
3-1Clay Helton's record as interim coach in his two terms at USC.
301-20-1That's the incredibly mind-blogging all-time USC record in the month of October that USC's SID office reported after getting Saturday's win in just under the wire . . . truly amazing numbers.
82-34-3For freshman Deontay Burnett, who looks young enough to be playing JV high school ball, his 82-yards on three catches were a career high for the freshman from Serra who also had a career-high longest catch on the 34-yard double reverse wide receiver pass by way of Serra alums Adoree' Jackson and Jalen Greene, who may easily be the best throwing wide receiver in the nation.
0-4For the fourth time this season, USC had no turnovers.
1-1-1Lamar Dawson had his first forced fumble of the season, Antwaun Woods had his first sack of the season and Adoree's interception was his first of the season and his career.
8 of 10Alex Wood with two for two on field goal attempts, improved to eight of 10 for the season.
41.8, 48, 3Not a bad day for punter Kris Albarado who averaged 41.8 yards a punt with three inside the 20 and a long one of 48.
12After playing at least 13 freshmen in every game this season and 15 overall, the Trojans played just 12 against Cal with safety Marvell Tell out with a broken collarbone.
195, 4 . . . 8,742With Cody Kessler totaling 195 yards of offense (186 passing, nine rushing) the senior moved into the No. 4 all-time spot at USC with 8,742 yards passing Rodney Peete's 8,640.
65 on 15, 10 on 7Tremendous difference in points off turnovers this season. USC has 65 points on 15 takeaways against their opponents' 10 on seven.
ADOREE" JACKSON on his first career interception: "Since it was my first, I figured I might as well go on and score." And the best thing about getting the ball in space on an interception: "They can't key on you like on offense or kick returns . . . I guess I should get more of them."
CLAY HELTON on Cody Kessler's play: "To go 18 of 22 in that kind of game with that type of efficiency in a tough ballgame, I'm extremely proud of a senior who played extremely poised, especially down the stretch. He kept me calm. He did a tremendous job."
CAL COACH Sonny Dykes on how the season is playing out for the Bears: "Winning and losing has a lot to do with who you play . . . our schedule has been back-loaded the past two years . . . we have played really good people this year and we are trying to get to the point where we can beat those really good people Good teams are just harder to beat."
USC ASSISTANT KEITH HEYWARD on the Trojan secondary and penalties: "I'm not worried about the pass interference calls. We want our guys going one on one and we want them physical . . . those are judgment calls . . . that's how we want them to play."
CAL QB JARED GOFF on the loss: "Every time we lose, I think we let an opportunity slip away . . . that's the same for every team . . . today was a chance to win, the offense played really well, the defense played really well, but USC played really well and deserved to win."
RONALD JONES II: On whether he should get more carries than the 11 he got for a game-high 80 yards (a 7.3 average) and a 13-yard TD: "Yes sir, I think so . . . but we've got two great running backs [Tre and Justin] . . . it's very exciting that we have those two great running backs . . . whenever my number is called, I'm ready."
TRE MADDEN : "Coach [Helton] definitely has a physical mentality . . . Coach trusted me . . . it feels good . . . Coach believes in me . . . he said 'get this yard'."
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