Their smiles make them special.
One was the last man on to the field for USC -- and pretty much the last man off it. Which is what you might have expected from Juju Smith-Schuster as he readied himself to play in pain Saturday against Arizona. He'd be ready soon enough.
The other, freshman Ronald Jones II, who likes to answer by saying "Yes, Sir," with a playful grin, was obviously ready to do something none of the list of USC running back greats before him had ever managed.
But first there was JuJu, practically the last man off the field after thanking fans and family and the band and anyone who came by after USC's 38-30 come-from-behind win over Arizona at the Coliseum.
He couldn't get into the locker room as one after another, fans would come up and ask if they could have their photo taken with him, even one with her right arm in a sling, much the same as JuJu was wearing at USC's Tuesday practice right after the surgery on his right hand.
And there was JuJu, flashing that big grin and the "Fight On" victory salute with his right hand wiggling his fingers above the soft cast. Amazing. And that's Juju's word. None of his teammates would use it. They're no longer amazed by the guy.
But JuJu knew what the deal was after his Monday surgery to put a plate and screw into his right hand to speed healing of a fracture below his ring finger.
"I was told it takes about three days [Ed. Note: He was told three days is the absoute fastest anyone has ever come back from it and played]," JuJu said. "As soon as I found out I could do treatment, I took full advantage and worked on my mobility. I thought how amazing would it be for a kid to come back after three days. I think it's amazing and very cool that I played . . . and it's because of the USC trainers and doctors . . . I was just ready to go."
Indeed, from the first USC catch of the day, an extended one-hand lefthanded grab to his team-high eight for 138 yards to the 72-yard strike that got USC back in the game and on the board for the first touchdown, JuJu was amazing . . . and much more.
But so was Ronald, who said his "favorite guy" as a running back is Chris Johnson, going for speed over power and favoring his "horse kick" -- as Clay Helton calls it -- to keep running.
"His legs explode on contact," Helton said, straining to come up with a comparison and deciding on Roger Craig, although Craig's style seemed much more about explosive power. Ronald seems all about explosive but smooth and unfailing acceleration through the hole and through tacklers flaiing arms.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said his guys looked like "flag football" tacklers trying to secure Jones on his 74-yard TD run that nailed down his freshman record 177 yards rushing. And put on display his special gift -- he just keeps running and goes really fast.
And at a solid 192 pounds -- "I'm much stronger now," he says since his summer arrival from McKinney, Tex., -- up from 185, he runs through arm tacklers. And with his speed, runs away from anyone chasing him. Even if he, as he said on that play, runs the wrong way.
The past two weeks, USC had targeted him for 15 touches but that number was upped this week. "I was hoping for 20," Helton said. "We got 19. And if you count the catch [for a five-yard TD], that's 20 touches. He's gotten better as a complete player . . . I said it before, if you want your role to increase, then do everything right . . . I'm really proud of him."
But Cody Kessler said he knew where this was going to go. "He's been doing it since he got here in the summer . . . that kid has it . . . he's a future All-American."
His coach has two pieces of advice for him, RJII says: "Keep running," and "Hey 2-5, be ready."
Saturday he did and he was.
No season-ending injuries that we know of for a second straight week and not the worst injury report we've ever seen . . . JuJu Smith-Schuster was in lots of pain but we have to think his hand just gets better from here on out with regard to the pain . . . Not sure if Tre Madden's chronically sore knee was part of the problem but not getting to practice full-speed has to be after the first missed exchange on the handoff fumble and no carries against Arizona . . . Su'a Cravens had his left thumb bandaged up -- not a big bandaid -- where he got it "split open" he said and had to have a couple of stitches to close it up during the game . . . Claude Pelon was looking pretty spry on his healing knee after significant game action . . . Taylor McNamara's dislocated shoulder didn't seem to bother him at all in his game action . . . From the way Steven Mitchell was blocking, his ankle couldnt have been bothering him much.
BY THE NUMBERS
76.309USC's Homecoming crowd not a bad night against a team that brought very few fans . . . just wish the USC fans would have stayed to the end . . . they missed some serious fourth-quarter fun.
4-1Clay Helton's record as interim coach in his two terms at USC.
8-8-7-10Those are the tackle numbers for USC's two leaders -- Su'a Cravens, as expected, and John Plattenburg, who also had an interception from his safety spot. Lamar Dawson was next with seven and 10 different USC defenders had tackles for losses amounting to 38 negative yards for the Wildcats.
61-26-4 . . . 5With the win, USC's fifth straight at Homecoming, the Trojans improved to 61-26-4 all-time at Homecoming.
19-177USC freshman Ronald Jones II had record-breaking rushing numbers for a freshman, beating LenDale White's 2003 total of 140 by plenty on a night when he scored two TDs and averaged 9.3 yards a carry.
0-4For the fourth time this season -- all four games coached by Helton, USC won the time of possession battle -- this time by 31:38 to 28:22. They did that in none of the five previous games this season.
8 for 70Not great numbers, USC's eight penalties for 70 yards, but hard as it might be to believe, USC won the penalty battle with Arizona going nine for 80.
13.4, 27.8USC's kickoff return woes continue, averaging just 13.4 yards a return while its heretofore strong kickoff coverage faltered with the 56-yarder allowed Tyrell Johnson as Arizona more than doubled USC with a 27.8-yard average.
72-72After the 72-yard Cody Kessler to JuJu Smith-Schuster pass for USC's first TD, USC now has 72 points off turnovers coming as it did on the heels of John Plattenburg's interception.
2.0 on 3Showing exactly how much the defensive line has improved, Antwaun Woods, after being credited with no sacks the first eight games, had 1.5 the first half and 2.0 on three plays in the game after entering the game with just one tackle for loss.
10 of 15, 4 of 15, 6 of 9With its one successful fourth down conversion in its only attempt, USC is now 10 of 15 for the season (66.7 percent) to opponents' 4 of 15 (26.7) and improved to six of nine under Helton.
ANTWAUN WOODS on the USC defensive success: "We knew we'd be in a dogfight and put it on ourselves to be disciplined for four quarters . . . we work hard against each other in practice and give each other good looks . . . it starts at practice and transitions over to the game."
CLAY HELTON explained the game this way: "We started slow, having a lot of penalties was a momentum killer . . . I'm proud of the guys. They didn't show signs of panic . . . In the second quarter, putting 17 points on the board, our defense came back strong and kept us in the game . . . I'm proud of the defense . . . We'll get better next week."
ARIZONA COACH RICH RODRIGUEZ on the Wildcats defense: "We blitzed more today. We have to because we can't get pressure without blitzing. We made a few plays on a veteran quarterback but we have to maintain it over four quarters. We can't let a guy [Ronald Jones II] run 72 yards like it's flag football."
CODY KESSLER on JuJu's return: "I knew he was going to play when he called me right after his surgery and said he was coming back . . . I told him he should think about his future but there was never any doubt."
SU'A CRAVENS on the change in the USC defensive line play: "They're playing with a lot more confidence . . . not second-guessing themselves . . . we're [the defense] a lot closer now . . . Coach Helton has really broken it down for us, playing the run game on Tuesdays, the pass game on Wednesdays . . . that really helps."
RONALD JONES II: On being called a runner like former 49er great Roger Craig, someone he'd never heard of, by Helton: "That sounds like a quarterback . . . the only Roger I know is Roger Staubach."
SU'A AGAIN: on USC's three-game win streak under Helton: "It's unfortunate that's even a stat . . . we could have played like this since Week 1."
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