A team to root for

They keep coming back and coming back and USC fans should be proud of a team that gives them so much to root for.

Don't worry, be happy.

Or something like that . . . if you're a USC football fan.

Sure, you're worrying this week that the trip to Colorado is a mile-high, late-night, cold-weather trap game (6 p.m., ESPN2) for the Trojans after three straight wins with a chance, and some luck, to get into the Pac-12 championship game for the first time in history.

And of course, it's all those things. But it's more than that. It's another chance to root for a team that maybe as much as any in the nation deserves to have people rooting for it.

Start with the stand-in coach, the solid and strong Clay Helton, stepping in for the second time in his career, which is a little like getting hit by lightning twice.

Just knowing that he's making up lost time by sleeping on a couch at McKay Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of every week, makes the guy worth pulling for. It takes a lot to catch up when others have a five-year head start on you.

And twice in three years, that program has to replace a coach in midseason as it fights its way through the most ridiculously unfair NCAA hit job in history.

And all you hear from Clay is: "We're not paid to make excuses, we're paid to come up with answers."

And both times the players and coaches rally. Sure, we could see it coming the first time. The Sun Bowl fiasco made that outcome a matter of when not if.

But again? A second time for the guys who have endured so much for the chance to be Trojans, to represent a program taken down as they try to get it back where they know it belongs.

So this should be a night when you just sit back and root for folks like Cody Kessler, who has exhibited nothing but the steadiest of leadership time and again through the five years he's been here.

A program couldn't ask for a quarterback with more of the exactly right instincts to do and say all the right things -- while racking up numbers that have him in six Top 25 passing categories in another turmoil-filled season.

"We've been through this before," Cody says whenever something else has come up. "We can handle it."

Tre Madden is another who can as the fifth-year tailback who's played multiple positions on offense and defense while fighting through multiple major injuries. And despite missing Friday's game with a painful bone bruise, will be there as a senior leader, honorary assistant coach -- and riding next to Clay on the plane.

"No question," Clay said when asked if Tre would make the trip to Colorado: "He keeps me sane."

How about nose tackle Antwaun Woods, who has decided to make this "a November to remember" and finish out strong. No moping around for these guys no matter how easy it would be to place the blame on what a quirky football fate has sent their way.

Corner Kevon Seymour has also come back from the injury/illness bug that's held him back over the years and is playing as well as anyone could have ever expected of him. And he's become that vocal leader no one would have predicted a couple of years back.

Then there's senior D-lineman Claude Pelon, in just his second year from junior college, coming back last week after re-injuring his knee. They expected 15 plays from Claude, he gave them 36. And then dinged up his knee again this week -- and they expect him to be there again Friday, helping out as much as he can.

For this USC team, there has been so much growth the last month when they were given the chance. And a refusal to give in. Or give up.

And since he's just a sophomore and only 18, we'll not even mention JuJu Smith-Schuster, who continues to lead the Pac-12 in pass receiving yards -- and this team on and off the field.

These players know this team wasn't ready to play Stanford, had no idea who it was or how it was supposed to win what was an extremely winnable game. And don't even talk to them about Washington. For those who thought that Washington State Coliseum loss in 2013 was the most embarrassing ever, there's now a bookend for it.

And sure, they know had they somehow staggered through to a win over Washington under a Steve Sarkisian, who never should have been allowed to be coaching them by then, they'd be in the driver's seat with their fate in the Pac-12 South completely in their own hands. Now they need someone to beat Utah -- the way they did.

But all in a career's work for these Trojans. We'll list Su'a Cravens as an honorary senior here with the minimal chances we see him again next year in Cardinal and Gold. And we like Su'a "no excuses" mantra.

"We should have been playing like this all year," Su'a says. So no extra credit for getting it going now. Just the challenge to keep it up.

A challenge for USC fans, as well, despite just one home game remaining. And a two-game road trip up North, where the conditions won't be all that favorable in Eugene next week, as well, we're guessing.

And there's no room for error after all the errors that others have made for them.

And yet they just keep going, keep answering the bell. Like at Notre Dame, where a fourth-ranked Irish team that could well find itself in the playoffs, had no answers for the Trojans for half a game that Clay & Co. had barely three days to get ready for.

And all these Trojans did after that disappointment was pick themselves up and thrash No. 3 Utah. Just to show you what they could do if given the chance.

Sure, there have been the slow starts, the at-times unfocused offense and hang-back defense, the penalties, but above it all, there have been the comebacks.

Which is how we should think of these guys: the comeback kids. Five years of coming back and it's not over yet.

Every game a comeback, whether they trail on the scoreboard or not. It's the very essence of USC football from 2010 to 2015.

For reasons not of their own making, these Trojans will always be coming from behind this year, no matter who or where or when they're playing.

Friday night in Boulder -- Friday the 13th -- is just another example. And another chance to root these guys home.

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

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