With an extra week added to the season now, here's a game plan for USC fans to follow right up through Saturday's Pac-12 Championship rematch against Stanford in Santa Clara at Levi's Stadium (4:45 or 5 p.m., ABC or ESPN) -- and whatever bowl game comes as a result.
Cool it on allowing the coaching search to create controversy and name-calling and bad feelings. This isn't the time for that. Enjoy the week. Enjoy this team. Enjoy where they've come from and how they got here.
Don't worry if they win. No, really, if you're a USC fan and you're saying something like: "Sure they won, but Clay Helton isn't blah, blah, blah . . . .", well, you may not really be a USC fan. That's not how you do it.
Make your points about who you like and why, although not to the extent that it takes away from this Pac-12 South champion team and what they have ahead of them. They deserve no less than that.
Think about this. In the contentious Pac-12 South where five teams seemed to have a shot at the title, a USC team that fired its coach after five games went 5-0. That's worth celebrating.
It's not worth a single "Yes, but . . . "
And as much as you may think you know about football, know this: There are people who know far more than you or we do, people with Hall of Fame credentials and USC credentials who understand the game better than any of us here who would give Clay Helton a chance to see what he could do based on what he's done to this point and under these circumstances.
That's not necessarily what we're thinking. We're saying let this play out. But as someone noted after the game, Clay may just be one of those coaches who is better as the head man than he was as a coordinator. It works that way on occasion. It may be working that way now.
The "next man up" philosophy that sustained USC Saturday may also apply to the coach.
The point is not that that's the correct way to think about this but it is one way to think about it. Of course, the players should not make this hire although given the alternative, they do have a better track record. But they should be taken into consideration. And sure, after Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian, they were looking for adult leadership, not people needing leadership. And Clay has given that to them.
Be happy for this team. They deserved much more from USC for the commitment they've made to this program. There's nothing that's happening here that should have any of us yelling at one another.
This is one place and one time where no one needs to "Fight On."
Leon McQuay III didn't play but did dress. Said he wasn't sure when he'll be back from that PCL tear . . . Alex Wood cleared his concussion protocol after missing last week's Oregon game and hit both field goal attempts (from 30 and 21 yards) and was four for four on extra points . . . Khaliel Rodgers had a boot on his right ankle/foot after the game. Not sure what exactly the injury was.
BY THE NUMBERS
83,602Saturday's crowd ws the fourth straight non-sellout in this series with the crowd 10,005 under the Coliseum capacity. Too bad for USC fans who missed this one.
6-2Clay Helton's record as interim coach in his two terms at USC.
40:01 to 19:59USC's incredible time of possession edge had the Trojans more than doubling the Bruins' in time with the ball.
4 of 14, 8 of 19More good work by the Trojans. Eight third-down conversions (out of 19 attempts) to four for UCLA (out of 14).
13-0 . . . 3Big edge for the Trojans in points off turnovers -- 13-0. There were just three of them in this game and all by the Bruins -- one fumble by Josh Rosen that led immediately to Rasheem Green's 31-yard scoop and score. And two interceptions by Iman Marshall that led to the other six.
811, 807With his 15 completions Saturday, Cody Kessler's 811 career completions passed Matt Leinart's 807 into third place all-time at USC. Matt Barkley's 1001 are first with Carson Palmer's 927 second.
100, 30, 11Justin Davis ran for 100 yards in the final quarter after running for just 30 the first three quarters and those 100 yards were nearly 10 times the 11 yards of total offense UCLA picked up in the fourth quarter.
63, 890, 858Ronald Jones II rushed for 63 yards Saturday, enough to give the Texan the USC freshman rushing record with 890 yards this season, 32 more than Heisman Trophy winner Charles White totaled in 1976.
7, 5For the last seven games, slow-starting USC has trailed at the end of the first quarter as it did against UCLA, down 7-3. But as it has in five of those now, USC came back to win.
5-11Porter Gustin at RUSH end became the fifth Trojan freshman to start a game this season joining DB Iman Marshall, OT Chuma Edoga, LB Cameron Smith and TE Tyler Petite. At least 11 USC freshman have played in every game this season.
6 for 6With USC's gigantic 40:01 to 19:59 time of possession edge, that marks the sixth straight time -- all under Helton -- when USC won the TOP battle.
9 of 11, 14 of 16USC stopped a trend against UCLA as the Bruins had been almost unbeatable on the road. The loss to USC drops them to winning just nine of their last Pac-12 road games and 14 of of their last 16 games away from the Rose Bowl.
UCLA COACH JIM MORA on his first loss to USC: "It's disappointing and a new feeling for us. The game turned on turnovers -- the punt return and turnovers in the second half. We couldn't get any and they did and they capitalized. My heart breaks for the players that put so much into this year round and had success and this breaks your heart to see the looks in their eyes because it means so much . . . We'll lick our wounds and come back stronger than ever."
CLAY HELTON on this USC team's legacy: "It's been since 2008 since a USC football player was able to call themselves a champion. For this team to leave their mark and lead their stable back into the light, I can't tell you how proud I am of them. They are leaving their mark not only now but for years to come. What they have done for the second half of this season will continue into next season.”
CODY KESSLER on his last game in the Coliseum: “It was awesome. Such a great feeling. I was trying to hold it all in but lost it a bit back there, trying to hold back the tears. It's the way you want to go out. Obviously we have another game and need another great week of preparation. It was tough walking off that field for the last time but this is the way I wanted to do it. I am so proud of this team . . . We could not have done it without Coach Helton."
SU'A CRAVENS on what Helton has done for this team: "He's competitive . . . he stresses competition and that has brought us together. The best guys will play . . . He's on the defensive end of the field most of the day Tuesday and when the head coach is running the Scout team, you pay attention."
UCLA QB JOSH ROSEN on what USC did to confuse him: "They didn't do anything different. It's just disappointing. I didn't play like myself. It's really frustrating. I just didn't execute.”
UCLA WR THOMAS DUARTE on what USC did to disrupt Rosen: "They kind of confused him a bit and brought some different pressures. They did stuff we weren't really ready for and a credit to them. We expected more zone coverage and not as much man-to-man pressure. . . . we were trying to find that rhythm all game. He was flustered a bit. The interception and fumble got to him a bit. With our offense, rhythm is everything, especially in a game like this.”
ZACH BANNER on his tweet about his future -- whether he comes back for a final season or moves on to the NFL: "I just said it was 'our team's last game in the Coliseum' . . . for me, I'll know in a couple of weeks.”
ADOREE' JACKSON on the benefits of returning a punt that has to come from out of the end zone: "I'm excited because I know it has to be a quick punt and it won't be in the air long."
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