Neil Callaway wasn't about to throw any of his O-line charges under the bus although that thought clearly may have been in a combative JuJu Smith-Schuster's mind when it came to handling Trojan defenders Tuesday.
For run game coordinator Tommie Robinson, there were mostly words for what he and his coaching colleagues must do.
"We've got to, as coaches, to put 'em in a better situation to be successful," Tommie said. "We've got to be able to run the football."
Simple solution for a USC team that gained a mere 64 yards on 30 rushes despite getting 46 of those on one Ronald Jones run?
"Work," Tommie said. "There's no magic dust."
No more does Tommie want to hear that "you guys didn't score a touchdown," he says of an offense many -- including this coaching staff -- thought would be both physical and explosive. "I didn't see it," Tommie says.
And there will be change. "There always will be," Tommie says, noting the old saying that "we're not going to live in insanity. You know, doing the same thing and expecting a different result."
And this day did have a bit of a different look and feel although we're not doing a scouting report for the Utah State game here. "There was a little pep in their step," Tommie said of a team that played with an edge that built through practice.
Will USC do things differently? They will. But more than those kinds of schematic adjustments, there are these others.
The mistakes must go. "We have a great coaching staff," Zach Banner said. "We didn't execute. Nobody executed the way they needed to . . . they [Alabama] played their best. We didn't . . . that wasn't us . . . I'm not disappointed in our preparation, I'm disappointed in our execution."
After a loss like Saturday's, Justin Davis felt then need to psychoanalyze his team and how it maybe "let Alabama get into our heads."
Something got into their heads, and other parts of their bodies, clearly. Yes, "we missed some blocks," Callaway said. "It was a lot of little things -- like using their eyes, communicating . . . and yes, some of it's lunging, some of it's technique misses . . . but we did some good things."
Mostly, however, the 37-year coaching veteran wanted to look ahead. After all "that game was three days ago," he said. "Every day's a new day in this deal. We'd like to move on."
Or Fight On. Which was the way JuJu chose to go. He'd had one earlier episode that caused him to pound on the Dedaux wall in frustration with Clay Helton and Tee Martin trying to calm him down along with Adoree' Jackson.
But then came the play on Brian Kennedy Field near the wall when Ajene Harris tried to rip the ball loose and JuJu objected with his fists as they hit the ground, swinging on the defensive back. This brought another defender, Ykili Ross, into the mix and it finished up with Olajuwon Tucker and an unidentified offensive player in another nearby scrum.
But unlike previous bouts of boxing that have broken out, there were no up-downs as a penalty, just a "play-on."
"I've got a mad football team," Clay said, smiling. "I wish we could play today . . . a mad team, I'd rather have it like that. Saturday can't get here quick enough. Right now, I like the place they're in."
And no, he's not worried about JuJu's fighting-mad moments. Said it reminded him of Marqise Lee's occasional dustups, although Marqise did it with a smile on his face and without minus the moody pouting that has overtaken JuJu at times.
And yes, Clay said, USC can do some things to free JuJu of the bracket coverage Alabama gave him. There are things we have to do to free him up," Clay said, like putting him in motion. Unanswered despite having it asked twice was why that didn't happen Saturday.
"A little bit of it is moving him around," Clay said. "We did a little bit of it. It's one of those things we'll do more of. Hopefully you can learn from it."
Hopefully everyone can learn from it. Clay said they're in this together. "We warned them in the team meeting that we're going to be coaching them hard and want that same back from them."
What Helton said he doesn't want any more is "sleeping on your dang couch and waking up grumpy."
Although "grumpy" may have been the operative word Tuesday for this Trojan team. Although maybe not as grumpy as some of the Trojan fans posting their dismay with the loss.
The problems with the O-line, he said, were a combination, as all his coaches said, of "missed assignments and physical beats . . . I challenged them to make sure every play mattered." On this day, JuJu made it clear that was the case.
Injury report: D-lineman Noah Jefferson has a sore AC/shoulder joint that they're rehabbing and the availability of the defensive tackle for Saturday is going to be a close call, Clay said . . . TE Taylor McNamara tweaked an ankle in practice but it wasn't serious . . . NT Khaliel Rodgers has a hamstring but again, they think he'll be OK . . . C Toa Lobendahn missed practice with "some fluid in his good (right) knee," Clay said, and sat out practice . . . and freshman safety Jamel Cook, after fracturing his foot this summer in an auto accident, was out in pads for the first time and doing some individual work . . . no change in status for both Osa Masina and Don Hill, involved in sexual assault investigations but with no charges, are allowed to go to class, team meetings and practice but will not be eligible for games, Clay said, per University direction . . . For a play-by-play on today's practice, go to Tuesday Utah State Week Ghost Notes.
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