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Faster, please, it's Oregon week

It's all about speed, and speeding up, when you play the Ducks. But that's what the Trojans have been doing the last month.

Uchenna Nwosu is back and going strong, he says, after a scare in the Cal game when "I just felt a little tweak."

He wasn't the only one. Playing as well as anyone on the USC defense right now, the junior outside linebacker is back and practicing like it was absolutely nothing.

"I guess I'm just a fast healer," Uchenna was saying with a laugh after Wednesday's practice. But he got the right word for this week -- fast.

Oregon still has plenty of speed, Clay Helton said. "When you see Oregon on film, you can feel the speed."

And not just on offense. "They put four speedsters on the defensive line last week against Arizona State," Clay said, "with three defensive ends . . . and they got to the quarterback."

They did something else in that 54-35 romp over the Sun Devils last week. "They ran 88 plays," Helton said.

The team that pretty much invented the uptempo game is still running it despite losing five straight before that ASU win. They're ninth in the nation in total offense (519.1 yards a game). "And they're leading the Pac-12 in rushing again," Clay said with 248 yards a game on the ground.

"When you're playing one of those fast-tempo teams," Uchenna said, "you have to stay in the game." When you're playing against a true freshman quarterback like Justin Herbert in his third start after throwing 10 touchdown passes the last two games, "you've got to get up in their face, you have to bother them a lot."

"We have to hit him," Clay said, still thinking about the embarrassment of last year's 48-28 blowout loss in Eugene late in the season after he'd taken over as interim coach when "we did not have too good a game." But exactly how to do that, he'll leave up to Clancy Pendergast.

And yes, Clancy says, it helps to play a number of uptempo teams in a row, especially Oregon after Cal. "From a conditioning standpoint, it really does," he said. But what exactly, that might mean, is not something Clancy is about to say. Whenever he's asked, he gets a look like "Are you kidding me, you expect me to tell you so you can write about it. No way."

But Clay was willing to elaborate a bit on how he does it. "One of the things I appreciate about Clancy is how he takes every team and comes up with a wrinkle."

And that wrinkle will be something USC has not done before. And something the opponent has not seen before. "Teams are going to have to make adjustments in the game," Clay said. "He takes your strength and tries to eliminate it. That's what I like about Clancy."

He did last week against veteran Cal quarterback Davis Webb, who just never looked comfortable as the Bears fell behind 42-17 after three quarters.

"We're on a roll now," Chris Hawkins said. "It's November," and they're past the "couple of busts" from back in September. "We have what it takes to go undefeated in November."

They'll have Hawkins back at safety with Marvell Tell, it looks like, as Leon McQuay moves back to nickel with Jonathan Lockett, with his injured hip, looking like he won't be making it back this week.

Max talks his future

In a terrifically candid session after Wednesday's practice, Max Browne talked about his future. And USC. As to USC, where Max is in his third semester in the MBA program, he "will put that on pause," he says of his MBA degree and not transfer to somewhere like Cal or Duke or Northwestern to get his MBA there. "I'm going to get my MBA from USC," Max says. "I've only got two semesters left."

As to teams being interested, has he heard from any yet after the word got out Tuesday? "Yeah, I have," he said. He's decided he's not going to say who they are for now, he said. He'll go "anywhere in the United States of America."

"The last four weeks haven't been fun," Max said. "But this gives me a light at the end of the tunnel."

Asked if he might hear from a team on USC's schedule, he talked of how Cal "would be awesome," but the question was what if he heard from a team on USC's remaining schedule this year. Well, "I don't think the Huskies like me," the Washington native who left home said. And Notre Dame. Probably not.

"Oh, I see where you're going -- UCLA," he said. "I'd love to talk to Tui [Marques Tuiasosopo, former USC assistant now quarterbacks coach at UCLA] , but he figures they're pretty much on the Josh Rosen bandwagon for the near future. But he'll talk to anyone.

"No school is too big, no school too small, if that's what you're getting at," Max said. And yes, he's going somewhere where he'll "be looking to start," but "if it's a bigger program, you have to be willing to compete for a job."

He is willing, Max says. But that's what he wants -- a job."I lost my job," he says simply.

And now the bounce is back in his step and for the second time he says it: "There's a light at the end of the tunnel."

Wednesday footnoted

With McQuay spelling Lockett, Ajene Harris will be the backup there and Clay likes the sound of that, comparing Ajene to Adoree' Jackson, who came out of high school as a multi-position player -- quarterback-wide receiver, defensive back -- which makes "his football instincts his greatest asset." . . . as to the pairing of Tell with Hawkins, Clay said two things come to mind when he thinks of Marvell: "he's physical . . . and then there's his range, his ability to come up and provide support." . . . Justin Davis managed to make it out to the field in gear for some rehab running but he mostly limped as he walked to watch practice. Looks far from being ready this week . . . The same for Aca'Cedric Ware, who was not allowed to practice with what Clay described as a sprained ankle . . . For more play-by-play for today's practice, go to WEDNESDAY OREGON WEEK GHOST NOTES.

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