Redshirt sophomore Ajene Harris started at nickel against Notre Dame and turned in a tremendous performance. Harris had 5 total tackles, a sack and an interception he returned 33 yards for a Trojan touchdown.
“Man it’s still unbelievable to me right now,” Harris said after the game. “I didn’t think the quarterback was going to throw that ball right there. But I just was waiting for him to break down and as soon as he did I just drove on the ball. I think I kind of baited him when he threw it. I was just sitting inside trying to protect the inside, and if he were to throw anything outside I had Adoree right outside of me. And he made an inside move so I just drove on the ball.”
All of the work in the film room helped Harris diagnose that play.
“Yeah I’ve seen that concept probably like five times on film so I was just ready for it to happen and as soon as it did I was just ready to make my break.”
USC was leading 10-7 with 1:24 left before halftime when a pair of Trojan defensive backs made their mark. First it was Adoree Jackson’s 55-yard punt return for a touchdown followed by Harris’ pick-6 just 17 seconds later, putting the Trojans in control up 24-7 at the break.
Harris didn’t spend any time thinking about what his play meant for the game, he is only focused on the next snap.
“I’m not really trying to pay too much attention to the scoreboard, I’m just trying to pay attention to the formations or the down and distance,” he said. “Whatever situation I’m in I just try to make a play for my team. I don’t try to pay attention to the scoreboard or any of that.”
After the interception Harris brought the ball over to his head coach, Clay Helton.
“Oh that’s just something that Coach Clay has with us,” he said. “Any turnover, anything, bring him the ball. So as soon as I got my interception I dropped the ball and I was like ‘Oh I’ve got to pick it up and go take it to coach.’ Everybody was tackling me and I still had the ball but I had to give it to coach.”
Overall, Harris and the defense have made tremendous strides as the season has progressed.
“I feel like we still have a lot to improve on,” Harris explained. “It’s the little detail things that are simple. I feel like Coach Clancy [Pendergast], Coach [Ronnie] Bradford, and all the position coaches have been great for us. [Helping us to] get better week-to-week. Just not letting us be satisfied, pointing out everything that we’re doing that’s incorrect, and also giving us credit with the things that we are doing correctly.
“It’s just a confidence thing, Coach Bradford and Coach Clancy have done a lot with building our confidence in the secondary. [Kenechi Udeze] has been doing a lot too, with the D-line. Coach [Johnny] Nansen has been doing a lot with the outsides. So it’s a lot with the coaches and just us going out there and really fighting for each other.
“We’re just coming out here and trying to start fast and run to the ball. Everybody’s on the same page running to the ball and we just all love each other and we’re all willing to fight for each other.”
Stay tuned to USCFootball.com for more updates from USC's win over Notre Dame.