Tuesday Practice: Keeping Focus

Playing Notre Dame and UCLA in consecutive weeks is a great experience for USC fans looking for a big finish to the season, but facing your two biggest rivals back to back can cause headaches for the coaches looking to avoid an emotional letdown.

Playing Notre Dame and UCLA in consecutive weeks is a great experience for USC fans looking for a big finish to the season, but facing your two biggest rivals back to back can cause headaches for the coaches looking to avoid an emotional letdown.

That is the task this week for Pete Carroll and his heavily favored Trojans, who will play in their second rivalry game in as many weeks.

"In every way we're trying to deal with all of the aspects to what can cause you to be distracted, particularly in a chance here to finish off your season," Carroll said.

Carroll's philosophy is to prepare the same for every opponent but admits the rivalry games against the Bruins and Fighting Irish bring an added excitement.

"When you have a chance to play your big rivalries at the end of the season back to back, it just adds to the excitement and the fun, the buildup to the finish of the season," Carroll said.

And with all the buildup there comes the opportunity for a letdown, like the Trojans experienced in 2006, losing to the Bruins 13-9 on the last game of the season.

The stunning loss knocked the Trojans out of the BCS National Championship Game, and should serve as a cautionary tale for anyone looking past Saturday's matchup.

"Even though each game is a championship game to us during the season, this one now is the last one of them," Carroll said. "So it has some additional issues that we have to deal with."

So what is Carroll's plan to avoid being upset?

"I'm going to try to make clear to these guys so that we can practice really well. That's the whole point, practice really well," Carroll said. "If we get that done, we're most of the way home to having a chance to perform really well.

"We have to keep the conversations out of our heads and be in the competitiveness of the day's work. That's what allows you to add up the elements that give you a chance for a good performance.

"It's a unique rivalry and we can't ignore that. We have our ways of dealing with it, and I hope we do it really well. We'll find out."

News and Notes

• The NCAA Rules Committee clarified on Tuesday, that the Trojans will lose just one timeout for wearing their home uniforms against UCLA on Saturday.

• Tailback Stafon Johnson missed practice with a thigh contusion that he suffered against Notre Dame.

"I really don't know how it happened," Johnson said. "I just know I had a lump after the game."

Johnson said he will return to practice on Wednesday.

• USC quarterback Mark Sanchez was named to the Pac-10 All-Academic First Team on Tuesday. Garrett Green was the quarterback on the Pac-10 All-Academic Second Team.

"What I don't understand is how Garrett has a better GPA than me but is second team," Sanchez joked.

• Freshman Malik Jackson will be suspended for the first half of Saturday's game against UCLA. The suspension stems from Jackson's ejection near the end of the Notre Dame game.

• The Trojans are looking thin at fullback right now. Starter Stanley Havili has been sidelined with two sprained ankles and said he hopes to return to practice on Thursday.

Adam Goodman has a torn meniscus in his right knee and is scheduled to have surgery on Monday, but is going to try and play against UCLA.

With the injuries, D.J. Shoemate has been working with the first team offense.

Kevin Ellison worked with the trainers for most of practice and did some running. After practice, Pete Carroll said it will be important to see how his knee responds to the extended workload.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions you can reach Kevin Carden at kevin@scplaybook.com


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