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One focus for USC: Try not to commit 18 penalties for 169 yards again

USC coach Clay Helton won’t have to reach for topics when the Trojans meet as a team Monday to reflect on their 24-20 victory at Arizona and what lies ahead for them during the upcoming bye week.

USC’s 18 penalties for 169 yards — the most for a Football Bowl Subdivision team since Arkansas State committed 18 against Utah State in 2016 — will be the obvious focus.

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“It’s something we must concentrate on immediately,” Helton said during his weekly Sunday call with reporters. “Thank goodness for a bye week. We’re very fortunate it did not cost us last night.”

How does Helton plan to address his team’s undisciplined performance in the desert?

“Brutal honesty,” he said.

To Helton, any penalty can fall under three categories: decision making, fundamental technique or administrative. He said decision-making penalties are like personal fouls, situations where a player has a judgment call and chooses wrongly. Fundamental technique penalties are things like holding, “are your hands outside the shoulder pads or in the chest plate,” Helton explained. Administrative penalties are situations like “staying onside,” Helton said.

“I plan on showing all three of those,” Helton said, “showing how that game could have been separated but wasn’t. That’s on me. That’s my job, to be able to correct those things, and I look forward to doing it tomorrow.”

In Saturday’s game, USC ran the full gamut. The Trojans had four false starts and one offsides and were flagged for seven penalties likely to fall under the fundamental technique umbrella. They also had four personal fouls, an unsportsmanlike conduct and a facemask.

On the decision-making penalties, Helton said, “I thought our kids played with great passion. We came in there to win a road game. We knew how important this win was for our season, especially a Pac-12 South win on the road. I thought preparation all week was phenomenal. I thought the emotion they played with was great.

“Then, finally, there were some decisions made in that game. … The pushing and shoving, those are the ones that get your blood pressure up. Those are ones I’m going to address as a team.”

Comfortable with snaps

For the second straight game, USC had an issue with a snap from center Toa Lobendahn. In Saturday’s case, it was a communication problem, not a snap location problem, when USC turned the ball over in the second quarter.

Helton was asked if there was any chance Lobendahn would move to another position on the line.

“Toa’s our center,” Helton said. “The snaps will be OK. On that particular one, we had two men in motion, and offensively we tried to stop the play, one by me calling time out. Toa heard something verbal and snapped the ball. It happens in football. We’ll fix the low snaps this week.”

Healing up

Helton said the Trojans will benefit from having a bye week to heal injuries.

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Right tackle Chuma Edoga has a hip impingement that was aggravated during Saturday’s game.

“Credit to him,” Helton said, “he’s been dealing with it for five games now. We’ll try to give Chuma some rest this week and get that thing down going into Colorado.”

John Houston left Saturday’s game with a neck injury. Helton will have a more definitive update Tuesday. Malik Dorton hurt his ankle. Freshman Raymond Scott, who plays on special teams, fractured a finger. Porter Gustin was pulled with an ankle injury.

Helton said Amon-ra St. Brown will also need rest for a shoulder sprain. St. Brown played with the injury Saturday.

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