Coach Clay Helton called USC’s seniors to stand up.
At a team meeting Thursday, Helton wanted to put the older players’ success on display for their teammates.
“We’ve got a lot to accomplish for them,” Helton said.
USC enters its matchup against Arizona State on Saturday riding a 19-game winning streak at the Coliseum. The Trojans’ last loss at home came Oct. 8, 2015, against Washington.
That source of pride for the upperclassmen could be jeopardy, as the Trojans work to recover from a rough loss at Utah last week.
“I think it’s more about, every time we step in there, how we represent the tradition of that place,” Helton said of the expectation of playing at home.
Helton wanted to emphasize the importance of the final 48 hours before facing the Sun Devils — to ensure that the Trojans are prepared in the final days before the game.
On Thursday the Trojans worked on executing in the red zone, an area where they have struggled. Of USC’s 23 ventures into the red zone, only 12 have resulted in touchdowns. The Trojans are averaging 26 points and 356.1 yards of offense per game.
Arizona State is last in the Pac-12 South, but Helton warned his players not to be fooled by the Sun Devils’ 1-3 conference record.
Arizona State has given up 21 points and 381.1 yards a game. Opponents have averaged 3.7 yards per play, converting 14 of 25 red zone appearances for touchdowns.
“Every time you walk down there, you better come away with a touchdown,” Helton said. “Because they’re gonna be invaluable.”
Helton said that offensive coordinator Tee Martin simplified the offensive schemes for Saturday to benefit the quarterback — whether Jack Sears makes his first start or JT Daniels, who suffered a concussion against Utah, plays with limited practice time.
This week’s distilled game plan has allowed the Trojans to focus on technique, and Helton said he has been encouraged by what he saw in practices following last week’s loss.
“They immediately came back and worked their tails off this week,” Helton said. “And they know how important this game is to us.”
Daniels status unknown
Daniels has not cleared his concussion protocol. He threw routes at practice Thursday but was not allowed to participate in contact plays, Helton said.
Helton said the status of USC’s other injured players remained unchanged.
Helton will receive another concussion report Friday morning to determine if Daniels will be able to play. Helton said he is taking the decision day-by-day, with Daniels’ safety the priority. “I’m not gonna risk a kid’s health ever,” he said.
Helton said he feels confident in Sears’ ability to lead the offense, with walk-on Holden Thomas as his backup. Thomas has traveled with the team, improving his knowledge of the game plan.