With USC riding a five-game winning streak going into its game against UCLA, Trojans interim Coach Ed Orgeron was upbeat Sunday.
That is until he was asked what he remembered most about last season’s 38-28 loss to the Bruins.
Orgeron sounded morose as he spoke in clipped sentences and phrases.
“Getting beat. Losing. Terrible taste in our mouth,” he said during a teleconference with reporters. “Against our rival team. Not playing well. Letting down the Trojan family. Not a very good feeling.”
The No. 23 Trojans aim to reverse the result, and continue their campaign in support of Orgeron, when they play the No. 22 Bruins on Saturday at the Coliseum.
USC is 9-3 overall and 6-2 in the Pac-12 Conference after Saturday night’s 47-29 victory at Colorado, which improved the Trojans’ record under Orgeron to 6-1.
UCLA is 8-3 and 5-3 in the Pac-12 after Saturday’s 38-33 loss to Arizona State.
USC opened as a 31/2-point favorite against the Bruins.
And the Trojans could be getting stronger.
Orgeron said All-American receiver Marqise Lee, who did not travel to Colorado because of a shin injury suffered against Stanford, would be limited in practice this week but was “sure” he would play against the Bruins.
Cornerback Kevon Seymour, who suffered a bruised rib against Colorado, is questionable, but Orgeron said Seymour would be fine.
The Trojans will need to be at full strength to offset a Bruins offense led by quarterback Brett Hundley. Last season, Hundley rushed for two touchdowns and completed 22 of 30 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown against the Trojans.
USC has “a different defense this year, a different scheme,” Orgeron said, but the key remains the same.
“We cannot let Hundley run the ball or throw the ball deep,” he said. “We need to be great on coverage and great on our rush.”
USC quarterback Cody Kessler is preparing for his first appearance in the series.
“We know that there is a lot more emphasis on this game just because of the rivalry and the tradition behind it,” Kessler said after the Colorado game, “but we’re going to treat it just like any other week.”
Soma Vainuku gets some props
Orgeron credited fullback Soma Vainuku with taking advantage of opportunities and for “answering the bell” on special teams and offense.
Vainuku, a third-year sophomore, has blocked three kicks, including punts against California and Colorado that directly resulted in a touchdown and a safety, respectively.
A week after catching a touchdown pass against Stanford, Vainuku rushed for a 52-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter against Colorado.
“With some of the backs being injured … our offensive staff came up with this plan to have Soma play tailback and see if that would work,” Orgeron said. “We are very pleased with his progress.”
Saturday’s game against UCLA will kick off at 5 p.m. and will be televised by ABC. ... The Trojans will follow their regular practice schedule Monday and Tuesday, but they will work out earlier in the day Wednesday and have “a very special dinner … just to let them know how much we care about them for Thanksgiving,” Orgeron said. USC will practice in the morning Thanksgiving Day and be off until Friday afternoon.