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USC Sports

USC football team gets ‘back to the drawing board’ ahead of Notre Dame game

Cody Kessler

USC quarterback Cody Kessler throws a pass against Washington during the first half on Thursday.

(Jae C. Hong / AP)

USC players and coaches spent two days apart, working through the fallout of an upset loss against Washington.

On Sunday, the Trojans reconvene for meetings and practice as they attempt to move forward from potential crisis.

USC, 3-2 overall and 1-2 in the Pac-12 Conference, travels to Notre Dame this week for the 87th game in the intersectional rivalry.

“Like I say every week,” linebacker Su’a Cravens said after the 17-12 defeat by Washington on Thursday, “back to the drawing board and see what happens.”

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Last season, USC blew out injury-depleted Notre Dame, 49-14, at the Coliseum.

It will not be as easy at Notre Dame Stadium.

Fifteenth-ranked Notre Dame is 5-1 after Saturday’s 41-24 victory over Navy.

The Fighting Irish were regarded by some as possible College Football Playoff contenders before the season. But several key players, including quarterback Malik Zaire, running back Tarean Folston and defensive tackle Jarron Jones suffered season-ending injuries.

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Notre Dame bounced back from last week’s 24-22 defeat by sixth-ranked Clemson to win Saturday.

Quarterback DeShone Kizer passed for 281 yards and a touchdown and C.J. Prosise rushed for 129 yards and three touchdowns.

Kizer told reporters afterward the USC game was “very big for our team.”

“It’s a rivalry that’s been around for longer than any of us have been here, so with that being said what we’re going to prepare as if it’s the last game of the season,” he said, “because that’s how every week is going to have to be for us to try to achieve the goals that we set before the season.”

Center of attention

With senior center Max Tuerk expected to be sidelined because of a knee injury, sophomore Toa Lobendahn could start in his place against the Fighting Irish.

If he does, it will be his fourth starting position.

The 6-foot-3, 290-pound Lobendahn began last season at left guard. He moved to left tackle after Chad Wheeler suffered a season-ending knee injury against Utah.

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Lobendahn played tackle during spring practice and for part of training camp while Wheeler recovered. He has started every game at right guard this season.

With backup center Khaliel Rodgers absent from practice for a few days last week because of personal reasons, Lobendahn also practiced at center.

“Everyone asked me a week ago, ‘Why is Toa playing center all week long?’” Coach Steve Sarkisian said Friday. “Because I’m trying to plan for what might occur.”

Lobendahn said the switch to center during the Washington game was challenging.

“Maybe a little bit because I had to focus on the snap a little bit at the beginning,” he said. “But once we got going and got a couple drives in, I was ready to go. We had some work in the bye week so I felt comfortable.”

gary.klein@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimesklein


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