It was the kind of momentum-turning play that T.J. McDonald had talked about making since the end of last season.
McDonald’s third-quarter interception against California nearly two weeks ago stymied the Golden Bears and sent No. 13 USC on its way to victory.
So when the senior safety takes the field at Utah on Thursday night, he intends to build on the performance.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound McDonald has seven career interceptions but would like more.
McDonald’s father, Tim McDonald, was a two-time All-American at USC who intercepted 11 passes from 1983 through ’86. He coached his sons, T.J. and UCLA safety Tevin McDonald, when they played at Fresno Edison High, and has offered counsel during their college careers.
Now Tim is in his first season as secondary coach at Fresno State, where the Bulldogs lead all major college teams with 11 interceptions.
USC is tied for seventh nationally with eight interceptions.
“I don’t have him in my ear as much this year just because he’s got other stuff to deal with — and I feel like I can handle the reins from here,” T.J. said. “I can just imagine what those guys are going through and what he’s doing with those guys.
“He has some influence, but there’s no way you have that many interceptions without having players too.”
Rested and ready
USC worked out without helmets and shoulder pads Tuesday, the end of a 10-day span since its last game.
“We’re in the best physical shape we’ve been in all year long,” said Coach Lane Kiffin, adding that the open date “allowed us to clean up some things in all three phases of the game.
“Hopefully that shows.”
Kiffin was noncommittal about center Khaled Holmes’ status for Thursday.
“I hope that he plays,” Kiffin said. “Obviously, there’s a big difference when he does. The last two games that he’s played, we’ve rushed for over 250 yards.”
USC rushed for 258 yards against Syracuse and 296 against Cal.
If Holmes plays, he would go against Utah’s Star Lotulelei, one of the top defensive tackles in college football.
“Maybe the best nose tackle in the country, maybe the best center in the country,” Utah Coach Kyle Whittingham said. “That should be quite a matchup if it comes to fruition.”
Offensive guard John Martinez is USC’s only player from Utah. The Utes have 37 players from California. ... USC is 7-3 against Utah. ... Thursday’s game, USC’s first in Salt Lake City in nearly a century, is sold out. Seating capacity at Rice-Eccles Stadium is 45,017.