Pass-happy Cougars present new challenge

first_imgAfter three tough losses this season, it would be understandable for the USC football team to give up on the season. This group of Trojans, however, showed up at practice on Wednesday ready to work and improve as they prepare for their game against Washington State and the Cougars’ pass-heavy offense.New role · Redshirt sophomore linebacker Scott Felix returns to the starting lineup this week, replacing injured senior J.R. Tavai. Felix was relegated to a backup role after sophomore Su’a Cravens moved to outside linebacker. – Mariya Dondonyan | Daily TrojanYou Shall Not PassThough last week the Trojans had to embrace a stop-the-run mentality, this week they’re trying to stop the pass. Washington State is a high-octane passing unit led by record-setting gunslinger Connor Halliday.“They might throw the ball 85 times Saturday. We’re going to have to live with that,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “If you throw the ball 85 times — I don’t care if it’s the ’85 Bears out there — you’re going to complete some passes.”Knowing that the opponent is going to come out passing the ball the majority of the game, the Trojans are embracing that style of play and gearing up to stop the aerial attack. One of the players who has been able to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks so far this season is sophomore outside linebacker Su’a Cravens, who recorded two sacks against Utah.“It’s easier to know that they’re going to come out trying to pass the ball,” Cravens said. “We know what they want to do. We just have to execute.”Another player that will be expected to step up is redshirt senior safety Gerald Bowman, who is returning from injury this week.Bowman is embracing his role, and he knows that the secondary has to do its job against the Cougars.“We’re coached to not let anyone get behind us,” Bowman said. “We all know what the secondary means to the defense.”Getting to the Finish LineA main problem that the Trojans have run into in their losses this year has been their play at the end of games. These close, last-second losses could easily affect the team in a negative way. Still, Sarkisian has been impressed with the attitude of his players and is looking forward to their next opportunity to close out a game.“We escaped at Arizona. We escaped at Stanford,” Sarkisian said. “There’s going to have to be a game where we do it the right way, and we finish the game the way we’re capable of finishing the game.”Sarkisian also noted that his team has played extremely well at times.“I’ve just tried to challenge the guys on continuing to embrace their attitude on coming out here with a great attitude with great energy, and to their credit, they did it again,” the first-year coach said. “I’ve made it a real clear point to them about actually how well we’ve played, but we have to finish better and we have to be confident in our ability to finish — to make the plays at the critical moments — because we’re plenty capable of doing it.”Shining StarsSarkisian praised the leaders on his team for working hard at practice day in and day out and motivating the rest of the players through this rocky patch. One player Sarkisian specifically praised was junior defensive end Leonard Williams.“The attitude [Williams] brings is really cool,” Sarkisian said. “It’s really refreshing that a megastar in this day and age can really maintain that work ethic and that desire and that passion every single day.”Sarkisian also mentioned junior wideout Nelson Agholor, redshirt junior tailback Javorius “Buck” Allen, freshman wideout JuJu Smith, freshman cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and Cravens for also embracing the leadership mentality and inspiring their teammates.“They probably practice harder than anyone else,” Sarkisian said. “That sends a great message to their teammates, and I think it’s shifting the culture of how we attack every day.”The head coach wants his team to start believing in themselves, and he believes that will help their game on the field.“We’re all at our best when we play with belief and not hope,” Sarkisian said.Quick HitsFreshman Toa Lobendahn will fill in at left tackle for redshirt sophomore Chad Wheeler, who  tore his ACL against Utah.last_img

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