USC players speak after practice on Cal postponement

The Trojans’ Wednesday practice lasted just an hour following Tuesday’s news.

A photo of junior cornerback Chris Steele with a cardinal helmet, white jersey and gold pants making a hand signal during USC's loss to Arizona State Saturday.

In and of itself, USC football’s practice on Wednesday didn’t stray too far from the norm. The Trojans didn’t wear full pads, as they occasionally don’t. The quarterbacks — not including junior Kedon Slovis, who’s still battling a lower leg injury from the Arizona State game — threw on the far side of the field from the media entrance, and the special teams unit went through punt and kickoff drills, as they often do.

But Wednesday’s practice was atypical because it was only an hour long. What was originally supposed to be a ramp-up ahead of the Trojans’ Weekender bout with Cal suddenly became a light practice following Tuesday’s news that the game was postponed due to COVID-19 issues in Cal’s program.

“Obviously pretty disappointed,” redshirt junior punter Ben Griffiths said of the team’s reaction to the news. “But we understand the situation, and at the end of the day, we’re just really happy we get the chance to play the game at a later date.”

Griffiths said the specialists were conducting their usual warm-up routine on Tuesday when the rest of the team was about to go into a meeting. The specialists were called in with them, and head coach Donte Williams broke the news about the game — which, at that point in time, had not yet been rescheduled for Dec. 4.

“And then we kinda just moved on with the situation and started preparing as well as we can for UCLA,” Griffiths said.

Those Bruins are now the next opponent up for the Trojans, who find themselves in a predicament somewhat similar to one they faced earlier this season: entering a rivalry matchup after an extra week of preparation.

The extra prep didn’t reveal itself in the win column when USC visited Notre Dame in Week 8, but junior cornerback Chris Steele said it went a long way on an individual level — and that he expects the same against UCLA in 10 days.

“Obviously it wasn’t the outcome that we wanted, but I feel like everybody played to their max potential that game,” Steele said of the Notre Dame game. “So just having the extra week to prepare for UCLA is gonna be huge.”

If that extra week pays off and USC is able to take down UCLA in Week 12, a loss the following week to No. 14 BYU would set the Trojans up for a matchup in Berkeley with bowl eligibility on the line.

No, USC won’t be going to a New Year’s Six bowl, but Griffiths and redshirt senior safety Isaiah Pola-Mao both affirmed that it was still a goal of the Trojans to make a postseason appearance.

“I would say it’s everything,” Pola-Mao said of making a bowl. “We want to finish out this season strong, and a bowl game is just a reward of that.”

At the same time, though a forfeit win over the Bears would have moved USC one win closer to the six needed for bowl eligibility, Griffiths said that isn’t the way to go.

“A big part of going to a bowl game is earning it. I think that’s why I’m grateful we still get that game on the 4th to earn it. I don’t think we should just be handed it,” Griffiths said. “For me, I came here to play in bowl games. I know everyone else came here to play in bowl games. So it’s very much a big reason why we play. I want to go to a bowl game.”

Other notes

Senior tailback Keaontay Ingram said he was “feeling great” four days after rolling his ankle in Tempe.

“[As a] running back, you’re always gonna be banged up,” Ingram said. “But having just a little more time to be ready for a football game, I mean, that’s tremendous for me, so I’m just taking full advantage. But I feel great.”


Ingram also said he didn’t know during the Arizona State game that Slovis had gotten injured, but he credited the junior for playing through it.

“Hats off to him,” Ingram said. “For us to be down a couple of scores and then he still tried to finish the game out, that just speaks to his character.”

Steele commented on the development of freshman defensive lineman Max Gibbs, who has been seeing increased playing time recently.

“It’s a process. Donte preaches that every day. Max is one dude who I can say has truly been buying into the process,” Steele said. “I mean, he’s cut down so much weight since he’s been here. I’ve known him since his freshman year of high school. So just to see his development and the way he’s turning into a man is crazy to me. He moves very well for somebody his size, and I think he’s gonna end up being a big time D-lineman once he gets everything together. But he’s doing very well developmentally for sure.”