September 8, 2008
Practice Insider: Game week arrives
When the top-ranked USC football team runs onto the Coliseum grass Saturday to face the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes, it will have been a long 14 days since the Trojans' last game.
While it may appear that the extra time to recover and prepare for one of the biggest games on the college football schedule would be a blessing, the extra time wasn't necessarily on the Trojans side.
"There is a problem here," USC head coach Pete Carroll said. "If we get them thinking too much, they're not going to play well."
Carroll said he had to fight the temptation to use the extra time to really solidify the Trojans' game plan by starting preparation for the Buckeyes a week early.
"You have a lot of information prior to the normal timeframes that you normally deal with. One of the most difficult thing for a coach (is to know) how much is enough - how much can these guys handle and do really well with it.
"Great ideas don't mean a thing unless you can execute."
Carroll said the team began going over Ohio State in meetings Monday and will start to install the game plan Tuesday.
The week off did get USC quarterback Mark Sanchez extra time to work with his offense after an abbreviated fall camp. It also got the recovering quarterback restless.
"This is the way it felt like before the first game," Sanchez said. "Now, we're finally here, getting ready for Ohio State. The bye week makes you be like, 'Let's hurry up and go.'"
Media and players have talked about the game since well before the season got underway, and the hype has been tough to elude.
"We've been looking forward to this game for quite some time now. We knew it was on the schedule," Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman said. "This is one of those games you don't get every year. It's one you look forward to."
With all the excitement and added attention, Sanchez said he's doing whatever he can to stay focused and grounded.
"I knew it was going to be a big game down the road, just like when we play UCLA way later," Sanchez said. "It's not something I looked forward to or something where I prepared extra hard.
"I want to treat it the same way."
After practice, Carroll discussed the excessive celebration penalty Washington suffered at the end of the Huskies' 28-27 loss.
Carroll said he saw the end of the play and felt that the rule needs to account for appropriate emotion and reaction.
"That rule is not about loving football, being excited and championship-winning plays," he said. "It's about guys demonstrating away from the game. It's guys doing flips, signals and signs. That has nothing to do with football and every one of them should be called a foul.
"But when a guy is jacked about a great play to get back into a game and something happens, that's not in the spirit of that rule in my opinion."
Carroll said he has spoken with his team about the rule.
"It shouldn't decide a football game because of that rule," he said. "It's a mistake."
During the bye week, Carroll gave younger players a chance to open up some eyes by giving them plenty of reps.
Now during game week, those same players, like running back Broderick Green, have another opportunity - to get the rest of the team ready for Saturday.
Green and Allen Bradford are both working against the first-team defense, helping simulate Chris Wells' physical running style.
Green, who's wearing the No. 28 on his black jersey, said he's thrilled to be getting reps against the No. 1 defense for a few different reasons.
"We're all out here as a team competing, trying to get better and getting ready for Ohio State," Green said. "It's great to go against those guys; the whole defense is full of all-Americans.
"I get to work against the first team not to only get myself better but to get the team better."
Carroll said the Trojans are preparing for Wells to play. Ohio State's captains participated in a conference call Monday and said Wells worked by himself on the sidelines during the Buckeyes' Monday practice.
USC coaches and Trojan players got to see something they haven't seen all fall Monday. They saw Chris Galippo on the field, suited up, in shoulder pads.
Galippo said he's still limited to individual work while recovering from back surgery over the summer.
Despite earlier speculation, Galippo said he would not be available to play Saturday against Ohio State.
• Garrett Green's been charged with the difficult task to simulate two completely different quarterbacks while working with the service team.
Green's had to be both Boeckman and freshman Terrell Pryor.
Simulating Pryor accurately, with his mix of size and speed, is almost impossible.
"We don't have a guy like that," Carroll said.
• Luthur Brown looks to be on the road to returning from a back injury. Brown made a big hit on Damian Williams, breaking up a pass over the middle.
• Bradford showcased his physical running style, lowering his shoulder for a thudding collision with linebacker Michael Morgan in 11-on-11 drills.
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