USC football practice notes: Iman Marshall apologizes (11/14)

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

Cornerback Iman Marshall apologized to his USC football teammates for his costly penalty against Cal, giving the Trojans a teaching moment as they prepare for UCLA.

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USC football’s loss to Cal on Saturday left a bad taste in the mouth, not just because it was a loss, but because the circumstances around the loss were so preventable.

In particular, there was the gaffe by Iman Marshall, who extended the Bears’ game-clinching, time-consuming final drive with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after a third-and-long stop.

Marshall, as least, took ownership of his mistake this week.

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The senior cornerback visited with head coach Clay Helton one-on-one to discuss the issue and asked for the opportunity to address the team himself to apologize. He was given that opportunity when the head coach cut together four key mistakes from the game, including Marshall’s penalty, and showed them during a team meeting earlier this week.

“I thought it was a class act, a pro move and a veteran move, a captain move by Biggie,” Helton said.

Marshall’s hope was for the younger players on the team to learn from his mistake, which was a case of getting caught up emotionally in the game.

Helton, too, looked to use it as a teaching moment.

“I know there was jabber-jawing back and forth over there and that’s usually what happens to the second guy. The first guy pushes him and the guy that pushes back gets it. One guy talks and the guy that talks back gets it,” Helton said. “And that’s what you have to learn as a player.”


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He told the team that players who fall into that kind of trap will have to come out of the game and stand next to him to have a chat for seven or eight plays. If it happens again, they know they will be out of the game.

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The importance of not letting emotions get the best of players can’t be understated going into the next two games.

“Cal was an emotional, competitive game, now you’re walking into a UCLA and Notre Dame game that the stakes are even more as far as emotion goes,” said Helton.

Notes and tidbits

  •  USC’s Wednesday focus on offense, according to Helton, was third downs, with an eye on keeping UCLA’s offense off the field. In the last two games the Trojans have posted a 57 percent conversion rate. Helton wants them to stay up above 48 percent. Chip Kelly’s offense can put up as many as 80 plays per game with their tempo, so extending drives and giving the defense a breather will be key.
  • Faster than normal… Dealing with that tempo was the defensive focus on Wednesday. “It’s going to be fast, faster than your normally used to,” Helton said. As a result, the Trojans changed up their approach in practice, throwing more tempo at the defense in preparation for the weekend.
  • Who is the starting QB? In case there was any doubt, Helton reiterated that JT Daniels is USC’s starting quarterback and he will remain there. Despite the promising performance of Jack Sears against ASU and the return of Matt Fink from injury, Helton would not consider a hypothetical where the Trojans would make a QB change midgame in case of an offensive drought like the one in the second half against Cal. “Last week’s stall was not an act of the quarterback,” Helton said. “It was an act of three dropped balls on second down, it was an act of two false start penalties and a snap going over our head that produced five third-and-seven pluses. That’s hard on any quarterback, I don’t care what level you are.”
  • Defensive line strides… The Trojans are getting great things out of first and second year players on the defensive line, Helton said, with Jay Tufele, Marlon Tuipulotu, Brandon Pili and Jacob Lichtenstein all contributing majorly in the past few weeks. “The future is bright on that defensive line,” he said.