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USC Football: The Score Was Close, Players Came Out Even Closer

The Trojans won their first home game in the Ed Orgeron era 38-31, holding off a rampant comeback attempt from the pesky Arizona Wildcats and despite the eventual final, things just felt different for USC Football at the Coliseum.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The most positive reviews for interim coach Orgeron came from his very own players. The same men who gathered around him at midfield two hours before the game in a praying circle as he spoke to them to play as one unit.

Following their first Pac-12 victory of the season, senior captain Devon Kennard summed up the feelings of this teammates best, saying, "We'll run through a wall for Coach O."

Whether it was passionate video promos, We Are Trojans campaigns or even just the hype surrounding a mid-week pep rally for the Trojans first non-holiday weekday home game in school history, the entire football community has been desperately awaiting a breath of fresh air that finally reached its exuberance.

The Trojans tried to spice things up early by taking some shots down field. The results turned out rather nicely as Cody Kessler connected with Nelson Agholor for a 62-yard strike, putting USC ahead for good in a game that ultimately teetered in the balance in the final moments. Yet Coach Orgeron recognized that his team ultimately got the job done.

"How we started to form an identity and a bond as a team, the locker room was very happy and excited and I was just very happy about the overall atmosphere of this team," Orgeron said, shortly following what he called one of the happiest days of his life (outside of marriage and birth of children), coming from a rather forthright man himself.

This team-first family like mentality has certainly caught the attention of players, who have been rather audible about the change of coaching on this programming. While not looking to blame any previous concerns, the vibe following Thursday night's victory was one that certainly has not transpired under the former head coach.

"We would put our life on the line for this man, any day of the week," said quarterback Cody Kessler, who finished with just under 300 yards passing, on the impact of his interim head coach. "We love Coach O like a dad," linebacker Hayes Pullard said, adding, "we look up to him. That's a great feeling. That's the bond you want to have with your family."

In just a two-week span under Coach Orgeron, a man highly respected amongst peers for being a true players coach, we have seen Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles, cookies and milk back into the diet, a newly-instituted Trojan Bowl and even music playing in the locker room. Vibes that are rallying the troops, and catching plenty of staff by surprise.

"You should have been in the locker room before the game. I've never seen anything like it. Guys were having a blast," said USC AD Haden, who even hinted that Orgeron will be given a fair assessment for the head coaching job.

The players came out the tunnel focused, determined and relaxed with a little bit of swagger back on their shoulders. All feelings that Kevin Graf says reminds him of the dominant days of USC football under Pete Carroll, which fittingly enough featured the energetic Coach Orgeron running up and down the sidelines barking out orders quite some time.

Despite ending the game with a laundry list of injured players, hard-working backups like Buck Allen (2 TD's), J.R. Tavai (10 TKL, 3.5 TFL), and even Victor Blackwell (2 rec. 23 yards), one of the last players remaining who was recruited to play under Pete Carroll, were granted numerous chances to finally showcase their talents Thursday night.

The most fulfilling example may have come near the end of the game however as senior tailback Silas Redd returned for his first game this season, receiving numerous carries down the stretch to ensure victory.

"I gotta give credit to the players, they bought in," said Orgeron, who ended the game with more healthy running backs (5) on the field than TE and WR combined, eventually needing sets with two walk-ons (Robby Kolanz and George Katrib) on the field during the fourth quarter alongside backup TE Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick.

"Everybody said we don't have depth. That's just a complete lie," safety Dion Bailey said after the Trojans seven-point victory, which nearly reared its ugly head in the bumps and bruises department. "No mention of sanctions tonight."

The Trojans will now look to repeat their 546-yard offensive showcase with Clay Helton continuing duties as the offensive play caller heading into next weeks tilt with rival Notre Dame.

But for now, in a game that could be best described as true Trojan Football, fans can rest happily with a strong performance from their team that even sent shock waves to the man in charge of resurrecting this football team back to national prominence.

"We have people that have hope now," said Haden, following a morale-boosting victory in front of 64,215 fans in attendance at the Coliseum. "Guys were having a blast. It was remarkable"