In the midst of final tune ups for their first true road test of the season, the Trojans will be without three players for the rest of the season. These losses come right before what players are calling a "must-win" game for the Pac-12 South.
Lane Kiffin announced after practice Thursday night that Zach Banner, a redshirt freshman offensive lineman, will have hip surgery, sophomore defensive end Greg Townsend Jr. (knee), and redshirt freshman cornerback Devian Shelton (foot) will all be forced to sit out the rest of the season due to injury, adding "we'll miss them but we'll rehab them and they will be ready for next year."
That being said, Kiffin added that Silas Redd will travel to Tempe and hopes that he can play this week, after missing the first four games due to a nagging leg injury. Redd led the team in rushing last season and sophomore running tailback Tre Madden has filled his role quite nicely, running for at least 93 yards in each of his first four games.
Cody Kessler and Marqise Lee meanwhile, have also battled their fair share of bumps and bruises in the victory over Utah State, but Kiffin says both looked good in practice and should be ready to start on offense Saturday night.
The Trojans now will travel with 56 recruited scholarship players, and this roster will certainly be tested against the high-flying Arizona State Offense. "They run the personal in and out, guys have to get really lined up," Kiffin warns for this weekend. "(They) must see things in front of them and we have been preparing very well in practice."
Just on a quick note, USC AD Haden and David Roberts, USC's vice president for athletic compliance, met with NCAA officials this week and discussed the possible reduction of scholarship losses that were imposed on the Trojans back in 2010. Haden revealed the meeting with NCAA President Mark Emmert and members of his management team in a statement that was posted on USC's Athletic Department website.
A source familiar with USC's case said it was "unlikely" the NCAA will grant relief, because it had a traditional process, unlike PSU. — Joe Schad (@schadjoe) September 26, 2013
Back to the current task at hand, the Trojans depart on Friday for their most crucial road test to this point in the season. While plenty of distractions run rampant around crowd noise, NCAA investigations and early-season turmoil, the focus remains set on winning a crucial football game for Pac-12 South bragging rights.
"I just keep playing, its not really that different," said George Uko. "We are just out there playing for our brothers and working hard trying to win the game and just prove that we are SC."
To that strong sentiment, the Trojans struggles in Tempe have been well documented from their 43-22 loss back in 2011 especially dealing with wacky weather conditions from the opening kickoff for the similar night-time affair.
The winds are blowing in USC's favor following their best win of the season last year over the Sun Devils, but players certainly recognize the importance of coming out fast in the desert. "We always wanna come out and punch the opposing team in the mouth," said cornerback/safety threat Josh Shaw.
the players seem to be gearing up for what lies ahead from the experienced leadership guiding the ship. Lane Kiffin was the first person to recognize the challenge, noting that the players have worked under "loud music and distracting elements" during preparation in the hopes of combating this ASU environment.
"Its about being composed. Things are going to go bad, regardless of what is going on we can not let outside situations get us in," Lane Kiffin proposed as fuel for the fire after practice Thursday. The stage is set, and the program understands what its going to take to win, now its time to head out and execute into crafting a crucial victory.