Notes, quotes and video from Wednesday's practice:
USC coach Lane Kiffin said after another spirited session from his team that this weekend's impending battle with Oregon is not just another game for the Trojans. But he also said it wasn't their version of a bowl game, something quarterback Matt Barkley had said Tuesday -- more like somewhere in between. "It's a big game," Kiffin said. "Fortunately for us, it’s the No. 1 team in the country coming in here. We better play extremely well in all three phases of the game to have a chance.”
The injury report, shorter this time around: Defensive end Nick Perry (ankle), guard John Martinez (foot) and right tackle Tyron Smith (ankle) did not practice. Linebacker Malcolm Smith (knee) and running back C.J. Gable (knee) were limited. Perry was not at practice; Kiffin would not specify where he was other than to say that it was injury-related. Smith and Martinez spent the duration of practice on the west sideline sitting on the trainer's table. Smith and Gable both returned after missing more than a week of practice.
Running back Dillon Baxter had been off the field for more than two weeks since spraining his toes against Stanford, but he returned Wednesday and looked "fine," as Kiffin put it, in getting his normal amount of carries. Baxter said he was felt "90 percent" recovered. He had said last week that he would definitely return Tuesday but said Wednesday that the extra day was very beneficial.
Kiffin also formally announced that receiver Markeith Ambles and redshirt freshman linebacker Simione Vehikite have been suspended indefinitely. "If you're not going to come here and be a student-athlete, you should go somewhere else," Kiffin said. "What your hope is that it serves as a wake-up call and they understand that something as special as a scholarship to USC can be taken away. We hope that they respond to that. Patrick Hall did." Hall, a freshman safety was also suspended indefinitely in late August but reinstated roughly three weeks later.
We mentioned yesterday that the Trojans must limit their turnovers in order to compete with Oregon, with Arizona State essentially costing itself a win against the Ducks by turning the ball over seven times Even members of USC's defense are noticing it too. Said Nickell Robey, a starting cornerback for the Trojans: "I think the key to winning this game is pretty much controlling the ball. We were looking at their stat sheet and they had quite a few turnovers, so controlling the ball is gonna be key and getting off the field on third downs, and that's pretty much what's gonna determine the game."
With Malcolm Smith still limited, it's likely that Chris Galippo will again get the start at weakside linebacker against the Ducks on Saturday. Galippo replaced Smith two weeks ago in the Cal game and performed admirably; this week, he's been taking the vast majority of the snaps at the spot all week long. Linebackers coach Joe Barry said Wednesday that Galippo is unique in that he doesn't need much time to prepare to play a position -- in fact, Barry said, he'd feel comfortable playing Galippo in a game at a position he had never before played, because he can adjust so well.
Kiffin spotlighted center Kristofer O'Dowd for solid play this season and said that the senior has "really improved" since the new coaching staff arrived in January and specifically since spring, when Kiffin had called him out for taking it easy at times during a scrimmage. More importantly, the coach said O'Dowd was extremely important to this week's game because of his ability to diagnose fronts and blitz packages. As evidence, he provided Robert Woods' big touchdown catch in the Stanford game, saying that the play was made possible because O'Dowd recognized a Cardinal blitz-call switch just before the snap and re-adjusted the protection. Said Kiffin: "A veteran center can really help you in plays that you don't even notice."
Final notes: You'll want to read defensive tackle Jurrell Casey's comments about Oregon's squad. Scroll down or click here. ...Wednesday's practice was by far the shortest normal-week Wednesday session of the season, coming in at about two hours. The Trojans will practice just once more this week, Thursday at 4 p.m.
Kiffin spoke to the media after practice and addressed the suspensions and, of course, that touted Oregon offense:
Left tackle Matt Kalil has been a steady part of the USC offensive line this season. With bookend Tyron Smith missing in action for much of this week in practice, we asked Kalil if his job would be any different against Oregon.
See what the redshirt sophomore had to say about that and other topics: