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Monday, October 21, 2013
Dream job still possible for Orgeron

By Greg Katz

Despite the bevy of prognostications regarding the head coaching candidacy of interim head coach Ed Orgeron after Saturday’s bitter 14-10 loss at Notre Dame, maybe it’s still a bit premature to throw in the Orgeron towel, because his players certainly haven’t.

If these Trojans players can somehow rebound against Utah on Saturday at the Coliseum and maintain momentum the rest of the way, anything is still possible when it comes to USC’s interim head coach. If the Trojans can win the games they’re supposed to win, including obvious uphill challenges against Stanford and UCLA, the impossible can still become the possible.

A pipe dream? Wacko? Unrealistic? Yeah, maybe all of the aforementioned.

Coach O might currently be a 41-point underdog in the USC coaching derby, but so was Stanford when it upset the Trojans in 2007. Stranger things have happened when resilient and determined young adults try to win one for the Trojans’ Gipper and save his USC head coaching dream job.

Ed Orgeron
USC players wanted to win the Notre Dame game for interim coach Ed Orgeron.
In talking with Trojans players outside their Notre Dame Stadium locker room in the South Bend aftermath, you get the impression they will still have a lot to say, possibly to athletic director Pat Haden, on who becomes the next USC head football coach.

Life, depending on your point of view, would be made much easier for Haden if the Men of Troy continue to emotionally play hard for Orgeron and accomplish the ultimate write-in campaign -- winning the rest of their football games.

Player reaction after the ND loss showed an extraordinary devotion to their coach. As painful as it was, a number of players had one unfortunate reoccurring theme: The team couldn’t win the Notre Dame game for their interim head coach.

“We so badly wanted to win the game for Coach O,” starting quarterback Cody Kessler said.

The Trojans’ offensive leader wasn’t the only one echoing the love for his head coach.

“We really played as hard as we could and I believe it, and coach does too,” senior starting offensive right tackle Kevin Graf said.

After the game, Orgeron alluded to a very special moment in the locker room. Most of the USC players declined to be specific, but the context was how much Orgeron said he loved his players, appreciated their efforts, and reminded everybody to continue to have “one heartbeat.” The feeling apparently was mutual, with Haden and his assistant, J.K. McKay, bearing witness.

So now the Trojans are 1-1 in their “second season,” as Orgeron and his players like to call it, and 4-3 overall. The team appears determined not to fall into the expected Notre Dame letdown abyss against Utah. We shall see offensively, especially with injured tight ends Xavier Grimble (knee) and Randall Telfer (ankle) out of the Utah game along with tailback Justin Davis (ankle).

Because Saturday’s loss was to bitter rival Notre Dame, maybe things get a little blown out of proportion. The game, while vastly disappointing, was still against a good opponent. It wasn’t like they lost to some doormat or a Pac-12 rummy.

So maybe it’s not how many games Orgeron must win to capture Haden’s attention in campaigning for the permanent head coach position, but maybe how many losses -- especially to whom. Losing to Notre Dame is one thing; losing to Utah, California or Colorado is quite another.

If the Trojans play tough and with a great deal of emotion and beat Utah, the Notre Dame loss might be softened somewhat given the circumstances of change.

However, if the Trojans fall to Utah, which is coming off its own disappointing road loss to Arizona after earlier upsetting Stanford at home, it could be and should be the absolute end of Orgeron’s dream of permanently being named the USC head football coach. You can bet that Orgeron understands his current situation.

If, however, the Trojans can take care of business against the Utes and Orgeron can continue to have the players embracing his message of unity, selflessness, and love, the Trojans D-line coach could return as a dark horse in the coaching derby.

Yes, there are a lot of “ifs” and things would have to play out perfectly for Orgeron to resurrect his chances. But as long as there’s a towel, there’s a chance.