LOS ANGELES — If the USC locker room is the Batcave and Dion Bailey is Batman, halftime provided a crisis situation in the eyes of the Trojans junior safety.
Bailey walked into the locker room at halftime in civilian clothes and emerged down the tunnel in full uniform with his customary No. 18 on his back at the end of halftime in the Trojans’ 19-3 win over Utah (4-4, 1-4 Pac-12) on Saturday afternoon at the Coliseum. Despite the way it appeared, the safety didn’t feel very superhero-ish.
“I guarantee superheroes feel much better than what I feel like,” Bailey said.
The safety didn’t practice at all for USC (5-3, 2-2) in the days leading up to Saturday’s game battling turf toe. Fellow safety Su’a Cravens, who was playing hurt himself, picked off an Adam Schulz pass just before the end of the first half. Cravens made a 54-yard return to the Utes nine-yard line to set up the third of four Andre Heidari field goals.
However on the return, the freshman safety was slow to get up aggravating a groin injury.
He was ruled out for the rest of the game. … and Bailey felt he needed to do something.
“I told (the coaches) what I could do,” Bailey said. “I (took) the (pain-killing) shot. I could only do one thing (defensively) so it wasn’t a lot I could do, but it was enough to help our team get the win in the end.”
Bailey spoke with defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Clancy Pendergast at halftime to see what his plan was for the defensive backs in the second half, without a healthy Cravens.
He didn’t like what he heard and put on his uniform.
The aftermath was a resounding lift felt throughout an already injury-riddled locker room.
“He’s a team player,” defensive lineman Leonard Williams said of Bailey. “You see a guy go down and he wanted to step up and be a leader of the team. He is accountable to the players along with Coach O.”
Bailey, who finished the game with just one tackle and one pass breakup in the second half, was just one of a host of injured players USC had entering the game that only grew as the game progressed.
Right tackle Kevin Graf left the game on a cart after suffering an ankle injury. Already without all three scholarship tight ends, walk-on Shane Sullivan left the game with a knee injury. The team entered the game with just 52 scholarship players dressed.
The injury report that only grew throughout the week was never discussed internally, interim head coach Ed Orgeron says.
“We weren’t going to blink,” Orgeron said. “We weren’t going to use it as an excuse. It wasn’t happening.
“The words ‘Step up’ was talked about. The word was ‘We believe in you, we’re going to compete, and we’re going to play.’ Those words were used.”
It all equaled a mark in the win column in a game the Trojans desperately needed in the Pac-12 South.