LOS ANGELES – Running back to the huddle and getting ready for the next play isn’t as easy as it sounds.
The USC band of brothers has found that increasingly hard to do. Often times they choose to retaliate after being taunted or taking a cheap shot from the opposition. That has led to the inordinate amount of penalties they have accumulated this season.
When discussing it earlier in the week, head coach Lane Kiffin referred to it as “over aggressiveness.”
On Tuesday, wide receiver Robert Woods spoke on the subject and said it’s a “pride” thing.
“I feel like this team has too much pride,” Woods said. “Some people say you can never have too much pride but it’s a brother ship here. We seen a play (on film) where a guy cheap shots George (Uko) on a play and then you see his brother Anthony Sarao coming down hitting the guy back, basically protecting his brother, but you still need to know that you need to play in the rules.
“We need to just realize and play back and get them on the next play instead of pushing a guy like myself when I did.”
On Sunday, the Trojans film session consisted of watching all of the major penalties they committed during the season. The players watched in complete silence as they saw one self-inflicted wound after another. Kiffin was hoping that the team would see it and how much trouble it has caused during the season.
Two days later, he’s still hoping it resonated.
Although the true sign won’t come until they hit the field on Saturday, the players believe the film spoke to them.
“I think a lot of guys got the message,” said offensive lineman Marcus Martin. “We all took it. Even the people who don’t have personal fouls, we know not to step across that line now because it’s stupid. It’s selfish of us.”
Hoping the message sticks is about all Kiffin can do. Normally, coaches have the luxury of benching players if they continue to make costly mistakes. With the Trojans shorthanded in numbers, Kiffin can’t always go to that tool.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions about that this year about the penalties and when the turnovers happen and how we used to do it and we’re kind of in the middle,” Kiffin said. “We do (bench players) sometimes and sometimes there’s just no answer to go to. So we’re just working on it.”
If pride is the true root as Woods believes, at the end of the day, it’s on the players to show some self-control when it comes to accumulating personal fouls and other 15-yarders. Being a little less prideful will help also.
“We just have that aggressive mentality,” Woods said. “I think this team is full of competitors that just don’t want anybody to feel like they overpowered them.”
Added Martin: “We got to be smarter with our decisions. We can’t make the same mistakes. We got to stop being so personalized and letting emotion interfere with intellect.”