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USC FYI : Players look for answers to debacle

November 17, 2009|Gary Klein

The giggling, joking and general lightheartedness that USC players typically display en route to team meetings was noticeably absent Monday at Heritage Hall.

Somber players and coaches met for the first time since their embarrassing 55-21 loss to Stanford on Saturday at the Coliseum.

Middle linebacker Chris Galippo said the gathering and ensuing film review would help answer several questions.

"Just where are we?" Galippo said. "Who are we?"

With an open date this week, the Trojans have four practice days to try to figure it out before preparations begin for a Nov. 28 game against UCLA at the Coliseum.

This much is clear:

The defense is in a shambles, the offensive line has been porous and freshman quarterback Matt Barkley is struggling.

Those are just some of the issues -- not to mention the psychological punch absorbed by the program -- that have Coach Pete Carroll welcoming a bye.

"We'd be scrambling to put this thing to rest -- now we have time to get it done," Carroll said. "The team's mentality has to come back together and get back on track."

USC is staggering after its second blowout loss in three weeks, and giving up more points in a game than any other team in school history.

The Trojans are 7-3 overall, 4-3 and tied for fifth place in the Pacific 10 Conference and contemplating the reality of a second-tier bowl game for the first time since 2001.

"We can't worry about being 10-3 -- we've got to get to 8-3 first," junior running back Allen Bradford said. "We know it's not going to be an easy task because we're down right now.

"A lot of teams see that and they're just going to try and keep us down, but we have to finish off this season."

Offensive lineman Jeff Byers, a sixth-year senior, has never experienced a season quite like this one, but he is confident the Trojans will finish strong.

"Being down doesn't help us," Byers said. "Taking what we can from this game and moving on is what we've got to do."

Quick hits

Bradford said the strained left foot he suffered on a short touchdown run against Stanford was improving, but the junior is expected to be among the injured players who will mostly be rested this week. . . . Tight end Anthony McCoy is among eight semifinalists for the Mackey Award, presented annually to the nation's top tight end. McCoy has 17 receptions and one touchdown. He suffered a sprained ankle against Oregon State, did not play against Oregon and Arizona State, and had one reception against Stanford. . . . The Trojans practice today, Wednesday and Thursday and will have a morning workout Friday.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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