With a showdown against third-ranked USC growing close, Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor has found himself in a tight spot from which he cannot seem to scramble free.
The sophomore wrote a tribute to Michael Vick across one of his eye black patches in the season opener against Navy. When asked about honoring the convicted felon, he offered an interesting reply.
"Not everybody's the perfect person in this world," he said. "Everyone kills people, everyone murders people, steals from you, steals from me, whatever . . . . "
This week, as the controversy gained momentum, Coach Jim Tressel offered his support of Pryor by saying: "Whether it was a coverage read or a defensive guy not playing a gap or whatever, these are all moments that we can learn from."
At USC's practice on Thursday, Coach Pete Carroll said he relies on equipment managers to monitor what his players write on their eye black.
The coach said "Hi, Mom" is acceptable. Also, "I love Coach Carroll."
"I'm still waiting for that one to show up," he said. "It's on the suggested list."
It was a routine afternoon session for USC -- until the very end.
That's when Carroll surprised reporters and his own staff by announcing that no players would be made available for interviews.
Granted, the Trojans are facing a tough matchup at No. 8 Ohio State. And for most schools, holding the media at arm's length is standard procedure.
But since Carroll arrived in 2001, open access has been part of his coaching philosophy, the notion that players should learn to deal with college football's many distractions, which include reporters.
So was the information shutdown a sign of tightness in a program known for being loose before big games?
Carroll insisted otherwise.
"We're leaving in 44 minutes," he said, referring to a row of buses waiting to take the Trojans to the airport. "We've got to get out of here."
Part of his concern stemmed from an NCAA rule that prohibits teams from leaving more than 48 hours before a competition.
Because kickoff at Ohio Stadium is scheduled for 5 p.m. PDT, the team plane was not scheduled to leave the ground until 6 p.m. on Thursday, with an estimated arrival at the hotel past 1 a.m. ET.
"It's a little bit hard . . . it makes us arrive real late," Carroll said. "If we had our way, we'd have left a couple hours earlier."
Center Kristofer O'Dowd, who missed the opener against San Jose State, practiced with the first team again and continues to be on track to start Saturday.
For much of Thursday's session, Jeff Byers lined up at left guard. Butch Lewis, who started there last week, practiced sparingly because of an injury.
"I don't know how far Butch can get back," Carroll said. "He's got a sore ankle."
Hold that line
Defensive tackle Averell Spicer, coming back from injury, will start in the nickel defense and rotate into the game at other times.
"He had a really good week," Carroll said. "And we did a great job of holding back one more week, a week ago, and it allowed him to come back full speed."
Tailback Marc Tyler had his foot stepped on by a teammate. The severity of the injury was not known . . . Safety Drew McAllister was questionable to travel with the team because of a hip injury . . . Carroll confirmed that cornerback Kevin Thomas and defensive lineman Jurrell Casey are healthy enough to play.