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Trojans doing an about-face for Thursday's game against Arizona

Interim Coach Ed Orgeron is taking a different approach from Lane Kiffin in motivating USC players. He's hoping to make a lasting impression.

October 09, 2013|By Gary Klein
  • USC interim coach Ed Orgeron has always been a fiery presence on the Trojans' sideline.
USC interim coach Ed Orgeron has always been a fiery presence on the Trojans'… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Ed Orgeron made sure USC players watched specific video this week in preparation for Thursday night's game against Arizona.

USC's interim coach wanted no misunderstanding about his expectations.

To make his point, Orgeron ordered clips that focused on Trojans players making plays on the field and rocking the sideline during the heyday of the Pete Carroll era.

"He was showing us former USC teams and how much fun they used to have," senior safety Josh Shaw said. "From the locker room, to walking down the tunnel, to on the field.

"He showed us that and told us to envision it because that's coming back Thursday night."

That's the plan, anyway.

Since replacing fired Lane Kiffin on Sept. 29, Orgeron has respectfully distanced himself from his predecessor's style and implemented changes to take the Trojans back toward their glory days.

Orgeron reopened practices to the media, returned desserts to the training table and encouraged laughter as a complement to hard work.

"Everything as far as energy is up about 10 times," Shaw said.

But will that translate to performance on game day?

Orgeron is counting on it, not just for the Trojans' sake but for his as well.

USC is 3-2 overall and 0-2 in the Pac-12 Conference. Athletic Director Pat Haden is embarking on a national search for Kiffin's full-time replacement, and Orgeron hopes to coach his way into consideration.

"It kind of pushes us to play as hard as we can for him to make sure he stays around," defensive lineman Leonard Williams said.

Kiffin's departure and Orgeron's high-spirited entrance have overshadowed USC's last performance: a 62-41 loss at Arizona State on Sept. 29.

Players are not looking back. "Our new season starts on Thursday," linebacker Dion Bailey said.

Orgeron is expected to get plenty of airtime and close-ups during the nationally televised game.

Kiffin was often criticized by fans and media for appearing engrossed in his menu-sized play sheet and disengaged from his players during games.

Orgeron, forever animated, will take the opposite approach.

Offensive coordinator Clay Helton and defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast will be on the sideline to oversee play-calling, allowing Orgeron to manage the game and his players.

From 2005 to 2007, Orgeron compiled a 10-25 record as head coach at Mississippi. Asked what he has since learned about game and time management, he said, "Last time that I was head coach I made a couple emotional decisions and it really cost me."

Orgeron was referring to a play in the 2007 season finale against Mississippi State. Ole Miss led, 14-0, early in the fourth quarter when Orgeron decided to go for it on fourth and one near midfield. Mississippi State stopped the Rebels and came back for a 17-14 victory.

"If I wasn't very emotional, I probably would have made a better decision," Orgeron said. "I learned from that."

Emotion could carry USC against Arizona, which last season defeated the Trojans, 39-36, and sent them free-falling to a 7-6 finish.

Arizona is 3-1 and 0-1 in Pac-12 play after losing at No. 16 Washington, 31-13. Wildcats Coach Rich Rodriguez said he addressed USC's situation with his team.

"Our challenge is going to be more difficult because they're going to play, I think, extremely fired up, loose, relaxed, with a chip on their shoulder — all those kinds of things," Rodriguez said. "We're going to get their very best shot."

gary.klein@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimesklein

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