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It's only one game, but Pat Haden praises Ed Orgeron

USC Athletic Director Pat Haden says of the atmosphere in the Trojans' locker room before the Arizona game: 'I've never seen anything like it. It was unbelievable.'

October 12, 2013|By Gary Klein
  • USC Athletic Director Pat Haden, left, talks to interim football Coach Ed Orgeron during a practice last week.
USC Athletic Director Pat Haden, left, talks to interim football Coach… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

The week before he won his first game as USC's interim coach, Ed Orgeron visited only one Friday night high school game to recruit.

"Hopefully, in the future, I may be able to get a helicopter and get to about four or five," he joked, "but we're not doing it yet."

He is now.

Orgeron, who guided USC to a 38-31 victory over Arizona on Thursday, was scheduled to helicopter over the Southland on Friday night in search of future Trojans.

Whether he will be coaching them at USC remains to be seen.

USC is 4-2 overall and 1-2 in the Pac-12 Conference. But the Trojans are 1-0 under Orgeron, who has seven more games to convince Athletic Director Pat Haden that he is worthy of the gig long term.

His next audition comes on a giant stage Oct. 19 at Notre Dame.

After the victory over Arizona, Haden said "Coach O was awesome" and cited the energy and joy of the players.

Haden elevated Orgeron after firing Lane Kiffin on Sept 29.

Asked if he wished he had made the change sooner, Haden quipped, "It's only been a week."

Does Orgeron have a shot to be the coach next season?

"Sure," Haden said, though he declined to elaborate on what Orgeron would have to do to secure it.

Haden, who played quarterback at USC and in the NFL, recounted the Trojans' pregame locker room scene.

"I've never seen anything like it," he said. "It was unbelievable."

Rather than quietly contemplating the start of the game, music filled the room.

"I don't know what the music was," Haden said. "It's not on my iPod — it was weird music, but they loved it."

Haden was particularly happy that so many players got opportunities. Five tailbacks carried the ball, including third-year sophomore Javorius Allen, who scored two touchdowns. Receiver Victor Blackwell caught USC's first pass of the game.

"Everybody feels like they have a role," Haden said. "Everybody has hope that they can contribute."

Thursday's victory gave the Trojans momentum heading to Notre Dame.

"Had we lost it would have been a buzz-kill," Haden said. "So this is a good thing."

Lee hopes to play

All-American receiver Marqise Lee, who sat out against Arizona because of a knee sprain, said he would be ready to play against Notre Dame.

That might be wishful thinking, but the addition of the Biletnikoff Award-winner to an offense that appears to be diversifying under offensive coordinator Clay Helton would be a boon for the Trojans.

Lee spent Thursday night on the sideline in a USC sweat suit.

"It was tough," he said, as he left the locker room. "But I do whatever I can for the team."

Lee went to midfield with other team captains for the pregame coin toss and animatedly encouraged teammates and coaches throughout the game.

"Coach O doesn't really know the offensive side, so it's kind of rough," Lee said, chuckling. "I'm just trying to help him as much as possible."

With Lee sidelined, sophomore receiver Nelson Agholor caught seven passes for 161 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown. Blackwell caught two passes and several walk-ons also played.

"Everyone stepped up and did a great job," Lee said.

Quick hits

USC was off Friday and will be off Saturday before resuming practice Sunday…. Kiffin is scheduled to appear on ESPN's "College GameDay" show Saturday morning.

gary.klein@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimesklein

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