The new attitude around USC's football program showed up on the field during the Trojans' 38-31 win against Arizona on Thursday night. Interim head coach Ed Orgeron barreled up and down the sideline with his usual fiery demeanor, embracing players and getting the postgame Gatorade shower following the win.
The Coliseum matched the energy that Orgeron has injected into the team, and the Trojans band reportedly has a new cheer for "Coach O." But the most telling quote from USC players after the win came from starting quarterback Cody Kessler.
"No disrespect to the coach who was here before and I'm not getting into that, but you want a coach that you will freaking just go to war for every time [like] this man here to my right," Kessler said of Orgeron via ESPN.com. "I don't only speak for myself. I speak for the whole team. We would go to war for this guy any day of the week. Any time he needed us we have his back 100 percent.
"When you have a coach that you can see and feel that he cares about you so much and wants you to be the best that you can be and succeed, that's love right there. I couldn't ask for a better head coach. All of us would go to war and put our lives on the line for this man any day of the week."
Kessler connected with Nelson Agholor and Tre Madden for a pair of long touchdown plays (62 and 63 yards, respectively), but the Trojans suffered multiple injuries in the game at the wide receiver position. At one point in the second half, the Trojans were running plays with zero scholarship wide receivers on the field.
Orgeron has to deal with the same depth issues that Kiffin did due to the NCAA sanctions placed on the Trojans. If there is one thing USC cannot afford, it is multiple injuries at key positions. With Agholor and Marqise Lee on the sideline, the offense became a one-dimensional ground attack. Luckily, that position is deep and getting deeper with the debut of Ty Isaac and return of Silas Redd. The Trojans used five running backs in the win over the Wildcats, and it may be the team's saving grace until the receivers get healthy.
Orgeron deserves credit for injecting some much-needed enthusiasm into what appeared to be a toxic situation in Los Angeles. The emotion helped jump-start the win against Arizona, but far more difficult challenges lie ahead for the Trojans. If the players want to keep "Coach O" around beyond the 2013 season, they'll need to take that energy with them on the road.
10/19: at Notre Dame
10/26: vs. Utah
11/01: at Oregon State
11/09: at Cal
11/16: vs. Stanford
11/23: at Colorado
11/30: vs. UCLA
Where the Trojans finish, record-wise, is up in the air. But what is certain is that the road schedule is far manageable than the home contests left for Orgeron.