Nick Entin | Daily TrojanPresident C. L. Max Nikias delivered his annual State of the University address on Wednesday at Town and Gown.Nikias mainly focused on issues of diversity, according to USC News, in the wake of recent events happening at USC as well as across the country.“We know that when members of our Trojan Family stand up and speak out, we must lend our ears and listen,” Nikias said, according to USC News. “Because when we listen to each other, we learn from each other, and we understand each other in a deeper and more meaningful way.”Nikias commended the creation of the Provost’s Diversity Task Force, and encouraged other faculties members to help create a public discourse.“We’re developing a deeper dialogue with each of our schools, asking you to offer your ideas and your input to increase faculty diversity,” Nikias said.But Nikias also stressed how important it was to discuss these issues at a national level rather than restrict discussions of diversity to college campuses.“Despite all the talk about diversity in American higher education, nobody talks at the national level about the real crisis we face as a nation,” Nikias said.Nikias specifically focused on the youth and how, despite current USC programs such as the Neighborhood Academic Initiative, public schools and K-12 education needed to do a better job preparing their students for college.“If we are going to create more diversity in American higher education among our student body, our Ph.D. students, our postdoctoral scholars and our faculty, eventually we must pay attention to the pipeline,” Nikias said. “If we don’t do that, we have no chance.”
Guarding Goff · Junior outside linebacker Su’a Cravens began preparing to face Cal quarterback and NFL prospect Jared Goff in practice on Tuesday. – Mariya Dondonyan | Daily TrojanIf USC wants to achieve its goal of a Pac-12 title, the Trojans cannot afford to lose another game. Consequently, the Trojans practice as if they’ve already put their impressive win against No. 3 Utah behind them, so they can focus on one thing — beating Cal.“I told these guys that they inspire me. To come off of a big win and then to come out like they did today — there was no letdown,” interim head coach Clay Helton said after practice Tuesday. “It just looks like this team wants to keep getting better.”USC will travel to face Cal, who will be playing in front of their home crowd after two losses to quality opponents, UCLA and Utah.“We know what kind of game Cal is going to try to play because they are coming off of two losses,” said running back Justin Davis. “We’ve been in that position before, so we know they are going to be hungry, and they don’t want to go to three straight losses, so they are going to fight. We are going to have to match their intensity.”Though the Trojans are excited about knocking off the No. 3 team in the nation, they haven’t wasted any time in preparing for their next game.“We haven’t even spoken about Utah, besides Monday, because we’re on to Cal,” linebacker Su’a Cravens said. “Cal is a tough team that took Utah to the fourth quarter. We have to get ready to play because they’re a really talented team when they throw the ball.”Unlike last week when the linebacker was asked to stop Utah’s run attack led by Devontae Booker, Cravens will have his hands full in pass coverage against Cal and their star quarterback, Jared Goff. Cravens, a converted safety, said he will be in coverage much more this week and is looking forward to the challenge of competing against the future pro.“He is the captain of that team, and he’s the potential first pick of the board, so if we get the ball out of his hands and make them run the ball and make their receivers make a play, I think we have the best chance to win the game,” Cravens said.Rather than being intimidated by Goff’s talent and his potential first-round status, Helton and the Trojans are excited to face such a talented quarterback.“It is going to be so much fun. You’re talking about two NFL quarterbacks that are going to be on the field Saturday,” Helton said. “[Goff] has had this group of wideouts for a couple of years now, and you can tell that they are on the same page. He is releasing the ball before they are even near open, and he is hitting them unbelievably and with great accuracy. We have a huge challenge this week.”Helton said quarterback Cody Kessler demonstrated a tremendous amount of poise in USC’s final drive against Utah last Saturday. Helton said that though time was running down and the offense was largely running the ball, Kessler’s timely completions to JuJu Smith-Schuster, which extended the drive, exemplify the benefits of having a fifth-year veteran.“That is what you want in a senior quarterback,” Helton said. “Just the maturity and the poise that led a group of young men. His body language was great — there was no phase in him about his second center being down. I think he handled it incredibly well.”Kessler, who threw for 264 yards and a touchdown, echoed Helton’s sentiments and acknowledged that he had gotten back on track after throwing two interceptions against Notre Dame.“I got the ball where it needed to go,” Kessler said. “We extended drives, we made huge third downs and we pushed the ball down the field a little bit. And the guys responded great.”Sophomore Khaliel Rodgers started his first game Saturday as USC’s third center of the season due to injuries to Toa Lobendahn and Max Tuerk.The return of left guard Chad Wheeler against Cal will be a huge addition for the line. Wheeler, who was out against Utah with concussion-like symptoms, practiced Tuesday.“Rodgers did such a good job. He was thrown in there, and he came in and started making plays and really leading our group. It was really cool to see,” Kessler said.Kessler stayed and worked on shotgun and under center snaps with Rodgers after practice Tuesday. But, Kessler said because he’s caught so many snaps, he’ll be able to adjust to whatever Rodgers is most comfortable with if he can continue playing like he did against Utah.“I was able to jump right in. We practice it all the time,” Rodgers said.Rodgers has primarily practiced as a guard since spring training but said offensive line coach and run game coordinator Bob Connelly rotates the linemen’s positions in practice, which has made the transition much easier. Consequently, he was less nervous, because he had already worked with Kessler in practices.“I just grind in practice, and when they called my number, I wanted to go out there and execute,” Rodgers said. “The way they teach us, each lineman has to learn every position so they have got to be ready. When you prepare like we do, you don’t have any doubts. We just work so hard and execute everything in practice so that you expect to be perfect in the game.”Rodgers added that he has relied on leadership from veterans such as Zach Banner, who preaches that physicality is essential in being the dominant offensive line unit that they’ve expected to be all season. USC’s line was notably active, aggressive and controlling against Utah’s front, which opened holes for running back Ronald Jones II.USC rushed for 119 yards against Utah. Banner said that the offensive line’s performance was inspired to prove that they could play tough football. And that’s exactly what they love to do.“Coach Connelly challenged us before the game and challenged me as a leader to be physical,” Banner said. “He challenged me during the game too. He said, ‘We need to make sure we keep going, keeping hitting, and don’t let them get complacent.’ So I brought the guys together, and I looked at them and I said, ’If we do this every single drive, we’re going to win the game.’”Connolly is proud of how his team has handled being shorthanded and is optimistic about the coming games.“They played very, very well versus a good football team,” Connelly said. “If you would have told me or asked me at the beginning of the year that we had beat Utah or the No. 3 team in the country — minus three starters on the offensive line and those starters being Chad Wheeler, Max Tuerk and Toa Lobendahn — I’d have told you you’re crazy. It’s extremely encouraging to me and to us.”
Notre Dame football player Jerry Tillery issued an apology Monday evening after footage from Saturday’s game captured the defensive lineman appearing to push the head of an injured USC player with his foot and step on the foot of another USC player.The injured USC player, running back Aca’Cedric Ware, was lying limp on the field after suffering a hit from Notre Dame linebacker Nico Fertitta, who would later be penalized for targeting, when game footage showed Tillery’s foot make contact with Ware’s helmet and push his head. Soon after, Tillery was called for a penalty of unsportsmanlike conduct for stepping on the foot of senior offensive lineman Zach Banner as he lay on his back after a play. “I want to take full responsibility for my actions on Saturday,” Tillery said in a statement released on his Twitter account. “I am truly sorry. I acted in a way that was out of character for me. What I displayed in these two instances were unbecoming and not indicative of the kind of player or person I am.”Both Banner and Ware seemed to accept Tillery’s apology, speaking out from their Twitter accounts on Monday night. “Mistakes happen bro, I’m good, [Ware is] good,” Banner wrote. “You earned my respect from your apology. Take care.”Ware expressed similar sentiments, responding simply with, “respect bro.”In an interview with ESPN following the game, which ended in a 45-27 Notre Dame loss, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said that he would be discussing the two incidents with Tillery. Tillery has been subject to controversy at Notre Dame before. Last season, he was suspended from Notre Dame’s bowl game for violating team rules, and in October, he made headlines when his Twitter account appeared to like multiple tweets that called for Kelly to be replaced by LSU’s former coach Les Miles.