Freshman receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown looks to dodge a receiver as he runs to the end zone. (Ling Luo | Daily Trojan)With the end of the season nearing and barely a shot at a Pac-12 title or a major bowl, head coach Clay Helton and the Trojans will look to find an identity to hold onto heading towards the offseason. The transfer of play-calling duties to Helton early last week signaled a major shift in the team’s direction. The team’s first effort under the full offensive direction of Helton resulted in a win last weekend against last place Oregon State, although the victory may have come with more trouble than initially expected. They’ll face a tougher opponent in Cal with the same 5-4 record, coming off of a tough 19-13 loss to No. 8 ranked Washington State. This week’s matchup will establish whether or not this Trojan team has a direction moving forward.USC offense vs. Cal defenseThe defense, led by Bears head coach and former USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, is a stingy if inconsistent unit. At its best, the Cal defense is dominant, and recently that’s the way it has looked, holding Washington and Washington State to 10 and 19 points, respectively, in back-to-back weeks. They’ve been especially impressive in pass coverage, with a secondary featuring redshirt sophomore cornerback Camryn Bynum and redshirt junior safety Ashtyn Davis that has held Washington quarterback Jake Browning and Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew to only two combined touchdowns while snagging three interceptions. Junior linebacker Evan Weaver is also a force on the defensive side of the ball for the Bears, finding a way to involve himself on almost every snap — evidenced by his 94 tackles, two interceptions and six passes defended on the year. “They’re doing a nice job of mixing up coverages and they hide their coverages extremely well,” Helton said.This unit will provide Clay Helton with his first real offensive play-calling test as the Trojans come off their win against Oregon State. The game plan last week unleashed the run, spearheaded by senior running back Aca’Cedric Ware, who rushed for a career-high 205 yards and three touchdowns. With the strength of the Bears’ pass defense and junior receiver Michael Pittman out this week with a shoulder injury, don’t be surprised to see the Trojans try to replicate that success on the ground once again. Between Ware and redshirt sophomore Vavae Malepeai (sophomore Stephen Carr is out with an ankle injury), the Trojans will likely try to pound the ball down the throat of the Cal defense. However, don’t expect them to shy away from taking big shots downfield in the passing game — that has been the bread and butter of USC’s offense this season. The emergence of freshman receiver Devon Williams last week after Pittman’s injury was huge. Between Williams’ play, redshirt sophomore receiver Tyler Vaughns and the re-emergence of a healthy freshman receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, freshman quarterback JT Daniels will have plenty of options to stretch the field with. “With [Pittman] out, [Williams] is going to garner reps again,” Helton said. “He is a huge target and an explosive weapon.”Cal offense vs. USC defenseThe Cal offense is much less imposing than the group they have on the other side of the ball. Ranked at No. 83, it is one of the least explosive in the country, one spot above that of USC. Redshirt senior running back Patrick Laird is Cal’s biggest playmaker, with 950 scrimmage yards and eight touchdowns on the season, but on 4.4 yards per carry. The run defense shut down the Pac-12’s leading rusher last week in Oregon State’s Jermar Jefferson. The defense shouldn’t have much trouble containing the ground game if it stays disciplined in its lane assignments this week. The fact that Cal’s passing offense won’t provide much to worry about will help USC. The Bears have thrown 13 interceptions to 12 touchdowns on the year, averaging only 205 passing yards per game. At quarterback, they’ve rotated redshirt freshman Chase Garbers and redshirt sophomore Brandon McIlwain, and it remains unclear who will receive a majority of the playing time Saturday. Between the two, Garbers may seem to be the more dangerous option. He’s been solid at avoiding turnovers and has shown a strong ability to run the ball when needed.The Trojans are lucky to be playing an opponent so unspectacular through the air this week, as they could be missing their only consistent cornerback in senior Iman Marshall on Saturday. The secondary has struggled all year, with Marshall as one of its only bright spots. He has played the best season of his career, contributing five tackles against Oregon State. Marshall practiced on Thursday and will be a gametime decision. The matchup against the Cal offense will allow for the secondary to catch its breath and perhaps leave room for young playmakers to take a step forward. “[Marshall] is having an All-American season, that’s my opinion,” Helton said. “I think when you look at him going up against some of the best wideouts in the country, he’s not only held his own but held them way below what they usually do. He’s been a major rock of that defense.”Don’t be surprised to see freshman corner Olaijah Griffin get significant playing time with Marshall’s injury and recovery from a shoulder issue.“This time of the year the games are critical,” Helton said. “This is one that can help us stay at the top of Pac-12 South and keep us on contention. I think everyone understands how valuable this game is.”Prediction: 28-10, USCExpect this to be the first game in a long time that the Trojans look good from start to finish. Defensively, they should have no problems limiting the mediocre Bears offense, despite their weaknesses.Washington State managed to hold them to 10 points last week. The sledding won’t be as easy on the other side of the ball, as the Cal defense is no joke. But the time of possession battle will greatly favor USC and wear down the Bears as the game goes on. If the Trojans’ newfound run game can put on a performance anything similar to last week, it’ll put enough points on the board to put this game/match away handily.Delanie Pence contributed to this report.
Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error San Pedro: Pet Pals plan Saturday fund-raiser The center averaged more than 20 points per game six times in his nine-year run with the Nets. He was constantly the subject of trade rumors, and though he might not have been destined to spend his entire career in one place, he certainly put down roots, which has created a bit of a learning curve playing for a new team for the first time. NANCE UPDATEA day after breaking a bone in his left hand, forward Larry Nance Jr. underwent surgery and is expected to miss four-to-six weeks.The surgery to replaced the fractured second metacarpal was performed by Dr. Steven S. Shin.Coach Luke Walton opted to start rookie Kyle Kuzma in Nance’s place. In eight games, Nance averaged 10.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game.“I think we’ll be more equipped to handle it right now than we were when we lost Zo in the preseason, we lost Brook in the preseason,” Walton said. “Because we were still trying to put so much stuff in. But obviously Larry’s been so solid for us since the season’s started.”ALSOCenter Andrew Bogut was inactive against the Nets due to tightness in his back. Forward Luol Deng was active for the first time since making an opening night start. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with Packers“It’s been interesting,” said Lopez, who lived in Los Angeles through the second grade. “Being obviously at home helps a lot, having people I love helps the transition.”Lopez is averaging 13.6 points per game. Were that number to hold, it would be his lowest scoring output since his rookie year in 2008-09, when he averaged 13 points.Lopez scored a season-high 27 points in Portland. LOS ANGELES — It was easy to forget on Friday that D’Angelo Russell was not the only player facing a team that had drafted him and made him the face of the franchise.Brook Lopez spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Nets, first in New Jersey and then helping lead the migration to Brooklyn. He was an All-Star in 2013, reached the playoffs twice and last season became a 3-point threat before being traded to the Lakers in exchange for Russell.“I am sure it will be weird,” Lopez said after the loss in Portland on Thursday, “but I always try to prepare for every game the same way. Keep as many things normal and keep the variables down as much as possible.”Related Articles Asked about his former center, Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson described Lopez as a “great guy, incredibly skilled player. Heck of a player, ton of respect for him. I enjoyed being around him every day.”Lopez is in the final season of a maximum contract extension he signed in 2015.From the other side of the floor on Thursday, Lopez looked at a team that has radically transformed even since he last played there. As the franchise welcomed, and then said goodbye to, stars like Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, Lopez was a constant.Eventually, the Nets bid him farewell, too.“I always wanted to see a great foundation built there and be a part of that,” Lopez said. “It is tough not being a part of that. I wanted to see something great built there and that didn’t exactly happen.”
A store clerk at an undisclosed location is reporting that when he asked a customer to follow the governor’s and the store’s mandate regarding mask the customer threatened him with a gun.The incident was reported at a pet store in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Thursday.Cody Westfall says a day after the governor mandated that mask must be worn in public places, a customer walked into the store without a mask. That’s when Westfall asked if he had a mask.“I asked ‘do you happen to have a mask on you? He said,’ no’ kind of dismissively,” Westfall said.Moments later the customer turned back to Westfall and asked “are you going to make me wear a mask?”Westfall replied that ” not only is it a personal preference for our store but as of yesterday, it is now government mandated.”At that point, Westfall said the man gestured to the gun on his hip and asked “are you sure you’re going to make me wear a mask?”Westfall says the man did the gesture a second time and that’s when Westfall knew the man was threatening him.The man then left the store and Westfall called the police.The Albuquerque Police Department was able to identify the man who lives in Rio Rancho. An off-duty officer from the area was sent to the home where they made contact with the man but no report was filed.While there have been no charges filed as of yet, Westfall says he would like charges to be filed because not only did he feel personally threatened but he feels that people who take their refusal to wear a mask that far are a threat to everyone.Albuquerue police say they have forwarded their report to a specialized unit for further review.