Southern Cal escapes tumult to Boston College
BOSTON (AP) Right, another right, down four flights of stairs, through a set of double doors, down some more stairs, across the concourse and through the gate to the field. The Trojans will be on the far side.
That's the path from the visiting athletic director's suite to the field at Boston College's Alumni Stadium. If all goes as expected, Southern Cal's Pat Haden won't be making the trip until after the ninth-ranked Trojans have wrapped up a comfortable victory over BC on Saturday night.
One week after a late win over Pac-12 rival Stanford in which Haden went down to the field to argue with the referee, the Trojans are leaving the state for the first time. With the trip to Chestnut Hill to play the struggling Eagles, who are coming off a 30-20 loss to Pittsburgh, USC has a chance to escape the tumult that has surrounded the school this season.
''We've had to deal with quite a bit of stuff so far, and our guys have handled it really well,'' coach Steve Sarkisian said. ''Our guys work hard. They're a humble group, and they're excited for another opportunity to play.''
A once-proud program that claims 11 national championships, USC has made more of an impact off the field the last few seasons. The school is in the final year of NCAA sanctions dating to the Pete Carroll era, and his replacement, Lane Kiffin, was fired in September. Interim coach Ed Orgeron led the Trojans to a 6-2 record but then walked away and was replaced for the Las Vegas Bowl when he wasn't hired for the full-time job.
Sarkisian was brought in to bring the program stability but before his first game cornerback Josh Shaw claimed to have injured his ankles jumping off a balcony to save his drowning nephew. After USC publicized the story, Shaw recanted and admitted it was a fabrication. Haden, who is a member of the new national playoff selection committee, was fined $25,000 by the Pac-12 for his ill-timed excursion.
It's probably too much to hope for BC that all of the tumult will cause problems for the Trojans on Saturday night, as their 13-10 victory over then-No. 13 Stanford showed.
''I think (USC) is a hungry team,'' BC coach Steve Addazio said. ''I think this is a team that's been through a lot, and I think they're hungry, and I think they're gaining a lot of confidence, and justifiably so.''
Here are some things to look for in Saturday night's game between USC and BC:
RUN DOWN: After an opening week in which the Eagles ran for 338 yards, their running game stalled against Pittsburgh. BC picked up 142 yards rushing against the Panthers, with quarterback Tyler Murphy gaining 92 of them and the rest of the team averaging just 2.8 yards per carry. The Eagles need to find a replacement for Heisman Trophy finalist Andre Williams, who ran for 2,177 yards last season before graduating
AND OUT: In addition to Shaw, who has been suspended from all team activities, USC will also be without linebacker Hayes Pullard for the first half after getting a targeting penalty at Stanford. Pullard is USC's No. 2 tackler, with 16. He is expected to be replaced by Michael Hutchings, who had an interception in the season opener against Fresno State.
FLYING HIGH (LITERALLY): It's USC's second-ever trip to Boston - the other was in 1988 - and first trip to the East Coast in two years. But the 8 p.m. kickoff means the Eagles won't be able to take advantage of a jet-lagged foe. ''A noon game would be nice,'' Eagles quarterback Tyler Murphy said. ''Hopefully, they'd still be half-asleep.''
FLYING HIGH (FIGURATIVELY): Addazio said USC looks energized and doesn't expect it to have a letdown after their ranked-vs.-ranked win over Stanford, which propelled the Trojans up five spots from No. 14 in The Associated Press Top 25. ''I think they're on a mission,'' he said. ''Sometimes when your program has been beaten up and you've taken a lot of hits ... you get a little hungry and you want something real bad. They look like that's how they play.''
ON THE MOVE: USC's up-tempo offense is led by quarterback Cody Kessler, who is 40 of 59 for 529 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. The Trojans, who ran 105 offensive plays against Fresno State and 68 against Stanford, will try to set the pace again against BC. ''You can't go into Stanford expecting to put up huge numbers,'' Kessler said. ''A lot of people last week were saying, `You didn't throw for as many yards.' That didn't bother me at all.''
AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham contributed to this story from Los Angeles.