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State of Troy: December 2016

Each month, we sit down with USC athletic director Lynn Swann to get his take on the hot topics around Heritage Hall.

Swann on making the Rose Bowl...

USC_Womens_Soccer_NCA_College_Cup_Georgetown_McGillen_6720.jpgIt was a great November. For my first time being the athletic director during the holiday season, it's wonderful to have the gift of a Rose Bowl. The football team finished up extraordinarily well. Give Clay Helton all the credit for keeping them focused after a 1-3 start to get to a 9-3 season and a top 10 ranking. Our hats are off to him and the football program.

Swann on women's soccer's national championship...

We have 21 sports here, so I am just as proud of what women's soccer has accomplished. Under head coach Keidane McAlpine, we won the program's second national championship. I was on hand in Northern California for the semifinal against Georgetown and the final against West Virginia. The Mountaineers were ranked No. 1 with a roster full of Canadian national team players and Olympians, but we beat them, 3-1. It was an outstanding game played by an outstanding team. I cannot praise our team enough.

Swann on men's water polo's national runner-up finish...

Men's water polo has been at the top of its game forever, making 12 straight NCAA title matches. They came up a little short in overtime against Cal in Berkeley, but we are exceptionally proud of what Jovan Vavic has done and what his team has done. What I love about Jovan though is that he is never satisfied to finish second and will continue to doggedly pursue championships.

Swann on men's basketball's undefeated start...

USC_Football_Notre_Dame_Coliseum_2016_McGillen_6966.jpgI have enjoyed being in the locker room with Andy Enfield and his team after a couple of victories to listen to him talk about playing great defense and what it will take to win throughout the season. He talks to them about week-by-week improvement. Even in the face of adversity, when Bennie Boatwright went down with an injury, the team was disappointed but not devastated. They are focused on having a great season. They are in position to compete for a Pac-12 championship, which is the first goal, and ultimately to make the NCAA Tournament again.

Swann on women's basketball's excellent play...

The Women of Troy only have one loss, and they have dealt with injury trouble as well. They went on the road and picked up a quality win against a ranked Texas A&M team. We are hosting a tournament this weekend at the Galen Center, so we need to support them. We need to get more of our fans out to both men's and women's basketball games.

Swann on women's volleyball's season...

The women's volleyball team is young, but they had a nice season to earn a 26th consecutive NCAA Tournament bid. I look forward to them being outstanding over the next several years. They will continue to get better and continue to grow.

Swann on the academic semester coming to an end...

Academically, we had another tremendous semester in the classroom. Our Stevens Academic Center is there for a reason, and they are doing a great job mentoring and tutoring our student-athletes. Our Graduation Success Rate (GSR) has gone up for the third straight year, and at the present pace, it looks like it will improve over the next two years also.

Swann on visiting USC supporters across the country...

Earlier in December, I took a trip back East for the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame dinner and met with several groups of our alumni who are eagerly engaged with USC and look to do more. They are excited about the Rose Bowl and our progress athletically and academically in all 21 sports. USC has changed and grown to become even more appealing across the country and globe. For example, our lacrosse program has put its sport on the map nationally for the West Coast, so we have more people interested in coming to USC from the East Coast where the sport has deep roots.

Swann on USC's competitive spirit...

I also had the chance to attend the Heisman dinner for the first time with some USC alumni, while we all enjoyed it, we look forward to the day when a Trojan is holding up the trophy again. That's what makes USC special. We had a tremendous fall semester, but we are never satisfied. We keep pushing to win championships in every sport and to get better and better every day, week, month and year.

Happy Holidays to the entire Trojans Family! We are thankful for the blessings of this past year and look forward to a tremendous 2017!

2016 USC Football Season Highlights

The 2016 USC football season will end in the glory and splendor of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, but it started with a frustrating first month which culminated in a heartbreaking loss in Salt Lake City. In between, the Trojans bonded together, finding the Fight On spirit which makes this program unique.

Rose Bowl Thursday #1: Helton Presser

On a rainy Thursday afternoon, USC head coach Clay Helton addressed Max Browne's decision to transfer to Pitt, the Trojans' depth on the offensive line and more.

QB Max Browne to Transfer to Pitt

Redshirt junior quarterback Max Browne will transfer from the program and play at Pitt next year, he announced today.

The Sammamish, WA native was the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year out of Skyline High School in 2012. After redshirting his freshman year and appearing in nine games as a backup in 2014 and 2015, Browne was named a team captain and the starting quarterback entering this season.

In his three starts this year, he went 55-of-87 (63.2 pct) for 474 yards, 2 TD and 2 INT. Overall, Browne finishes his career at USC with 14 game appearances, 650 passing yards and 2 TD.

This year, he earned Howard Jones/Football Alumni Club Academic Award for having the highest cumulative GPA on the team (3.48). He also earned USC's Bob Chandler Award (given to the underclassman with outstanding athletic ability, academic achievement and character) and USC's Co-Lifter of the Year Award during his time as a Trojan.

Because Browne already received his Bachelor's degree from USC, he is eligible to play immediately at Pitt.


Photo Gallery: 2016 Football Awards Banquet

USC football celebrated its season and its seniors as part of the annual awards banquet on Wednesday night.

Click here for the list of award winners.

Pierson Clair was on hand to document a special night.

MVP Adoree'

IMG_7526.JPGUSC CB Adoree' Jackson was named the Trojans' Most Valuable Player for the second year in a row tonight at the football team's annual awards banquet.

Jackson, a 2016 unanimous All-American and Thorpe Award recipient, is just the ninth Trojan to earn two MVP awards during his USC career. He also earned USC Special Teams Player of the Year, Defensive Perimeter Player of the Year and Player of the Game vs. Notre Dame this season.

USC QB Sam Darnold was named the team's Most Inspirational Player and won the Bob Chandler Award, given annually to the underclassman with outstanding athletic ability, academic achievement and character.

LB Cameron Smith earned the Trojan Way Leadership Award, while fellow LBs Porter Gustin and Uchenna Nwosu earned the John McKay Award, given to the underclassmen with the most competitive spirit. Unsurprisingly, Gustin was the defensive recipient of the Lifters Award. RB Justin Davis and FB Reuben Peters earned the Offensive Lifters Award, and the Zach Smith accepted the award on behalf of the specialists.

Davis and senior safety Leon McQuay III earned the Trojan Commitment Award. Fellow seniors Zach Banner and Chad Wheeler (offense) and Stevie Tu'ikolovatu (defense) were named Linemen of the Year. Banner also earned the Community Service Award for his work at USC and at local schools this year.

Senior LB Michael Hutchings, who lost his father years ago but persevered to become a team leader, earned the Chris Carlisle Courage Award.

Walk-on LB Grant Moore won the Joe Collins Walk-On Award and freshman LBs Oluwole Betiku and Connor Murphy won Defensive Service Team Players of the Year. TE Cary Angeline was the recipient on the offensive side of the ball.

WRs Darreus Rogers and JuJu Smith-Schuster were named the Offensive Perimeter Players of the Year and WR De'Quan Hampton earned the Player of the Game vs. UCLA award.

The Jack Oakie "Rise and Shine" Award for the year's most electrifying run went to RB Ronald Jones II for his 60-yard TD run against UCLA in the Rose Bowl.

Max Browne, who is pursuing his MBA at USC, earned the Howard Jones/Football Alumni Club Academic Award for overall academic achievement. He and the other team captains (Hutchings, Banner and Jackson) were also awarded for their leadership this season.

Rose Bowl Wednesday #1: Notes

The Trojans enjoyed another bowl practice before heading to the annual football awards banquet.
  • No new injuries. However, the MRI came back on freshman OT Nathan Smith, and he suffered a torn ACL, said head coach Clay Helton. They will try to surgically repair the ligament as soon as possible in hopes that Smith can rehab in time for next season.
  • trace-mcsorley_1200.jpegPenn State's offense was the talk of the day led by sophomore QB Trace McSorley (pictured). "He kind of reminds me of Sam [Darnold] because he has great pocket presence," said Helton about McSorley, who is the Nittany Lions' second leading rusher. "We've got to do a wonderful job of keeping him hemmed up in the pocket."
  • While McSorley is mobile, he can make big plays with his arm as well. Penn State's offense is known for its explosiveness, ranking fourth in the nation in plays gaining 40+ yards. "They are a lot different than some of the teams that we've played," said defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast about the Nittany Lions. "They take a lot of shots down the field. They have a lot of deep threats."
  • Pendergast has a month to put together this game plan, so he "spent a lot of time looking at us and seeing where we need to get better" before breaking down Penn State's tendencies.
  • Sophomore OLB Porter Gustin is a great example of a player who has taken to coaching this season and grown by "leaps and bounds," said the Trojans' sack leader. He comes into the Rose Bowl with six tackles-for-loss over his last four games, accounting for half his season's total.
  • While Gustin and the Trojans have experience playing in the Rose Bowl Stadium, they know that the Rose Bowl Game is a different animal. "We bring the intensity every game and we plan on doing the same thing," Gustin said. "I do think it will be a little more exciting to be playing in the Rose Bowl and be a part of the history here at USC."
  • USC has a few juniors with important decisions to make, most notably CB Adoree' Jackson and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster. "I treat them just like I would my own son," said Helton about the process of staying in college or going to the NFL. "I try to provide them as much information as possible, so [they] and their families can make the best decisions possible."
  • In assessing whether or not a player is ready for the league, Helton pointed out that the NFL likes "finished products," and they are not particularly patient with draft picks.
  • Here is Helton's press conference on a chilly Wednesday evening:

2016 #USCtotheNFL Week 14

With 2017 Pro Bowl voting having just recently closed and the playoffs looming, many Trojans in the NFL have put on worthy performances so far this season. Despite the fierce competition in Week 14 as teams fight for remaining playoff spots, a number of Trojans got together after the Jets-Rams game and the Bills-Steelers game, proving that Trojan blood runs deep.

DEVON-nfl.jpgThe Best

With all eyes on the Giants-Cowboys game Sunday night, NYG LB Devon Kennard stepped up and had his best game of the season. Kennard racked up 6 tackles, a sack, 2 TFL and forced a fumble in New York's win over Dallas. The third-year LB hadn't recorded a sack or forced fumble since his rookie year, due in part to missing seven games to injury last season.

The Best of the Rest

Malcolm Smith, LB, Raiders - 7 tackles

Robert Woods, WR, Bills - 1 reception for 29 yards

Nickell Robey-Coleman, CB, Bills - 3 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 special teams tackle

Wes Horton, DE, Panthers - 1 tackle, 1 fumble recovery

Matt Barkley, QB, Bears - 20-of-32 for 212 yards and 1 TD

Brian Cushing, LB, Texans - 6 tackles, becoming Texans' all-time leading tackler

Everson Griffen, DE, Vikings - 3 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 QB hits, 1 pass defended

Marqise Lee, WR, Jaguars - 5 receptions for 113 yards

Hayes Pullard, LB, Jaguars - 3 tackles

Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals - 18-of-33 for 145 yards and 2 TD

Nelson Agholor, WR, Eagles - 2 receptions for 22 yards

Leonard Williams, DE, Jets - 2 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 QB hit

Clay Matthews, LB, Packers - 2 tackles, 1 QB hit, 1 TFL

T.J. McDonald, S, Rams - 4 tackles

Shareece Wright, CB, Ravens - 4 tackles, 1 TFL

Check out Eat the Ball!

Helton Tabbed a Top 10 Coach

USC head coach Clay Helton was named one of nine finalists for the 2016 Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year Award, presented annually by the American Heart Association and Marathon Oil Corporation.

Read the full release here!

Helton has guided the Trojans to a 9-3 record and their first Rose Bowl berth since 2009. The team got off to a 1-3 start, but all three losses were on the road against Top 25 teams, and the eight-game win streak that the team has rattled off since is its longest since 2008-09. During the win streak, USC knocked off No. 21 Colorado and No. 4 Washington to climb up to a No. 9 ranking in the College Football Playoff.

The Trojans also went undefeated at home for the first time since 2008. Since being named the permanent USC head coach last October, Helton has not lost at home (6-0 this year, 9-0 overall).

Under Helton's tutelage this year, Adoree' Jackson and Zach Banner earned first team All-American honors. Jackson, Banner and Chad Wheeler earned Pac-12 first team honors as well, as Jackson was named USC's first Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year since Rey Maualuga in 2008.

The winner will of the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year Award will be announced on Jan. 11, 2017 during the awards banquet in Houston at the Toyota Center and will be broadcast FOX College Sports.


Rose Bowl Tuesday #1: Notes

USC held its first official practice of the bowl season today with its sights set on a Rose Bowl win.
  • USC_Football_Washington_McGillen_11122016_1224.jpgUSC head coach Clay Helton said the team is mostly healthy with the exception of CB Jonathan Lockett, who will undergo season-ending hip surgery on Friday. Full injury report: OL Khaliel Rodgers (concussion), QB Sam Darnold (hip flexor), TE Daniel Imatorbhebhe (hamstring), WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (wrist), OL Nathan Smith (knee).
  • A Southern California kid who was raised a Trojan fan, QB Sam Darnold acknowledged what a dream it's been to play in the Rose Bowl Game. "It's a really big deal," he said. "I've grown up watching this game, so it's really special for me."
  • The way Helton is game-planning, he'd have Darnold think he's playing in the Rose Bowl Game this very Saturday. "We're basically going to act like we play a game this Saturday ... And then we're going to repeat that next week and do the exact same gameplan," Helton said. "We installed our first and second down gameplan today. We'll re-do that next Tuesday and we'll re-do that Bowl Tuesday. And hopefully we're flying by January 2."
  • Helton thinks the preparation will be crucial in stopping a high-scoring (36.7 PPG) Penn State team. He called PSU QB Trace McSorley "creative" and praised RB Saquon Barkley, who recently earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.
  • While impressed with the Nittany Lions' offense, he also said he expects an aggressive defensive scheme, having coached alongside current PSU defensive coordinator Brent Pry at Memphis earlier in their careers. "You see the zone pressure that he brings," Helton said. "He's really getting to the quarterback and really hurting you in the run game."
  • Helton hopes his team can protect its quarterback, since Max Browne has left the team to pursue transfer opportunities. Without Browne backing up Darnold, Jalen Greene will likely be the No. 2 QB come gameday. Helton called Greene "brilliant" and said his experience and maturity earned him the backup spot over freshman Matt Fink, whose redshirt year Helton would like to preserve.
  • RT Zach Banner (pictured), who was recently named a CollegeSportsMadness All-American, will be key in protecting the QB during the Rose Bowl Game. A senior who endured sanctions and coaching changes, Banner got choked up when thinking about his legacy at USC. "Regardless of this being the first and last Rose Bowl I'll get to be a part of, the struggles of going to other types of bowls and having lost seasons and stuff like that --- it was worth it. I wouldn't change it for anything."
  • Watch Helton's full press conference here:

Toughest Ticket in Town

USC is back in the Rose Bowl Game for the first time since 2009, so the Trojan Family is clamoring for tickets. If you are not already a Trojan Athletic Fund member or a season ticket holder, here are two more ways to get in the building on January 2:

Purchase 2017 season tickets and you're entered into a lottery for next month's Rose Bowl Game.

Click here for season ticket information.

Enter our social media sweepstakes for two tickets to USC vs. Penn State.

Click here to enter.


Adoree' Wins 2016 Thorpe Award

RS495602_20161208_DQ8I5868.JPGUSC All-American CB Adoree' Jackson was named the 2016 Thorpe Award winner at the Home Depot College Football Awards Show in Atlanta tonight.

Click here for the full release!

Jackson is just the second Trojan to win the Thorpe Award, which is named after legendary multi-sport athlete Jim Thorpe. While Troy Polamalu (2002) and Taylor Mays (2008) were finalists for USC, Mark Carrier (1989) is the only other Trojan to take home the trophy.

This year, Jackson beat out Michigan's Jourdan Lewis and LSU's Tre'Davious White to win the award.

Jackson earned the trophy by posting 51 tackles (including 2 for losses of 4 yards), a team-best 11 pass deflections, a team-high 4 INT and a team-best 2 fumble recoveries on defense in 2016. He also returned 22 kickoffs for 671 yards (30.5 avg) with 2 TD and 19 punts for 302 yards (15.9 avg) with 2 TD on special teams. During his 13 offensive snaps this season, he had 5 carries for 49 yards (9.8 avg) and a 52-yard TD reception. He currently is second nationally in punt return TD, second in kickoff return TD, third in punt returns, sixth in kickoff returns, 22nd in passes defended and 25th in fumbles recovered.

Like Thorpe, Jackson is a multi-sport athlete, having also won the Pac-12 long jump competition in 2015 and 2016 and twice placing fifth in the nation in NCAAs.

Upon the announcement, Trojans such as Matt Leinart, Marqise Lee, Kevon Seymour, Terrell Thomas and more took to Twitter to congratulate Jackson.

Darnold Delivered

USC redshirt freshman QB Sam Darnold posted a record-setting season in 2016, becoming the catalyst for a remarkable turnaround which ended in the Trojans first Rose Bowl berth since 2008 (2009 Rose Bowl Game).

Darnold led the nation's freshmen in passing efficiency (161.0), completion percentage (68.1), TD passes (26) and yards per attempt (8.4) while going 8-1 as a starter this season. He's thrown multiple TD in each of USC's eight consecutive wins, the longest streak by a USC QB since Matt Leinart did so 15 times in a row between 2003 and 2004. Leinart has praised Darnold's poise and talent throughout the season.

His 26 passing touchdowns were the most ever by a freshman QB at USC, and his 5 TD vs. Arizona represented a Trojan rookie single-game record as well. When he threw 5 TD in the very next game against Cal, he became the first USC QB to ever mount back-to-back 5 TD games.

Darnold, who ranks second in the nation in Total QBR according to ESPN, was named the 2016 Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year for his efforts. If he earns national distinction, Darnold would become just the second Freshman All-American QB in USC history (Todd Marinovich in 1989).

All-American Duo

Web Document.jpgUSC CB Adoree' Jackson and OT Zach Banner were named First Team All-Americans today as media publications start to release their postseason honors. Jackson and Banner both made the first team for College Sports Madness, while Jackson was also a Sporting News All-American.

Pearl Harbor Day

As America remembers December 7, 1941 today, the infamous day when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, we discovered a fascinating historical photo from December 12, 1942. On that date, USC and UCLA played at the Coliseum and a captured submarine, which participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor, was paraded around the stadium.

Click here for the complete LA Times story.


Smell the Roses

USC will play Penn State in the 103rd Rose Bowl Game on January 2! The Trojans will appear in the "Granddaddy of Them All" for a record 34th time.

Click here for a Rose Bowl preview.

"We are tremendously excited and proud to be invited to the 2017 Rose Bowl," said USC head coach Clay Helton. "It is a great honor for our team to have the opportunity to represent our university and the Trojan Family in the Rose Bowl, a bowl in which we have such a long tradition. We are extremely thankful for the invitation. It is a great reward for our football team after a very strong finish to the 2016 season.

"We congratulate Coach Franklin and the Penn State football team on their outstanding season and look forward to what should be a fun and compelling bowl matchup. We can't wait to see the Trojan Family in Pasadena on January 2."

Click here to visit USC Bowl Central for tickets and information!

Information on obtaining tickets from USC's allotment to the 103rd annual Rose Bowl will be sent via email after 4 p.m. PT today to Trojan Athletic Fund members and USC Season Ticket Holders. Other USC fans can visit USC's Bowl Central website for more information.

A lottery for Rose Bowl tickets from USC's allotment will be held for the first 200 fans who are not current season ticket holders but who purchase new 2017 football season tickets. To purchase 2017 season tickets, which are on sale now, click here or call 213-740-4672 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. PT on Monday.


Former USC RB Joe McKnight Killed

Former USC RB Joe McKnight was killed in Terrytown, LA yesterday. He was 28 years old.

McKnight played for USC from 2007-09, leading the team in punt return yards his freshman season and in rushing yards in his final season. He ranks 15th all-time on USC's career rushing yards list. McKnight's 206 all-purpose yards and a TD were key in USC's 49-17 win over Illinois in the 2008 Rose Bowl, as were his 105 all-purpose yards in USC's 18-15 come-from-behind victory over Ohio State in Matt Barkley's first career start in 2009.

The Kenner, LA native was drafted in the fourth round (112th overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. He played for New York from 2010-12, then for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2014. After his NFL career ended, he moved on to the CFL, where he played for the Edmonton Eskimos and the Saskatchewan Roughriders this season.

According to local police, McKnight was shot at about 3 p.m. yesterday at an intersection in Terrytown, LA. The investigation into the incident is still ongoing.

Upon the news of his death, McKnight and his family received an outpouring of love from Trojans including Justin Davis, Matt Barkley, Cody Kessler, Robert Woods, Brian Cushing, Malcolm Smith, Frostee Rucker, Pete Carroll and many more.

Fight On Forever, Joe McKnight.


Leventhal Stat of the Week - End of Regular Season

USC's 45-27 victory over Notre Dame was the latest of eight straight wins for the Trojans, marking the longest win streak for USC since the 2008-09 seasons.

USC's last loss came on Sept. 23 at Utah, in freshman QB Sam Darnold's first career start. Since then, the Trojans have racked up at least 400 yards of offense in each game and beaten opponents by an average of 20.5 points.

The Trojans' current eight-game win streak ranks among the longest in the nation, with only undefeated Alabama and Western Michigan having won more consecutive contests this season.

Back in 2008, USC won its last 10 games of the season, then carried its win streak over to 2009, winning its first two games of that year to make it a 12-game streak across two seasons.

The Trojans have a chance to extend their win streak in this year's bowl game. The team will learn its fate on Sunday, when bowl game selections are announced.



Adoree's IMPACT

USC DB Adoree' Jackson was named one of four finalists for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, the organization announced today.

The award, named after USC All-American Ronnie Lott, is given annually to a college football player who demonstrates Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity (IMPACT).

Jackson, who earned Lott IMPACT Player of the Week three times this year, joins Alabama's Jonathan Allen, Michigan's Jabrill Peppers and Air Force's Weston Steelhammer as this year's finalists.

The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year has 51 tackles, 2 TFL, 11 passes broken up, 15 passes defended and 2 fumble recoveries this season. He's also scored 2 punt return TD, 2 kickoff return TD and a receiving TD this year.

The winner of the 2016 Lott IMPACT Trophy will be announced at The Lott IMPACT Trophy Awards Banquet in Newport Beach, CA on Sunday, Dec. 11.

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