The USC Trojans head home this week to face a Cal team that almost pulled off an upset against Ohio State. Saddled with their first loss of the season, the Trojans look to bounce back against the Bears. USC safety T.J. McDonald took some time to chat with the Pac-12 blog for our Friday Q&A. (Warning: There are zero questions about Matt Barkley and the Heisman.)
I suppose the first and most obvious question is how has the team responded this week?
T.J. McDonald: We're responding well. We're anxious to get this taste out of our mouth, and the only way we can do that is to have good practices and play Trojan football -- the only way we know how. We have to give our best effort every play and make sure after this next game we have a better taste in our mouth.
Every time you and I have talked, you've always talked about "bigger goals" for this team. Are those goals still within reach?
TM: Definitely they are still within reach. We still have a lot that we can accomplish. We still have more to accomplish than we've had here in our recent history and the last few years. I told the defense, there are only two types of football players: those who have been beat and those who will be beaten. We're not going to win every game this year. The only thing we can do is respond and still try to accomplish all those goals we set out to accomplish before the season.
Assess your own performance against Stanford?
TM: I felt like I played OK. I played pretty good. But there are a lot of things I can do to get better. I'm never going to be satisfied, no matter what. Even if I had a four-interception game, I still would look for ways to get better. When you lose a game, you can never say you played good. I know that I gave my best effort, but there is still stuff I want to get better at and there were plays left out there I need to make.
After two weeks on the road, how good is it to be back at home?
TM: It feels good to be back on our field and back in front of our home crowd, and hopefully we go out there and play Trojan football the way we know how and get our fans rocking with us again. We've got a lot of support from our fans. That's always what you want, and you want to put on a good show for them.
You guys have a fairly veteran defense, but you're still the leader. How important was it for you to set an example this week and keep the guys on track?
TM: Very important. We just have to make sure that all the young guys know what to do. All of this stuff happened so fast to us. As far as getting all of the hype and being rated so high -- it all happened so fast. We weren't even in the AP polls before because of probation. Just because of one bad game, not a lot of guys know how to respond. The only way I know how is to come back and go even harder for the rest of the season and make sure that we know what it feels like and to never feel like that again. The only way to do that is to go out, play our butts off, and make sure that we fly to the ball and we take everything from the practice field and transfer it to the field on Saturday.
Cal was a few missed field goals away from beating Ohio State. What did you learn about them from watching the Ohio State game?
TM: They have a lot of fight in them. It was good for them because for them to come out to the Horseshoe and respond against a team like Ohio State and that atmosphere, we know they aren't going to be intimidated coming to the Coliseum. We just got to make sure we play our best game. As long as we are on our A-game -- and like I said before -- we transfer everything from the film room and everything from the practice field to the field on Saturday and play Trojan football, we'll be OK.