USC quotable: Clay Helton, Kedon Slovis, Kana’i Mauga weigh in on win over Utah

Here are some highlights from the press conferences following USC’s 33-17 victory over Utah:

Head coach Clay Helton

Pick up line:

“What a great victory for our football team. To get to Salt Lake which is a really tough place to play, to take on a Kyle Whittingham team that I think is one of the best coaches in the country and to get out of here with a win – what a big win for us and for our season, really proud of our kids. I thought tonight’s storyline was our defense. I thought they played great the whole game, basically just giving up 10 points themselves – we gave up 7 points offensively – but we had a goal in the second half coming out of the locker room that we didn’t want to allow another point. And unbelievably, I thought the second half defense was a rally and a rally and a rally, turnover after turnover, fourth down stops, just done a great job. Kana’i [Mauga] When I got the most out of his chance, the playmakers in the back with the interceptions they got, multiple sacks on the defensive front, I thought we’d moved the quarterback out of place all night.

“Another thing I thought needed to be said and noticed was the kick game. I thought the two specialists had done a great job tonight – Parker Lewis in kick coverage as well as field goals he scored, and then Ben [Griffiths] just don’t give them a chance to start a return. I loved our defense and our special teams. Not offensive on all cylinders tonight. We’ve done enough to get it done and put enough points on the board to get the win. ”

He saw about the difference on Saturday compared to the first two weeks:

“I thought defensive execution was phenomenal. I thought tonight they were playing with swagger and playing with tremendous emotion. I think we are growing as a football team. I’m coming to Salt Lake where I know with Kyle, they hadn’t lost a home opener for the past 11 years, and I think it’s 18 in total, and to get in here with the mindset this team had, we’re going to do some it also took to come out here with the win and get 1-0 in the week, 3-0 in the season, I thought their mindset was an improvement over the last two weeks. ”

About the defensive game plan:

‘I thought the defense front was great. We talked about stopping the flight. We knew they were coming in, they had always been a team 60 percent more than us, so that was the first – stop the flight at all costs, even if that means there are full boxes. They put a bit of pressure on the secondary but they held up and that allowed us to get to third and then our pass rushers did a great job. They forced throws that caused interceptions, sacks and backfield fumbles. It just felt like we were playing in the backfield all night, and that’s true [Todd Orlando], thanks to Vic [So’oto], Donte [Williams] and Craig [Naivar], they put together a great game plan, but more importantly, the kids implemented it. ”

Why RB’s Markese Stepp and Stephen Carr either sat or were limited:

“Markese had a pectoral strain that we hoped would get better all week. He practiced all week, but just wasn’t there himself. Stephen was the same way. He didn’t exercise much during the week and then got a little knee back and we moved forward and pulled him. We kind of knew it was going to be Vavae [Malepeai]’s game and Kenan [Christon]’s game, and I thought they were doing well. Kenan came in and gave us an explosive flight, and Vavae was all we needed. I thought he had run well, even in pass protection tonight. I was hoping they both would go back to the game – Stephen was very close, but ‘Kese, we just decided not to dress tonight. ”

His impression of the offense:

“Thinking from the first half, not to say frustration, but missed opportunities. I really thought that should have been a 31-10 game at half time. We got 7 points offensively, and we also got 7 points off the board in the red zone. I thought coming out on that first stage was very important. We drove it down and got some points on the board. I thought Graham [Harrell] did a good job of making the plan, and the kids went downstairs and carried it out. Would love to have touchdowns over field goals but we kept adding the points. No matter how well the defense played, we just said, OK, just keep adding the points, securing the ball, and I thought we got a little better rhythm in the second half. Obviously, the penalty that brought back the touchdown, followed by a turnover, and then the turnover for a touchdown in the first half, is just what strikes me. ”

About the performance of QB Kedon Slovis:

“What I like about Kedon is that he’s a winner, and winners find ways to win. He has done that every week. The statsheet will not be as good as it has been in recent weeks, but at the end of the day the winners will win, and it is. He did the things we needed him to do to get out of Salt Lake City with a massive victory, and all of our kids did. We are such perfectionists as coaches and as players and we know what this violation could be, and we are going to look up and it will turn from a 30 point violation to hopefully a 40 or 50 point violation. We all want more. We all want to do a little bit better, and we’ll keep working on it, but all Kedon is doing is finding the way to get the team on his back and win ball games. He did it for us again. He is 1-0 for the week and 3-0 for the season. ”

How USC Can Create Separation From Opponents:

“Yes, 16 points is great. We’d love to have more, but I saw a lot of people today saying it wouldn’t be sixteen, and I saw a lot of people saying Utah would win. So to get in a tough spot and win a ball game against a Kyle Whittingham team that we have a lot of respect for and a Utah team that we have a lot of respect for and to walk out of here with a 16 point win, we take it. As I said before, it’s clear that, as I said, the turnover caused those points and the turnover that took points off the board for us, something that would create even more separation, to be honest. Really, I thought it should have been a 31-10 ball game at half time. We let them stay in the second half and then we started to separate ourselves, which I am proud of the kids doing. But we’re going to hit all cylinders and I’m looking forward to that soon. And we are close. Defensively, I thought we had taken a big step forward. Offensively, we do the things to win, but we haven’t reached our full potential yet and I’m looking forward to that day. ”

If this was what he expected from Todd Orlando’s defense:

“The only thing I really like about TO is its aggressiveness. He is what I believe and love when I am offensive is attacking, being aggressive and so defensive. He has no fear in his calls and the kids believe in him, in the system and tonight it was clear. Confidence simply radiated from them. I mean, we literally said there was a point behind in the first half. I said go get the ball and bring it to me. And literally two plays later they are going to make the turnover and they immediately turn it over to me. It was so nice to see them play tonight and I thought they were playing for each other. The other thing TO did well, you saw us playing a lot of kids tonight. Lots of kids defensively tonight. And I thought that helped us. TO really trained these children within the system. It’s a system that’s easy to pick up and now they thrive in it. Let’s be consistent now. We got to the point where this is the level we want to play at. Let’s be consistent about it now and take this into next week. ”

The message to the team halfway through the regular season:

“The approach we have taken that we will not change is that we just want to be 1-0 this week. And everything that’s happened in college football and all the unknowns, you’re just hoping to make it to the next game. Each of these games is a gift in my opinion. It was a gift to come to Salt Lake and have the chance to play. I was so happy for Kyle’s kids. Can you imagine all the work they put into it and this is their first game? We’ve been working on this since July and they have their first game tonight. I mean, that’s a gift. So the approach for us is what we’ve been doing for the past three weeks, 1-0 a week. We go home, we celebrate this, we put it to bed and then a good Colorado team comes in that is also undefeated and they look for their chance. So as long as we stay in the moment and stay focused on our work it will all add up in the end and hopefully we are in a place to win a championship. So we stick with that mindset. That’s what I trained the kids for, and that’s what I trained our coaches for, so I’m not even looking ahead, except next week. ”

QB Kedon Slovis

About his achievements:

“I didn’t think I had any problems throwing the ball. The coach helped me sort out the game balls and fix that. But I don’t think I’ve played that well as a whole. I have to perform better. We left a lot of points on the board, mainly because of my game and because I am not disciplined. So I think if you see my game increase we will accumulate a lot more points and have a lot more offensive success. ”

What he saw on his interception throw, and when he’s frustrated talking about the health of his arm:

“When intercepting, to begin with, just a four verts game that we play all the time, we’re running at a high level. I think I was just a bit on a different page from Erik [Krommenhoek]where he was running, I thought he was going to take a different angle, but that’s still on, that’s my fault, the interception. When they gave us that look I just had to check it or just be smart with the football and it was a careless throw. And with all that chatter, if anything, it motivates me to play my best game. I thought this was going to be a really great week of offensive practice. I just want to see it in play. ”

LB Kana’i Mauga

About what it felt like for the defense:

“It felt great. There was a lot of talk with the whole defense that we were going to be in a bar fight, and that’s basically what we did the entire game. We have led the fight against them. We got hit more than we got, and we came out on top. ”

The defensive focus:

Basically stop running. That was our main goal. Utah had drag backs that are really powerful, and we just wanted to focus on stopping the flight so they blow the ball out for our DBs to work. ”

Where the defense has improved the most:

You could say the amount of cruelty. We really get to the ball, and we make sure the defense is cleared as soon as the game starts. ”