As the clock hit triple zeros, USC realized that for the second straight year they will be playing in the Orange Bowl for a chance to play for the National Championship in Season Seven. USC needed a win against Texas to punch their ticket to the dance this season. In their first playoff game they rematched against Auburn. They were 0-2 facing Auburn, Auburn was a heavy favorite to get into the Orange Bowl when the season started. USC got the win 35-27. When the clock hit zero I was on the field for some interviews.
I caught up first with the leader of the Trojans defense Benjamin Kaye. What was going through your mind as the clock hit triple zeros? “As all teams have the hill. Felt like that Monkey was finally off of our backs and could say. The Family is headed back again!” He was elated as he was putting on the Gator Bowl champion hat. Two straight trips to the championship game, what about this year feels different than last? “Going again is always more difficult. And able to keep the path and reach it with all the problems that have went on this season. Just seemed a little harder hill to climb this year. But still just as sweet with the #Family on the journey here.” What is different about this team compared to last? “Not a whole lot. We still have the same mentality. The same goals and vision. #FamilyFirst. Nobody is above anyone and we are all in as a team.” What would it mean to you to win the whole thing this season? “It would mean everything after falling short and so close last season. And knowing this season with everything going on to know we overcame everything and won it all as a Family. It would be the ultimate ending to a great season for us.”
Next, I was able to find Trojans linebacker Xavier Halle. What about this team is different than last season? “I would have to say that this team is a little more tougher than last year. We faced much more adversity this season than last.” What does that adversity mean to you? “Well first of we didn’t play as well as we did last season. Things seemed to come easy last season. Whereas this year we put or selves in a situation where we lost games we thought we should win. We literally played our way out of the playoffs then played our way back in.” What would a championship mean to your career? “Mean that’s the goal. But as a guy who doesn’t get much attention in the media or hasn’t been up for any personal accolades getting the ultimate team goal is the best way to get my stock up for the next level.” Halle was with his family as he was giving the interview. Very emotional.
I was finally able to find Tim Cope. Tim what was the sideline like when the clock finally hit zero? “It was refreshing, knowing I’m going to the title in my sophomore year, especially after scoring my first touchdown since week three”. How is it that you haven’t scored since week 3, but yet you’re so positive? “This is a good question, I really feel like I’ve changed since I was at Alabama, I was really bad about not scoring but At USC I thought its more important to win the game instead of stats, that’s how I’m positive winning games are important than stats”. Off of that, do you feel you’re an import piece to USC? “I feel like that every player on the team is an import piece to the team, I don’t think only few players are the most impactful, so yes I feel like everyone on the team is important, I’m just equally as important as everyone on the team, everyone on the team has a role to play like they say here at USC family first”. Did you ever think you’d be playing in the championship game? “Every player dreams of playing the championship game. But I never truly thought I would play in one. But I’m excited to be there. Dreamed of it since I was a kid”. What does it mean to Time Copes legacy to win the national championship? “My legacy, it would mean more to my family then my legacy. I’ve had my two brothers play here before me, Dorian who was a safety for Texas, and Williams my brother who played receiverfor Oregon, he made it to the semis and lost to Texas. It would be so impactful for my family. But going back to legacy, it would be impactful and it would make me feel blessed”
Next, I was able to find Marcellus Burney in a sea of confetti. Two times!!!! Back to back championship appearances!!! What was the locker room like? “We’re so focused, competing is in our nature. We won’t be satisfied to we win the whole enchilada”. What in your estimation is different between last season and this season’s team? “Last season we were young, green, just learning to build the brotherhood. This season we already had that, so many personal expectations from ourselves is what allowed us to overcome and persevere. On top of some key adds in Stern and Cope”. Touching on those adds, what have they meant to the locker room and team as a whole? “Crucial, last season we were a few plays short. Adding in those plays these guys make helps us tilt the scale in our favor. As far as the locker room, those boys fit right in to the winning culture.” We will end in on this question, what would it mean to win the National Championship? “For me it would be continuous yells and fist pumps. For our locker room, gratifying. For our Coach, I don’t have a word for King Kong beating on his chest, appreciation nonetheless.”
These players are ready for tonight, for the challenge of winning a title.