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Home at the Coliseum is Good to USC Football


LOS ANGELES - USC commemorated an anniversary last month with its 21-17 defeat of Pac-12 South-leading Colorado. Oct. 8, 2015, marked the Trojans' last loss in the home confines of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

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That game was Steve Sarkisian's last as USC head coach. His abrupt, midseason firing last year turned the reins over to Clay Helton, who boasts an unblemished, home record since succeeding Sarkisian.

When discussing his perfect mark as head coach in the Coliseum, Helton walked it back to his first game there: Oct. 24, 2015, against a then-undefeated Utah.

"I'll never forget the first time coming back after the Notre Dame game last year, and our first time at home vs. Utah, how electric it was," Helton said. "I'll never forget the UCLA game last year and our stands going back and forth: 'We are, S-C.'"

Among Helton's most repeated mantras is embracing the history and aura of the Coliseum. The message has seemingly resonated with USC's performance at home in the last year-plus. USC extended that winning streak to six games last Thursday with a rout of Cal.

The streak includes two wins over top 25 opponents; Colorado one year to the day of USC's last home loss marked the second such victory. The six-game run also includes a Pac-12 South-clinching blowout of UCLA last November, which ended the Trojans' three-game losing skid to their crosstown rivals.

The Trojans look to stay undefeated at the Coliseum on the season -- and under Helton -- when they host Oregon in Week 10.

"We try our best to protect our home. Our kids, since taking over, have done a tremendous job," Helton said. "And our fans have been great...They've been electric this year on third down for us."

Trojan faithful also get credit from the USC players, like defensive back Chris Hawkins.

"Our fans are great. We love our fans," Hawkins said. "They get loud when we need them to get loud, and they get quiet when it's time to be quiet."

Hawkins called the crowd on hand for the Oct. 1 blowout of Arizona State especially noisy. That win, coupled with the Oct. 8 defeat of Colorado, put USC back on track in the Pac-12 South divisional race.

The Trojans need to run the table in their three remaining conference games, and get one loss each from Colorado and Utah, to return to the Pac-12 Championship Game. It's a familiar scenario to a year ago when Helton wore the interim tag, and the Trojans rallied to win the South.

Quite the turnaround from a 1-3 overall start with an 0-2 opening ledger in the Pac-12 -- but not all that different from a season ago when the Washington loss in the Coliseum dropped the Trojans to 3-2, with a 1-2 mark in conference play.

"With him, it's consistency," linebacker Michael Hutchings said of Helton. "Even in those first few games, when we're 1-3, you get the same guy. That's the thing with him that gives us a chance to not be up-and-down as a team. You get the same leader every week, and that's just what it is: consistency. And that's what we've shown at home when we play so far."

Defending home turf in conference play one more time is the goal in the coming week. After limiting up-tempo offenses from Arizona State, Colorado, Arizona and Cal to a combined 75 points -- less than 19 per game -- the outlook for USC's chances Week 10 against Oregon are as sunny as the Los Angeles weather.

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.