November 27, 2008

Practice Insider: Trojan Turkey Bowl

From the eastern most part of this country to its western shores, people find time for football on Thanksgiving.

Games happen in backyards, in parks and on blacktops - anywhere with open space and two end zones.

Thanksgiving wasn't all that different at Howard Jones Field, where the USC Trojans continued with Notre Dame preparation before sitting down to give thanks for all of life's blessings.

Practicing on a muddy field, the Trojans slipped and slid their way through another productive day of work.

"We knew the field wasn't going to be great, but we'd rather be over here than on the turf," USC head coach Pete Carroll said. "We made a point to tell the guys it could be like this in case it gets raining over the last couple of weeks.

"We tried to take advantage of it."

Sophomore wide receiver Damian Williams had a nice day, making a few one-handed catches and keeping his footing - for the most part.

"It was a little slick out here," Williams said. "It's good for us. There are some games left, and it may rain this weekend. We have to get used to this kind of stuff."

Williams isn't a stranger to playing football on Thanksgiving. Instead of taking part in a neighborhood game, though, Williams said he usually was practicing.

"All through high school, we always had practice on Thanksgiving because we were in the playoffs," he said. "It was a lot like today."

After practice, players rushed off the field, eager to begin their holiday plans. A lot of Trojans will be celebrating with quarterback Mark Sanchez's family.

Sanchez's parents said they're expecting over 60 people, including players and their families.

"We had a really good week. Guys have adjusted to the shift in timeframes, and guys are going to get a break this afternoon," Carroll said. "It should be a nice little break. Everyone understands that there's some time to make some phone calls to grandmas and grandpas.

"Then, we're coming right back tomorrow, ready to go."

Before that, though, defensive end Kyle Moore said he's ready to do what he does every Thanksgiving - take a nap and watch the Dallas Cowboys.

"I'm a big Cowboy fan, and I'm doing the same thing I normally do," he said. "I'll swing by the Sanchez's party and then head over to Stafon Johnson's with my family.

"We'll eat and give thanks."

Williams said the Trojans won't let the brief holiday break shatter their concentration, as the team prepares to host Notre Dame.

"We had an extra day to practice on Monday, and we had an extra week with the bye," he said. "I think that really helps. We're just taking it in stride, and we'll keep on going.

"I know we'll be all right."

Extra Points

• USC will not be at full strength Saturday against Notre Dame, as Carroll said Thursday that senior safety Kevin Ellison will not be able to play.

Will Harris will start.

"His knee just didn't respond to the work," Carroll said. "He's real frustrated by it."

Armond Armstead and Blake Ayles will not play, and Tyron Smith could be out with a sore ankle.

• Ayles will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his injured knee. Ayles banged knees with Sanchez, and after trying to play with the injury, Ayles will have to have his knee scoped.

Carroll said he hopes to get Ayles back by USC's bowl game.

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