There was no epiphany for Everson Griffen, no moment when the true freshman finally realized that it was time to stop running into people and employ his superior speed to run around them.
No one had predicted that last week's game vs. Oregon State would be the stage for Griffen's 3 ½-sack, breakout performance.
But defensive line coach David Watson recalled an instance from practice, when Griffen had stayed on the sideline, neglecting his kickoff-team duties. Watson yelled for the freshman to get on the field.
"He kind of responded immaturely, and I remember running after him," Watson said. Griffen ran away, and, "He kind of got jacked. And for the rest of the day, he was jacked."
Griffen said the only thing he remembers about the incident is running away. However, he did acknowledge giving more of himself in practice last week.
Maintaining that energy is the key, he said, to translating the Oregon State performance into a big day against California's much-tougher offensive line. USC Beavers quarterback Sean Canfield nine times. Cal has allowed eight sacks the whole season.
"The harder you practice during practice, the harder you're going to play during the game," Griffen said. "If you've got good wind (during the week), then you're going to have good wind during the game."
Fellow end Kyle Moore said the breakout game is vital to a player's confidence. Moore's big day was significantly less-spectacular than Griffen's, but the junior remembers the effect well.
After coming up with three tackles against UCLA his freshman season, "You feel good about yourself, that you made plays for your team. You bring that same confidence over to the next game."
The Trojans cannot change their attitude toward Griffen, Watson said. Their hope is that such a performance establishes belief in USC's system, that his work in practice has led him to this point. Keep working - keep improving.
Said Moore, "You just tell him good game, and you've got to do it against Cal and Arizona State and everybody else. You've got to do against big dogs. You've got to do it against all the teams."
Sights and sounds from Wednesday's practice
USC coach Pete Carroll had an interesting evaluation of Cal true freshman running back Jahvid Best, comparing him to Reggie Bush and Joe McKnight.
Best is listed at 5-11, 182. McKnight at 6-0, 180. They both posted 4.4 40-yard dash times in high school.
USC recruited Best. However, his family was well aware that the Trojans were after McKnight. Plus, the Vallejo native's high school coach at Salesian, Chad Nightingale, played for Cal.
As for Best's impact this season, "They have packages for him that they don't do with their other players," Carroll said. "You have to watch out, because they're going to give him a chance to make big plays - very perimeter-oriented kind of stuff.
"We've got to know when he's in the game."
Sounds a lot like the way USC uses McKnight.
Best has 26 carries for 203 yards (7.8 average) and 13 receptions for 74 yards (5.7 average).
Butch Lewis took the first-team reps at left tackle, while Charles Brown worked with the second team. The status of All-American Sam Baker remains doubtful. He has not practiced this week.
Carroll said he expects cornerback and special teamer Vincent Joseph to play Saturday. Joseph sat out against Oregon State, because of an academic suspension.
Joseph laid a big hit on fullback Stanley Havili during practice. Havili stayed on the ground for a while, but a couple of plays later, he ended practice with a touchdown reception.
Carroll said he has noticed an upswing in practice tempo this week, with USC working out under the lights, post Daylight Savings. The coach added, "Hopefully, it translates."
"We know that can change the game, and we're going to try and not let that be a factor, anyway we can," Carroll said. "The best way is to not punt."
Opponents have limited the junior to 10 punt returns. He has averaged 10.6 yards, highlighted by a 77-yard touchdown in the opener against Tennessee. It was the sixth punt return touchdown of his career.
Nose tackle Sedrick Ellis was named one of 15 semifinalists for the Chuck Bednarik award, which goes to the nation's top defensive player.
Field goals: 4-for-4
David Buehler connected from 20, 32, 42 and 47. Last season against Cal, he converted a 49-yard attempt - his only kick of the season.
Jonathan Kay can be reached at Jon@USCFootball.com