Helton Loses Shoe, Even More Support. What’s New?

After USC’s latest loss, how long before the other shoe might drop for Clay Helton?

USC coach Clay Helton talks with an official during the Trojans’ 30-27 loss at No. 9 Notre Dame.
Helene Elliott (LA Times) —  USC football coach Clay Helton kept hold of his job but lost one of his shoes, though there surely are fans and alumni who wish that would have happened the other way around.

A few days ago, USC interim athletic director Dave Roberts told The Times’ Ryan Kartje that if a coaching decision were to be made, “It would probably be the province of a new athletic director, not Dave Roberts.” He said Helton will “stand or fall on his record,” and added that unless something extraordinary happened, “Dave Roberts isn’t going to be stepping in there, making the decision that really I think would be the province of a new AD.”

Quite the week of debatable decision-making by people named Dave Roberts, wasn’t it?

While the search chugs along for the new athletic director who, presumably, will determine Helton’s coaching fate, Helton was pacing the sideline Saturday, overseeing a valiant but inadequate second-half surge in the Trojans’ 30-27 loss to ninth-ranked Notre Dame at chilly South Bend.

The loss of his footwear occurred when he tried to break things up after the teams got into a pushing-and-shoving scrum at the end of the second quarter and he somehow came out of it minus his left shoe. As the teams went to their locker rooms at halftime, the official on the field announced unsportsmanlike conduct penalties had been called against Notre Dame and UCLA. Fans loved that, chanting, “UCLA!” in the final minutes.

Helton got a new shoe for the second half and a new game plan. The Trojans corrected some errors, got some big plays Helton called “explosives,” and got the ball to a determined Markese Stepp for 43 of his 82 yards rushing and the two-yard touchdown run that capped a frantic push with 1 minute 4 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame recovered the onside kick and held on.

“This team had a bite,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said after offering his respects to Helton following the 91st edition of the teams’ rivalry game. “Clay had them playing very well. To win against your rival is one of the things we wanted to do.”

USC wanted to do the same thing but too often fell one flailing tackle short, one key block short, one big-yardage play short of making it happen. That’s nothing new.

“I asked them to stay in the fight for 60 minutes and they did,” Helton said, which is some consolation but ultimately, the results matter and the results this season haven’t been good enough.

Asked whether he thought his team should have won Saturday, Helton was honest.

“No. We didn’t do enough in the first half to put ourselves in position,” he said. “We’ll look at this tape. There were enough times we had the opportunity to get a stop and we didn’t come up with it. We had an opportunity in the first half to finish drives and we didn’t do it. It’s a team game. As a team, collectively, staff, players, everybody, we came up short.”

This loss was too close to qualify as the “something extraordinary” that might lead Roberts — the USC executive who oddly referred to himself in the third person, not the Dodgers manager — to fire Helton in the short-term future. Their second-half pushback means they’re still playing for Helton and for one another, and they took pride in that.

“The second half, you see 11 people do their job, that’s what it looks like,” offensive coordinator Graham Harrell said. “I’m proud as hell the way they fought, they battled. They made a lot of plays. They kept fighting. They never gave up. We were just one guy away in the first half, and that cost us some drives.”

It cost them another loss, though, and although it didn’t cost Helton his job, it couldn’t have helped his long-term employment prospects. Helton clung to the belief that there are better days ahead for USC, a belief reinforced by what he saw in the second half.

“This is a good football team. Notre Dame is a good football team. We are too,” he said. “And I can’t wait to watch the next six games. I told our team in there, if they play like they did in the second half, get ready to win the Pac-12 title and I honestly believe that. We’ve got six games to really put our best foot forward in our conference. We control our own destiny on the way to a Pac-12 title.

“It’s going to be a long ride home and a lot of heartbreak and sadness, and then we’ll come back tomorrow and get it done.”

He went home with his job and his shoe collection intact, but who knows for how long.

latimes.com

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fightonmn
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Brian Kelly’s 14 yard run to seal a suspicious win Several questionable home field non calls and a 15 yard roughing penalty are propelling Notre Dame. USC is uncharacteristically playing a clean game and are down 3, ready for an onside kick towards the ND bench. Yeah I saw that you ate thinking. Stay with me as I’ve watched this scene a dozen times. 3 officials are directly in front of the ND bench awaiting the kick. The back judge at the SC 35, line judge SC 40 and field judge 45 SC. This is at 3:24:53 on my you… Read more »

ATL D.D.S.
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Agree with everything but your last paragraph, friend. Clay Helton has had many chances to show he is incompetent at this level of football and is frequently out-coached. This game shows less incompetence than some of his others, but in no way signals a trend.

illinoisusc
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After reviewing the tape……if I were ND I would specifically request a Pac 12 crew for any future USC games. They were biased toward ND and down right incompetent…….and I was doing my best to be objective. Somebody in the league wants us dead.

trojandn
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Based upon the game yesterday, it appears that whoever the new coach is, they will inherit a young and talented running back, quarterback, receivers, and defensive backs. The new coach should be able to win the PAC 12 championship rather quickly and get USC back into the National scene within the first three years of taking over.

Trojan5
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I might be the first person to ever say this—-Sam Darnold is good. He makes the Jets a completely different team.

illinoisusc
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Seahawks go to 5-1 and now get J Reed back….so they get a lot better…….does anyone remember who coaches the Seahawks…..yah!….. the old man with the goofy smile……who can coach a tin can to score.

TrojanRJJ
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I think one of the real issues for the new AD will be budget to fix the football mess. Before I took this job, I would demand enough budget to fire this entire staff and then to hire elite staff. My guess is an elite HC is about $8,000,000 a year and elite OC and DC are about $2,000,000 a year each, plus a support staff that matches the SEC. I think the budge would be in the $25,000,000 per year range plus whatever it will take to get rid of the present staff. Interesting negotiations I would think. Without… Read more »

Jamaica
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Not sure the administration would be willing to pay that in the beginning RJJ. They have a track record of holding off until the new hire wins big before they loosen the purse strings. But if Dr, Folt wants to set this town and its fanbase on its ears, doing as you suggest would certainly get everyone’s attention.

PN4SC
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Helton was quotesdas saying” I can’t wait to see this team play the next 6 games”. This is the same fool who said in late September of that year” I can’t wait to see this team in November”.
He sounds like a hack politician promising better things ahead, so “vote for me” in the upcoming election.
Somebody, please make him go away soon.

Jamaica
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Sure hope he doesn’t try sweet-talking Dr. Folt into another year of taking this football program nowhere……

ATL D.D.S.
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He might and she will listen and she might acquiesce because Helton is the perfect Beta-Male of a football coach that the sjw’s all want….

Let’s hope that the clearer minds on the BOT can talk her out of this.

Steveg
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Not totally disheartened by the loss to ND, there were a few bright spots and a few what ifs. What if they had not called the erroneous roughing the passer. What if St. Brown had caught the pass at the 1. What if Stepp had played more to continue drives. What if we had just a little speed on defense to cover the outside. What if USC did not over pursue and actually made tackles. I like our players and think they are playing well, and I think it is for themselves, that they are not all in for Helton… Read more »

LawyerJohn
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2-Cents worth down-graded to 1-Cent: I bet President Folt was not impressed with the 99% of SC “fans”‘ assessment that Coach Helton and his $10-million+ buy-out contract must go. She would reason that most of the “fans” are male, who are known to be less intelligent than women, and in a sports-context men are often overly shrill in their judgments. Besides, she did not witness any Helton blunders that cost Troy the game… The game was lost by the players in the first half when the offense could not quite finish off a couple of promising drives, and Hufanga, of… Read more »

Scipio
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JD good news doesn’t sell when you don’t have any political capital left to spend. CCH is penniless in that department, so, “no”, good news doesn’t matter in a court of public opinion that has already made up its mind about CCH. To bad because you made two good points I was going to make before I read your post. First, this is the first time in my memory that I “did not witness any Helton blunders that cost Troy the game.” That is a major improvement IMHO. Your second point is absolutely true as well. The players lost this… Read more »