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Three Games In and 'A Long Way to Go' for Lincoln Riley and the Trojans

Erik McKinney09/20/22
Article written by:On3 imageErik McKinney


USC head coach Lincoln Riley directs pre-game warmups before the Trojans face off against Fresno State (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

USC is off to a 3-0 start this season and ranked No. 7 in the nation. It’s a long ways away from where the Trojans finished the 2021 season. But head coach Lincoln Riley and the USC players understand they are just getting started.

Some programs can get caught up in the moment and attention and success. USC teams of the past have taken spotless records into Corvallis, specifically, and fallen flat. But this group isn’t getting lost in anything other than getting better, day by day.

Riley appeared on the Trojans Live Radio Show on Monday evening and was asked how he goes about making sure complacency doesn’t set in after a strong start.

“Nobody came here just to win the first three games,” Riley said. “We’ve got a long way to go, man. There’s a ton to get excited about, but there’s a long way to go and a lot of work to do…The biggest challenges for us as a team, and not talking about a particular opponent, but the biggest challenges are continuing to improve. The biggest challenges are ahead for us, and we hopefully understand it.”

USC has scored at least 40 points in all three games after doing so just twice last season. The Trojans lead the country in turnover margin and are tied for second in sacks.

“It’s a tremendous start,” Riley said. “Record-wise, you can’t start any better. Playing-wise, we can play a lot better. We’re going to need to.”

Becoming a Bigger Target

USC wasn’t the preseason favorite in the Pac-12 according to conference media. But no team consistently gets opponents’ ‘A’ performances like the Trojans do. As USC rises up the rankings and collects more wins, that target grows.

Oregon State awaits on Saturday. But running back Travis Dye said this team has done a good job of tuning everything out.

“I try not to pay attention to any of that,” Dye said of the potential growing target on the backs of the Trojans. “I try to just, you know, USC football, USC football.”

Dye said recently this is the best team he’s ever been a part of. He added after the Fresno State game that the mentality of the roster overall plays a big part in that.

“We are really in tune to USC football, USC football and I don’t hear anybody talking about anything else,” Dye said. “You know, what team did this or what they have us [ranked]. Honestly, I don’t even know what rank we’re at right now. I’m just playing.”