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The USC football team continued to prepare for its long road trip to Boston at practice on Wednesday. Head coach Steve Sarkisian called it a productive day and praised the Trojans’ execution and energy.Step right up · Sophomore linebacker Michael Hutchings will start in the place of suspended senior captain Hayes Pullard in Saturday’s game at Boston College. Hutchings has four total tackles this season. – Ralf Cheung | Daily TrojanNo Campfire SongsUSC will face another tough test on Saturday as they travel more than 3,000 miles to play the Boston College Eagles in an attempt to improve their record to 3-0. Though the team will be making quite a trek, Sarkisian stressed the importance of focusing more on the game than the location.“We [need to] keep doing things the way we do them regardless of who the opponent is or where we’re headed,” Sarkisian said. “Ultimately, it’s going to be about how we play Saturday night.”The Trojans understand that it is always a challenge to play on the road, but coming off a huge conference win at Stanford, the team is prepared to deal with adversity and rally around the challenges that a road game entails.“It wasn’t us sitting around a campfire and singing songs together,” Sarkisian said in reference to the Stanford trip. “It was hard. It was grueling. It was guys potentially wanting to tap out, coaches included … [But] you rely on the people around you to keep building you back up and [motivate you].”Sarkisian did not seem worried about a letdown following such an emotional victory against Stanford. He emphasized the focus and preparation of the team and hopes to see even more improvement as the week goes on.Fighting through the painAfter winning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts against Stanford, junior defensive end Leonard Williams is still dealing with an ankle injury that nearly kept him from playing last week and has limited his availability in practice. Though his injury might prove to be bothersome, the defensive captain is determined to play in Boston.“The reason I go out there and try to fight through all these games is because I want to have a good season this year … I want to take this team as far as possible,” Williams said. “I’d never want to sit on the sideline and watch them fight through a tough game knowing I can’t help out.”Williams made it clear that his ankle feels better than it did in the week of practice leading up to the Stanford game, and when asked if there was a chance that he might not be able to play on Saturday, Williams responded, “No, I’m going to play.”Williams should get the opportunity to repeat his dominant performance from Saturday against the Eagles as long as he remains healthy, and after Wednesday’s practice, he appears to be ready.“Obviously we got more work out of Leonard today than we did yesterday, which is a positive,” Sarkisian said. “Our goal is to go win the game. If Leonard is healthy enough to play, he’s going to play.”Time to step upDue to his ejection in the second half of the Stanford game, redshirt senior linebacker Hayes Pullard is required to sit out the first half of Saturday’s game. Stepping into his starting role will be sophomore Michael Hutchings, who seemed prepared and excited to contribute on the defensive end.“I feel like I’ve played well. I study Hayes’ every move,” Hutchings said. “I feel like I’m ready to take on this moment.”While Hutchings will not have to stop the struggling Eagles’ offense on his own, he will be called upon to be a leader for the defensive unit at the strong side inside linebacker position. Other members of the defensive unit have expressed their support for the inexperienced Antioch, California native.“The team lets him know that we count on him and we trust him,” Williams said. “We let him know that he can handle it.”
The Irish made light of sleet and biting wind and an England team desperate to avoid a third successive defeat as they deservedly led 21-5 at halftime with tries by Garry Ringrose, CJ Stander and the prolific Jacob Stockdale.England, unbeaten at home in the Six Nations since 2012, managed tries by Elliot Daly in each half, but were unable to gain a foothold in the face of ferocious Irish defence.Ireland’s Conor Murray added a penalty in their only second-half score before England finished with a Jonny May try in stoppage time that came far too late to spoil what will be an Irish party to remember.Following Scotland’s win in Rome earlier in the morning and with just the Wales versus France game left in the championship, England will finish outside the top three for the first time in 12 years and could end as low as fifth.Ireland, who have now won 12 games in a row, top the standings on 26 points ahead of Scotland on 13, Wales 11, France and England on 10 and Italy with one.Scotland narrowly avoided a nightmare end to their Six Nations campaign, beating Italy 29-27 with a Greg Laidlaw penalty a minute from time after trailing the perennial wooden-spooners for most of the game.Scotland scored four tries before snatching victory from the distraught Italians but the result could well have gone the other way, with an expectant home crowd of 60,000 on the verge of celebrating a first Six Nations victory in three years.Italy were already guaranteed to finish last for the 13th time since their first Six Nations. Their string of 17 straight defeats in the competition equals the worst losing streak in the northern hemisphere’s premier tournament since France racked up 17 losses a century ago between 1911 and 1920.