LOS ANGELES -- Ed Orgeron's first game as USC interim head coach was a perfect summation of the circumstances that brought him to that position: drama followed by relief and exuberance.
Taking over after the dramatic firing of Lane Kiffin, Orgeron has focused on bringing energy, emotion and fun back to the Trojans, which carried through their 38-31 win over Arizona on Thursday night. Athletic director Pat Haden said afterward that Orgeron would be a candidate to replace Kiffin on a full-time basis, but would not discuss any criteria by which that decision might come.
"Let's worry about next week," Haden said.
"It's only been a week. We'll all be happy until we aren't happy."
But what was clear is that everyone around the program has definitely taken to the Orgeron mindset, with veiled shots at Kiffin coming out publicly for the first time.
"No disrespect to the coach that was here before, but you want a coach that you will fricking just go to war for every time," quarterback Cody Kessler said. "I don't only speak for myself, I speak for the whole team that we would go to war for this guy any day of the week. Any time he needed us we have his back 100 percent. I couldn't ask for a better head coach right now."
Orgeron certainly did plenty since taking over to earn that devotion, reintroducing dessert at training table and bringing in chicken and waffles for a team dinner. Coaches left the office at 10 p.m. to allow them to recharge. The game plan was simplified. Everyone was included, including walk-ons and players who had been in Kiffin's doghouse or ignored under his regime.
"It wasn't just the game and the way the energy was different, all week you felt it," Haden said.
"They have hope now. A lot of players touched the ball now, and I think that's a good thing. Everybody feels like they have a role, everybody feels like they can contribute, and that's a really good thing."
Haden described a locker room as raucous as any he had ever seen, before and after the game.
Said Orgeron: "They bought in."
The question now is whether these final seven games of the regular season can convince USC to buy into Orgeron.
Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.