ANAHEIM – Zach Banner’s smile widened as he gestured toward his brow.
“Look at me,” said Banner, USC’s 360-pound senior right tackle. “I’m wearing Minnie Mouse ears.”
The sparkling headband, fitted with a red bow, stood atop his head.
“I’m having a blast,” Banner said. “This is awesome.”
As the Trojans start the final week of preparation for their Rose Bowl matchup with Penn State on Monday, they took the traditional theme park visit on Tuesday afternoon to Disneyland and the adjacent Disney California Adventure.
“See you at the teacups,” Banner told a group of fans soon after their arrival. Players from both teams were greeted by at least a dozen cardinal-and-gold backers at a welcome news conference outside the themed Cars Land at the California Adventure Park.
Over the coming days, USC’s players and coaches will attempt to balance the mixture of side-trips and game preparations while readying for their anticipated season finale against the fifth-ranked Nittany Lions.
Coach Clay Helton raised the issue with players earlier in the morning at the team hotel in downtown Los Angeles. It was their first meeting since they returned Monday night from a four-day holiday break.
“Guys, why do you think we worked as hard as we worked those two weeks?” he said. “It’s so you can enjoy this week without being totally focused on a game plan, so you can enjoy what a festivity of the Rose Bowl brings, so you can be reviewing the material rather than having to learn it over this week.”
Over the past two weeks, USC followed its normal game-week routine as if it was preparing to play Penn State the following Saturday. That has left little installation for this week and what Helton hopes means a lighter mental workload for the players.
The past bowl practices this month ran close to two hours and they dressed in full pads on Tuesdays. Helton at one point said they would practice 18 times before the Rose Bowl, a change of…