LOS ANGELES — After a one-week absence due to health and safety protocols, USC safety and captain Isaiah Pola-Mao made his season debut against Stanford on Saturday.
Pola-Mao tested positive for COVID-19 last Wednesday before the season-opening win over San Jose State, leading true freshman Calen Bullock to start in his place.
But Pola-Mao was back on the starting defense in Bullock’s place at free safety.
He wasn’t the only Trojan returning from injury. Defensive end Nick Figueroa was back against the Cardinal after missing the second half of the San Jose State win and made an early impact with a tackle for loss on the first drive of the game.
Wide receiver Gary Bryant Jr. was back after missing last week’s game due to health and safety protocols. He caught two passes for nine yards on USC’s opening drive and served as USC’s return man in the punt game.
TCU running back transfer Darwin Barlow got his first snaps as a Trojan in the first quarter after missing the opener with a hamstring injury.
Prior to the game, USC held a ceremony to honor the 20th anniversary of September 11. Veterans, active service members and first responders unfurled American flags in both end zones. A member of the Spirit of Troy played ‘Taps’ to honor those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks in 2001, followed by 20 seconds of silence.
USC also held a pre-game ceremony to honor former running back Sam “Bam” Cunningham, who died on Tuesday at the age of 71. After a video commemorating Cunningham’s role in the storied USC-Alabama game in 1970, Cunningham’s wife Cine and daughter Samahndi were joined on the field by his former teammate Al Cowlings in a moment of silence.
USC also wore stickers on their helmets with “BAM 39” to honor Cunningham.
On the opening kickoff of the game, USC kicker Parker Lewis was ejected for targeting. The sophomore led with his head to tackle Stanford return man Nathaniel Peat. The Cardinal was awarded an extra 15 yards on the return and Lewis was disqualified from the game, leaving walk-on Alex Stadthaus as USC’s de facto kicker.