LOS ANGELES — At USC’s awards banquet on Wednesday night, placekicker Chase McGrath and punter Reid Budrovich shared the Joe Collins Award, given to the team’s top walk-on.
They will soon be former walk-ons.
Coach Clay Helton also awarded McGrath and Budrovich with scholarships for next season.
“Our kids are so close,” Helton said. “They love those two kids, and they’ve won ballgames for us, so to be able to do that in front of their parents, in front of our players, our wives, just our whole family, it was a neat moment.”
McGrath, a freshman, was a hero for USC in its dramatic 27-24 double-overtime victory over Texas in mid-September, making a pair of critical late field goals, including the winning 43-yarder and a 31-yarder to force overtime.
He had attempted his first college field goal only earlier in the game when he pulled a 46-yard try wide left.
The primetime nonconference game was the teams’ first meeting since the 2006 Rose Bowl epic.
After the win, players surrounded McGrath in the locker room and chanted, “Give him a scholarship.”
Over the following weeks, Helton intimated he would, often telling reporters he was waiting for a “special moment.”
He thought his announcement Wednesday night caught the players by surprise.
“It was the right time,” Helton said.
Over 13 games this fall, McGrath made 12 of 16 field-goal attempts, and 57 of 58 PATs.
It was a minor upset when McGrath first took over the placekicking duties, beating out Michael Brown, a redshirt freshman and a scholarship recipient, during training camp. McGrath also took over kickoffs after Brown suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2 against Stanford.
USC extended McGrath, a Mater Dei High graduate, a preferred walk-on offer in the spring after Matt Boermeester was removed from the team and later expelled from the university following a Title IX investigation. Boermeester had been expected to return for one more season.
Budrovich, a redshirt junior from St. John Bosco, also beat out scholarship punter Chris Tilbey in August.
“As we say, ‘best player plays,’” Helton said.
Budrovich averaged 42.5 yards per punt and pinned 19 of his 49 punts inside the 20-yard line.
The Trojans began game preparation this week for facing Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl, but the extra practices also meant extra reps for backups and other young players.
Helton thought wide receivers and defensive backs in particular benefited.
“It’s a nice time for our skill kids to be able to get a little extra work,” Helton said.
When asked who he thought had stood out, Helton brought up redshirt freshman receiver Trevon Sidney as one player who had a productive first week of bowl practices.
Right guard Andrew Vorhees has cleared concussion protocol and returned to practice. Vorhees had left in the first quarter of the Pac-12 Conference title game earlier this month with a possible concussion. … Reserve safety Bubba Bolden was held out of Thursday’s closed practice with a hip flexor, Helton said, but should return within a couple practices. … Freshman cornerback Greg Johnson, who appeared in four games before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, is expected to receive a medical redshirt. “It should be a slam dunk,” Helton said. … USC’s walk-through practice on Friday is closed to the media, before returning Monday.