2020 Utah Tuesday: USC Recaps Arizona Win
Nov 17, 2020
After two last-minute victories over the Arizona schools, USC is prepping for this weekend's road test at Utah.
- USC center Brett Neilon (ankle), S Talanoa Hufanga (thigh bruise) and DL Caleb Tremblay (neck) practiced on Monday, but DL Brandon Pili (finger) and LB Palaie Gaoteote IV (concussion protocol) did not.
- For the third straight week, USC will face a school playing its first game of the season. Both Arizona and ASU had first-year defensive coordinators, which made it hard to scout the defense ahead of time. That's not the case with Utah, but the Utes are the ninth-youngest team in the FBS, so the Trojans haven't matched up with many of their players before. "There were a lot of good players on last year's [Utah] team," said USC head coach Clay Helton. "What we're missing right now is just the personnel matchups ... There'll be a lot of first time starters, especially in the secondary."
- Helton also noted that the Utes have not publicly named their starting quarterback between South Carolina grad transfer Jake Bentley, redshirt sophomore Cameron Rising and senior Drew Lisk.
- Much has been made of USC QB Kedon Slovis' performance in Saturday's win over Arizona. He threw a few wobbly passes throughout the game, but locked in when the Trojans needed it most. "There's nothing wrong with Kedon's mechanics," said USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell. "I think the ball slipped out of his hand once and then it got in his head ... Certain positions in certain sports can be head cases sometimes."
- Harrell commended Slovis for coming through in the clutch and leading a 75-yard game-winning drive at Arizona. "That's just something some people have and some people don't," Harrell said. "There's always certain guys that are good in tight situations and really good when the game's on the line and find ways to win football games … When the moment gets big, he doesn't panic."
- While Slovis has flourished in Harrell's offense, the running game has also improved from Year 1 to Year 2. "I appreciate Graham, and you've already seen, in the most critical situation with 33 seconds left on the 8-yard-line, he calls the run," Helton said, breaking down USC's game-winning score vs. Arizona. "He also called a run early in that game to Stephen Carr on a second-and-long, where most pass-oriented guys would say, 'Oh gosh, let's go pass the ball' ... This is where in Year 2, I think we're growing. I think it makes us a more dangerous team."
- One element of the run game the Trojans would like to improve is converting short yardage situations. "Those are the most attention-to-detail downs, coupling with the red zone," said OL Jalen McKenzie. "That's when your attention to detail has to go up ... Everybody has to be on point."
- The Utes' first two games were canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, but Helton is confident the show will go on Saturday. "It looks like it's trending in the right direction," he said. "Our hope and prayer is everybody stays healthy and safe this week and we get the opportunity to compete together."