6-Points: USC Football 45, Washington State 14
With the rain pouring down on the Trojans late in the second quarter, USC trailed, 14-0, and faced a 4th-and-9, the first big decision in the head coaching career of Donte Williams. The interim boss looked to his players, especially captain Drake London, who convinced him that it was time to go for it. "I'm all in just like these players are all in and one play turned the whole game around," Williams said. The one play was a perfectly delivered touchdown strike from Jaxson Dart to Gary Bryant Jr. that sent the Trojans into halftime with momentum. Ultimately, USC scored 45 unanswered points.
On the first drive of the game, QB Kedon Slovis was sacked to the turf, injuring his neck. In his place, all eyes turned to true freshman Jaxson Dart. "Obviously, I was pretty shocked. Things like that don't come when you expect them," Dart said. "I just tried to be prepared each week, each day, whenever my number was called, to be ready. Obviously, I felt terrible for Kedon and I hope that he can come back." All Dart did was throw for 391 yards, a record for a USC QB debut, and 4 touchdowns.
Once the USC offense found its rhythm, Drake London completely took over the game. The junior receiver posted a career-best performance with 13 catches, 170 yards and 2 TDs. Unfortunately, his second touchdown ended his day early as he came off the field woozy.
Sack You Very Much
The USC defense filled up the stat sheet in the second half with four turnovers, three sacks and a touchdown. "The second half we made a great adjustment of showing stuff but not doing it, showing blitzes but not blitzing," said DL Tuli Tuipulotu, who scored the touchdown, which was teed up by Drake Jackson stripping the QB in the end zone. The tone was set on the opening kickoff of the second half when Micah Croom forced a fumble which led directly to the game-tying touchdown.
Growing the Arsenal
While London has been consistently dominant, the passing game has lacked weapons and explosive plays beyond No. 15. Bryant Jr. filled the No. 2 role today by scoring two touchdowns, but he was not alone in stepping up for Dart. Ten different players caught passes, including a 36-yard TD grab by Kyle Ford and a 42-yard catch-and-run by Joseph Manjack IV. The USC offense came into the game with two plays of 30+ yards on the season and racked up five more on the afternoon.
The post-game locker room was emotional after a whirlwind week that started with Clay Helton's firing and ended with a comeback victory on the road. "I just think it shows this team's resiliency," Dart said. "There's definitely a different feel around here now." Williams' message has quickly gotten through to his players. "He's big on being 1-0," Bryant Jr. said "It's a mindset of not dwelling on the past but what can we do right now to fix how we want to the future to be. We all believe and trust in what he's saying."