Winners And Losers Of USC’s Win Over Washington State
There were two debuts during the USC Trojans’ 45-14 win over Washington State on Saturday — interim head coach Donte Williams in his first game in that position, and due to an injury to junior quarterback Kedon Slovis, true freshman Jaxson Dart came in the game in the first quarter — and both Williams and Dart got their first win together.
It was a little magical, oddly, because everything just seemed to click for USC on both sides of the ball. Dart completed 30 out of 46 passes for 391 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions — a 65% completion rate. Of course, junior Drake London was the star of Dart’s show, and he finished the game with 170 yards on 13 catches. The rest of the passes were spread pretty evenly.
*Note: Despite leaving the game, London is expected back on the field this week before Saturday’s game.*
The running game — it seems like that’s still a work in progress. The team ran for a measly average of 1.9 yards a carry, and they only attempted 25 times.
Now, the winners and losers for this game are quite obvious, but if you’re surprised by one, that’s okay.
Winner: Jaxson Dart
Dart has been WAITING in Slovis’ shadow for his opportunity to shine, just like Slovis did as a freshman. It was clear that Dart was ready to play, but there’s no way for him to come in and replace a potential future professional quarterback unless the situation involved an injury. Well, Dart did as good as we thought he would, coming into USC after a big, record-breaking senior season at Corner Canyon in Utah. Slovis had scans and they came back negative, so he should be back on the field at some point — but there’s still going to be a bit of a quarterback competition going on, and Dart seems to have the edge.
Loser: Washington State’s Defense
USC scored 45 unanswered points after a slow start. Washington State came into the game allowing an average of 25 points a game and specifically around 269 passing yards a game, but they were completely blown out of the water in this game. Now, their previous defensive stats are necessarily great, but to have a true freshman quarterback come in and do what he did, it’s a big loss for the Cougars. On the bright side for them, they forced three turnovers — one fumble and two interceptions.
Winner: Donte Williams
Williams has come into the position and taken complete control. He’s owned the room, and even if it’s just his on an interim basis, you can’t help but say the vibe was different in this game than in the first game alone. The vibe of the Stanford game was incredibly negative, so we can disregard it. Williams is the kind of guy who knows it’s all about keeping good people around him, so having a good pair of coordinators controlling the field and using the veteran captains to relay his messages will contribute to his success this season.
Loser: Washington State Head Coach Nick Rolovich
Rolovich is a decent coach with a 2-5 record in two seasons at Washington State — last season’s 1-3 record in the shortened season was a little messy with them only playing four of the seven games scheduled. But now, it seems Cougars fans want his head…coaching position. For the first time, we’ve seen people pressure for the firing of Rolovich, but it’s definitely not at the level of fans demanding the firing of Clay Helton. It may never reach that point, but his seat is warming up. The Covid situation has only accentuated that.
Winner: USC’s Defense
The defense played an impeccable game, finishing off with over 50 total tackles, three sacks, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery. Freshman Calen Bullock got his first career interception, junior Drake Jackson played how he needs to every game, sophomore Tuli Tuipulotu got his first career fumble recovery (for a touchdown), and the defensive squad was mixed up so much, the Cougars didn’t know what to do about it. That’s a credit to a defensive-minded head coach.
The Trojans seem to be in a good place after these debuts, so there’s definitely hope for this season.
USC (2-1) returns home next Saturday for an evening matchup against Oregon State (2-1).