Dec 12, 2020; Pasadena, California, USA; General view of the line of scrimmage as Southern California Trojans offensive lineman Damon Johnson (59) snaps the ball against the UCLA Bruins  at Rose Bowl. USC defeated UCLA 43-38.  Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA looks to put ‘final dagger’ into rival USC

Crosstown Los Angeles rivals UCLA and Southern California meet Saturday at USC in the 91st installment of their history-rich series.

The visiting Bruins (6-4, 4-3 Pac-12 Conference) were officially eliminated from the Pac-12 South divisional race with Arizona State and Utah both winning last week, but their 44-20 win over Colorado made the program bowl eligible for the first time in four years.

UCLA can reach another milestone in head coach Chip Kelly’s four-season tenure with a win Saturday. Beating USC would guarantee the Bruins their first winning record since they were 8-5 in 2015.

UCLA comes in looking to end a two-game losing streak to the Trojans, while seeking its first win at USC since 2013.

Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis threw a game-winning touchdown with 16 seconds left in last year’s 43-38 USC win. In the Bruins’ last visit to USC in 2019, Slovis passed for a program record 515 yards in a 52-35 Trojans romp.

USC (4-5, 3-4) experimented with a two-quarterback rotation of Slovis and Jaxson Dart its last two games. Despite an impromptu bye week, the result of COVID-19 tests postponing USC’s trip to Cal scheduled for Nov. 13, Slovis will not be able to return from a lower leg injury.

That leaves Dart to man the position exclusively on Saturday.

“Jaxson is going to be our starter and he’ll have to continue to fight for that until Kedon is back and fully into that competition,” interim head coach Donte Williams said. “We’ll move forward now with Miller (Moss) backing him up.”

Dart debuted passing for 391 yards and four touchdowns Sept. 18 at Washington State, but missed more than a month due to a meniscus tear.

He went 12 of 18 with two touchdowns in his return Oct. 30 vs. Arizona, but was just 8 of 17 for 89 yards with an interception Nov. 6 at Arizona State. That was USC’s first full game without standout wide receiver Drake London, who caught two touchdowns against UCLA last season.

“The offense doesn’t change,” Kelly said of preparing for USC with Dart. “The offense is still run by (coordinator) Graham Harrell. It’s still the USC offense. Both Slovis and Dart are talented kids. … We recruited Jaxson. We know what type of player he is.”

Including the quarterback situation, 2021 has been a tumultuous season for USC. Head coach Clay Helton was fired after a Week 2 loss to Stanford.

The Trojans are 3-4 under Williams and at risk of finishing below .500 for the second time in four years. Prior to 2018, USC had not had a losing campaign since 2000.

“They’re up and down throughout this season,” UCLA linebacker and former USC recruiting commit Bo Calvert said. “We’re looking to kind of put the final dagger in them this week.”

UCLA will aim to do so on offense establishing its multifaceted rushing attack. Against Colorado, the Bruins got 99 yards from quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and three touchdowns from running back Zach Charbonnet. Running back Brittain Brown had a touchdown to cap a 9.7-yard per carry effort, but has been limited at practice this week.

USC allowed 282 rushing yards at a 6.7-yard per carry average its last time out at Arizona State.

–Field Level Media

Oct 2, 2021; Boulder, Colorado, USA; Colorado Buffaloes linebacker Carson Wells (26) tackles USC Trojans wide receiver Drake London (15) in the second quarter at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Kedon Slovis powers USC past Colorado

Kedon Slovis threw three touchdown passes and Drake London had nine receptions for 130 yards and a score to pace Southern California to a 37-14 win over Colorado on Saturday in Boulder, Colo.

Slovis completed 19 of 29 passes for 276 yards.

Michael Trigg and Gary Bryant Jr. each had a touchdown reception and Vavae Malepeai ran for another score for USC (3-2, 2-2 Pac-12). Keaontay Ingram rushed for 124 yards for the Trojans, who improved to 15-0 all-time against the Buffaloes.

Colorado’s Brendon Lewis completed 10 of 17 passes for 162 yards and one touchdown and an interception. Brady Russell had three catches for 87 yards, Deion Smith ran for a score and Chase Penry had a touchdown reception for the Buffaloes (1-4, 0-2).

Slovis connected with London for receptions of 29 and 28 yards to bring USC to the Buffaloes’ 1-yard line. Two plays later Slovis found London for a 1-yard touchdown pass to give the Trojans a 10-0 lead.

Slovis hit Trigg down the right side for a 46-yard pass on USC’s next possession that made it 17-0. Parker Lewis added a 44-yard field goal with 6:41 left in the half.

Ingram reeled off a 17-yard run to midfield but fumbled, and Colorado recovered at the USC 48. Five plays later, Smith went around the left side for the touchdown to cut the Buffaloes’ deficit to 20-7 at halftime.

Colorado was driving on its first possession of the second half but Lewis was sacked and fumbled, and the Trojans recovered at the Buffaloes’ 29. They settled for a 49-yard field goal to go up 23-7.

Ingram had a 53-yard run to the Buffaloes 5 on USC’s next drive, and Malepeai ran it in from the 2 to make it 30-7.

The Buffaloes answered with Lewis’ 6-yard TD pass to Penry that made it 30-14.

Joshua Jackson Jr. intercepted Lewis at the Colorado 35. Slovis capped the scoring with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Bryant with 14:08 left.

–Field Level Media

Sep 4, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA;   USC Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) sets to pass in the first half of the game against the San Jose State Spartans at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

No. 14 USC meets Stanford in early Pac-12 play

Pac-12 Conference play will kick off Saturday night in Los Angeles between in-state rivals Stanford and No. 14 Southern California.

The Trojans (1-0) overcame a sluggish offensive performance, including four red-zone opportunities that produced just one touchdown and three field goals, with a stifling defense in a 30-7 Week 1 win over San Jose State.

The first two of the Trojans’ three touchdowns came off interceptions: the first, a Drake Jackson pick in San Jose State territory that set up a 29-yard Kedon Slovis scoring strike to Tahj Washington; and the second, Greg Johnson’s 37-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter that put the game out of reach.

“I was just dropping in my zone and reading the quarterback’s eyes,” Johnson said. “I noticed that they ran that play earlier in the game, so I just made the most of the opportunity.”

Opportunity is a key word for both the Trojans and Pac-12 counterpart Stanford (0-1), which coach David Shaw said fell victim to an “opportunistic” opponent Week 1 in Kansas State.

The Cardinal sputtered offensively in a 24-7 loss, scoring only in the fourth quarter after the outcome no longer was in doubt. The Cardinal gained just 233 total yards and only 39 rushing, gave up three sacks, and were penalized nine times for 65 yards.

Penalties and negative-yardage rushing plays forced Stanford into repeated third-and-long situations, which resulted in the Cardinal going just 4-of-12 on third-down conversion attempts.

Shaw said Tanner McKee will start at quarterback Saturday. McKee threw for Stanford’s lone score in the opener — a 14-yarder to Bryce Tremayne. McKee finished 15-of-18 for 118 yards and split time with Jack West, who was 8-of-12 for 76 yards.

The Trojans, meanwhile, will look to turn up the pressure after going without a sack in Week 1.

Jackson, the team’s sack leader in 2019 with 5.5, said following last week’s win that the inability to get to San Jose State quarterback Nick Starkel was a rare disappointment on an otherwise solid outing for the Trojans defense.

Stanford’s defense was left in unfavorable situations due to offensive inefficiency — only one of Kansas State’s scoring drives covered more than 62 yards. That came on a 71-yard drive, capped by a 59-yard Deuce Vaughn touchdown run.

Wide receiver Drake London is USC’s primary big-play threat. Among his 12 receptions in Week 1 was a game-long 34-yarder.

–Field Level Media

Dec 6, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA;   Washington State Cougars wide receiver Travell Harris (1) runs out of the reach of USC Trojans defensive lineman Marlon Tuipulotu (93) as he heads into the end zone for a touchdown in the first half of the game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

USC defenders Tuipulotu, Griffin declare for NFL draft

The Southern California defense lost two more key contributors for next season on Friday.

Defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu and cornerback Olaijah Griffin both announced their intentions to enter the 2021 NFL draft via social media.

The Trojans finished the 2020 regular season with a 5-1 record and rated No. 17 in the final College Football Playoff rankings. USC elected to not play in a bowl game this season.

The Trojans have lost four players to early entry in the NFL draft. In December, both All-America safety Talanoa Hufanga and offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker announced their intentions to turn pro.

Tuipulotu tallied 23 tackles and two sacks in 2020 for the Trojans on his way to All-Pac-12 first-team honors. A three-year starter, Tuipulotu amassed 104 total tackles and 8.5 sacks in his college career.

“I have always had goals of one day playing in the NFL, and now that time has come,” Tuipulotu wrote on Twitter on Friday.

Griffin was the top corner for the USC secondary this season and finished with 22 tackles, an interception and four passes broken up. The interception was the first of his career for Griffin, who is the son of rapper Warren G.

“Please know that I put a lot of thought and consideration into this decision, and I came to the conclusion that this is the best choice to help me further pursue my ultimate dream of playing in the NFL,” Griffin posted on Twitter.

–Field Level Media

Dec 6, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA;    USC Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) throws a complete pass in the first half of the game against the Washington State Cougars at United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Slovis, St. Brown dominate as USC tops Washington State

Kedon Slovis threw five touchdown passes, four to Amon-Ra St. Brown in the first quarter, as No. 20 USC cruised to a 38-13 victory against Washington State on Sunday night in a Pac-12 Conference game at Los Angeles.

Slovis completed 25 of 32 passes for 287 yards, with St. Brown making a team-high seven catches for 65 yards.

The Trojans (4-0), who made “Student-Body Right” a familiar phrase in past decades with Heisman Trophy-winning running backs, gained just net 5 yards on the ground.

Washington State (1-2) was playing for the first time since Nov. 14 after having its two previous games postponed, including the Apple Cup against rival Washington. The Cougars actually had more first downs than the Trojans (20-15) but were derailed by two first-quarter interceptions thrown by freshman Jayden de Laura.

de Laura completed 18 of 29 passes for 134 yards and was sacked three times. Deon McIntosh, a transfer from Notre Dame playing for the injured Max Borghi, gained a game-high 65 yards on 10 carries.

Renard Bell had 11 receptions for 76 yards for the Cougars, including a 6-yard touchdown from Gunner Cruz with 1:37 remaining.

The Trojans scored touchdowns on their first five drives, building a 35-0 lead. Slovis hit St. Brown on scoring strikes of 7, 22, 4 and 2 yards in the first quarter, with two of those scores set up by interceptions by Olaijah Griffin and Talanoa Hufanga.

Slovis found Tyler Vaughns for a 35-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter to make it 35-0.

The Cougars scored with 28 seconds left in the first half on a 5-yard run by Travell Harris, but Blake Mazza’s extra-point attempt failed, making it 35-6.

USC’s Lewis Park kicked a 48-yard field goal on USC’s first drive of the second half to cap the Trojans’ scoring.

–Field Level Media