Sep 17, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) carries the ball against the Fresno State Bulldogs] in the first half at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

No. 7 USC, Oregon State clash in battle of unbeatens

Seventh-ranked Southern California heads to Corvallis, Ore., on Saturday for a meeting with undefeated and upset-minded Oregon State in Pac-12 Conference play.

USC (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12) was impressive again last week, rolling past Fresno State 45-17. The Bulldogs are a mutual opponent shared with Oregon State (3-0, 0-0).

USC balanced its passing attack, which has been prolific on the arm of quarterback Caleb Williams, with an effective ground game against Fresno State.

Running backs Austin Jones and Travis Dye each rushed for more than nine yards per carry en route to 110 and 102 yards, respectively. Their combined efforts marked the first time USC had two 100-plus-yard rushers in the same game since November 2018 – when Aca’Cedric Ware (205 yards) and Vavae Malepeai (101) starred in the Trojans’ last visit to Oregon State’s Reser Stadium.

The 38-21 USC win in 2018 came against a much different Beavers team in the program’s first year under coach Jonathan Smith. Oregon State snapped its eight-year bowl-game drought last season, is currently off to its best start since 2014, and last September, the Beavers ended a pair of losing streaks against the Trojans.

The 45-27 Oregon State romp stopped a skid of four straight losses to USC and marked their first win at Los Angeles since 1960. That night was a breakout performance for Oregon State combo linebacker-running back Jack Colletto, who rushed for a pair of touchdowns out of goal-line Wildcat sets.

“They do a very good job with their personnel groupings,” first-year USC coach Lincoln Riley said. “They’re very creative with the personnel they use. They’ve certainly got a system they believe in and style of offense they believe in.”

Colletto remains a weapon in the Beavers’ offense this season, most notably scoring out of the same set on the final play of Oregon State’s 35-32 Week 2 win at Fresno State. However, expect plenty of entirely new looks between Oregon State and USC this time around.

“The quarterback (Williams) can be accurate, move his feet,” Smith said. “The receiver play (is) dangerous, bunch of different weapons. Got a couple good backs. So this is the best offense we’ve played so far.”

Each of those position groups contributing to USC’s 50.7-point per game output (6th in FBS) feature prominent transfer talent: Williams and receiver Mario Williams from Oklahoma, reigning Biletnikoff Award-winning receiver Jordan Addison out of Pitt, Jones and Dye coming into the backfield from Stanford and Oregon respectively.

The influx of new skill-position talent has USC in pursuit of its first 4-0 start since 2017, as well as its dominance in the turnover battle. The Trojans have 10 takeaways with no turnovers, the best margin in the nation.

USC aims to continue its clean offensive play with “a big plus,” on the line according to Riley. Left tackle Courtland Ford returned to practice Tuesday from an injury sustained Week 2 at Stanford.

However, the Trojans lost wide receiver Gary Bryant Jr., who Riley revealed plans to redshirt this season. Oregon State, whose offense ranks 13th in FBS with 45.7 points per game, will be without tight end Luke Musgrave.

–Field Level Media

Dec 4, 2021; Berkeley, California, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Jaxson Dart (2) run the ball against the California Golden Bears during the first quarter at FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Cal sends USC to most losses since 1991

Christopher Brooks ran for a pair of touchdowns, and Trey Paster returned a fumble 55 yards for a score on Saturday to lead Cal past USC 24-14 in Berkeley, Calif., its first home win over the Trojans since 2003.

Cal (5-7, 4-5 Pac-12 Conference) turned a pair of USC turnovers into touchdowns, including Paster’s long return of a fumble forced by Elijah Hicks, and the Golden Bears held the Trojans to conversions on just 1-of-3 red-zone opportunities.

Cal stymied one trip to the red zone with a fourth-down stop near the goal line. The other ended inside the 10-yard line when Daniel Scott jarred the ball loose from Miller Moss on a sack.

Cal nearly forced a third turnover when Lu-Magia Hearns III made a spectacular leaping grab for an interception, but an offsides penalty negated the play.

USC (4-8, 3-6) scored later on the same drive when Moss –replacing starter Jaxson Dart at quarterback in the third quarter when Dart was helped off the field following a hard hit — found K.D. Nixon for a 16-yard touchdown.

The late fourth-quarter score came too little, too late, as Cal recovered the ensuing onside-kick attempt to preserve the win.

Chase Garbers went 18-of-21 passing for 177 yards. He added 12 yards rushing on a night that Cal only gained 88 yards on the ground, led by Brooks’ 49.

Despite the lack of explosive offense and being outgained 409 yards to 265, the Golden Bears were helped by the turnovers and good field position. One of Cal’s scoring drives went 62 yards, culminating in a Dario Longhetto field goal of 22 yards, and nother covered 65 yards, ending with a 2-yard Brooks rush.

The Trojans concluded the season on a four-game losing streak and finished with eight losses for the first time since 1991, when they went 3-8.

Vavae Malepeai rushed for 107 yards on Saturday. Before coming out, Dart went 17-of-26 passing for 191 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown to Kyle Ford.

The loss of Dart compounded issues for an already depleted roster.

USC had only “about 60” players dressed for the season finale, according to the Los Angeles Times.

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans running back Keaontay Ingram (28) is stopped short of the goal line by Arizona Wildcats safety Rhedi Short (7) and linebacker Christian Young (5) during the first half at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

USC defeats Arizona but WR Drake London injured

Keontay Ingram rushed for a career-high 186 yards to help Southern California overcome the loss of star receiver Drake London as the Trojans hung on to send Arizona to its 20th consecutive loss with a 41-34 decision Saturday in Los Angeles.

The Trojans (4-4, 3-3 Pac-12) snapped a two-game losing streak but saw London leave the field on a cart with 4:16 left in the second quarter with an air cast on his right leg. London, who entered the game with 79 catches for 1,003 yards, later returned to the sideline, using crutches for what was described as a right ankle injury.

USC led 35-14 at halftime, but the Wildcats (0-8, 0-5) battled back in the second half, gaining momentum with a 37-yard interception return by linebacker Anthony Pandy to make the score 35-21 with 10:44 remaining in the third quarter.

Arizona cut its deficit to 38-28 with 12:50 to go on quarterback Will Plummer’s 16-yard scramble, inching within a touchdown after a 25-yard field goal with 6:04 left.

The teams then traded field goals before USC gathered in an onside kick with 1:25 left and ran out the clock.

Ingram, in his first season at USC after three years at Texas, carried 26 times en route to his career-high rushing total.

Kedon Slovis started at quarterback for USC, completing 14 of 20 passes for 192 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. Freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart played most of the second and fourth quarters, making his first appearance since suffering a knee injury in an impressive debut against Washington State on Sept. 18, when he threw for 391 yards and four touchdowns.

Dart went 12 of 18 for 109 yards and two touchdowns.

London had nine catches for 81 yards, suffering the injury while being tackled scoring his second touchdown.

Plummer threw for 264 yards on 20-of-34 passing.

USC gained 360 yards in the first half, scoring touchdowns on five of six drives. Slovis and Dart each threw two touchdown passes before halftime.

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) throws a pass during the third quarter against the Utah Utes at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

USC hopes to hand Arizona its 20th straight loss

Southern California is riding a two-game losing streak, owns a sub-.500 record and is finishing up its season with an interim head coach.

A game against Arizona comes at a good time.

USC (3-4, 2-3 Pac-12) hosts the Wildcats on Saturday in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, with Arizona (0-7, 0-4) coming in with the nation’s longest losing streak at 19 games. Two of those 19 losses came against the Trojans, although USC needed a last-minute touchdown to eke out a 34-30 win in Tucson last season.

The Wildcats had a close call last week, leading visiting Washington 16-7 early in the fourth quarter and looking to extend the advantage before throwing an interception after reaching the Huskies 28. Washington grabbed the momentum and won 21-16.

“What we’re trying to teach our team is that one play is one play,” first-year Arizona coach Jedd Fisch said. “One play is not the outcome. We’re up nine with 12 minutes left and it felt as if after that there was just a deflation and a here-we-go-again mentality.”

USC is coming off a 31-16 road loss to rival Notre Dame, despite outgaining the Irish 424 yards to 383.

“Way too many mistakes from all facets whether it was special teams, offense, defense, coaching,” said interim head coach Donte Williams, who is 2-3 after replacing the fired Clay Helton. “We all made mistakes, and we took turns making them.”

The Trojans have won the past eight matchups against Arizona, 10 of the last 11 and 17 of the past 19.

They enter with plenty of firepower, including potential All-America receiver Drake London, who has 79 catches for 1,003 yards, with both figures ranking second in the nation. He has an astonishing 31 catches for 333 yards in the past two games.

USC quarterback Kedon Slovis has completed 162 of 248 passes for 1,818 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions. Keaontay Ingram, a transfer from Texas, has a team-high 557 rushing yards, including a season-best 138 last week against Notre Dame.

Arizona has failed to reach 20 points in 10 consecutive games. Much of this season’s issues revolve around the quarterback position, where third-stringer Will Plummer is the only healthy scholarship player. He is 49 of 91 for 442 yards with two TDs and five interceptions in five games, including two starts.

Fisch used athletic wide receiver Jamarye Joiner, a former high school quarterback, in several direct-snap situations last week. The coach said that Joiner’s role could expand, giving USC’s defense reason to prepare for more zone-read looks on Saturday.

–Field Level Media

Oct 2, 2021; Boulder, Colorado, USA; USC Trojans mascot cheers before the game against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

LA Coliseum: House of horrors for both USC and Utah

Road games against conference opponents Washington State and Colorado have provided something of a respite for USC, but the Trojans will return home to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday to see if they can finally play a quality home game against a quality opponent.

The Coliseum has provided unhappy Pac-12 scenes so far this season for USC, but it has been far worse for visiting Utah, which has never won at the venerable stadium in eight tries since it opened in 1923.

USC (3-2, 2-2 Pac-12) is coming off a 37-14 win at Colorado and interim coach Donte’ Williams will be looking for his team to build on that performance.

The Trojans’ 42-28 homefield drubbing at the hands of Stanford on Sept. 11 led to the firing of coach Clay Helton, and after winning on the road at Washington State in Williams’ debut, USC laid another egg at home in a 45-27 loss to Oregon State.

Williams and the USC staff made some changes last week at Colorado, including integrating more of running back Darwin Barlow into the offense. He carried 10 times for 61 yards to complement Keaontay Ingram’s 124 yards rushing.

Williams attributed Barlow’s increased role to the improved health of the transfer from TCU.

“We already knew he had this in him,” Williams said Sunday.

An improved run game could be critical for USC to reverse its fortunes at home, where its only victory in three games was a struggle against San Jose State when the Trojans needed 17 fourth-quarter points to pull away.

Against Oregon State, the Trojans gained just 76 net rushing yards, and falling behind by more than three touchdowns forced quarterback Kedon Slovis to pass 49 times. He was intercepted three times, fueling Oregon State’s dominance as the Beavers won at the Coliseum for the first time since 1960.

Now Utah (2-2, 1-0) looks to end another long drought for a visitor in the building. The Utes last won at USC in 1916 when the Trojans played at Fiesta Park.

“The Coliseum … has been a brutal place for us to play,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Monday.

Utah’s last three visits have been especially painful.

In 2015, Utah came in ranked No. 3 before losing a 42-24 decision. That result began an undefeated home winning streak of almost three years for the Trojans.

In 2017, the Utes lost by one point (28-27) on a denied two-point conversion attempt.

And in 2019, 10th-ranked Utah gave up a series of long pass plays to backup quarterback Matt Fink in a 30-23 USC win. It was Utah’s only loss of the regular season.

Cam Rising has taken over as Utah’s starting quarterback. Rising replaced Charlie Brewer during Utah’s Sept. 18 loss at San Diego State.

Brewer had been a four-year starter at Baylor but struggled through a 2-7 season and transferred to Utah. After earning the starting job in camp, Brewer started the first three games, completing 60.8 percent of his passes at 6.1 yards per attempt with three touchdowns and three interceptions in the 1-2 start.

Saturday marks Utah’s first contest since the murder of safety Aaron Lowe in the early-morning hours of Sept. 26, shortly after the Utes’ 24-13, conference-opening win over Washington State.

Lowe changed his jersey number to 22 before the season in honor of running back Ty Jordan, who died in an accidental shooting in Texas in December.

“It takes everything you got to overcome it,” Whittingham said of keeping focus during the grieving process.

–Field Level Media

Sep 18, 2021; Pullman, Washington, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver Drake London (15) is hit hard by Washington State Cougars defensive lineman Amir Mujahid (48) and Washington State Cougars defensive back Armani Marsh (8) in the first half at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Jaxson Dart excels as USC rolls past Washington State

Jaxson Dart threw for 391 yards and four touchdowns in relief of an injured Kedon Slovis to help Southern California roll to a 45-14 win over Washington State on Saturday in Pullman, Wash.

USC (2-1, 1-1 Pac-12) overcame a 14-point deficit to cruise to a win in the debut of Trojans interim coach Donte Williams. Clay Helton was fired on Monday, two days after the then-No. 14 Trojans were pummeled 42-28 by Stanford.

The Cougars (1-2, 0-1) jumped ahead 14-0 in their Pac-12 opener when Jayden de Laura capped an 89-yard scoring drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Travell Harris.

Washington State’s score followed a sack of Slovis, who was sidelined the rest of the game with an apparent neck injury.

Dart initially struggled, with his first drive ending when Daniel Isom intercepted a pass in Washington State territory. A second de Laura touchdown pass to Harris put the Cougars ahead by two scores.

From there, USC took over the game.

Dart threw the first of his four touchdown passes to Gary Bryant Jr., a connection of 38 yards just before halftime. The score marked the beginning of a 45-0 run.

Dart found Drake London for touchdowns of 5 and 31 yards. He also hooked up with Kyle Ford on a 36-yard strike for the latter’s first career touchdown reception.

Bryant rushed for a touchdown in the third quarter that gave Southern California its first lead. Drake Jackson forced fumble on a sack for back-up Washington State quarterback Victor Gabalis during the ensuing possession.

Tui Tuipulotu returned the fumble for a touchdown and the rout was on.

The USC defense held Washington State to just 279 yards, while the Trojans offense put up 447. London led the prolific USC aerial attack with 13 receptions for 170 yards.

Bryant totaled 56 yards on three receptions, and Tahj Washington added three catches for 31 yards. Dart led USC in rushing with 32 yards.

de Laura finished with 117 yards and an interception before coming out due to an apparent leg injury.

–Field Level Media

Feb 13, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA;  USC Trojans defensive backs coach Donte Williams attends the game between the USC Trojans and the Washington Huskies at Galen Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

USC begins post-Clay Helton era at Washington State

With an interim head coach and reeling from a blowout loss in Week 2, Southern California visits Pullman, Wash., for a Pac-12 showdown with Washington State on Saturday.

The Trojans (1-1, 0-1 Pac-12) opened league play with a 42-28 loss at home to Stanford, which was not as close as the final score indicates. USC tacked on two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter, well after the outcome was no longer in doubt.

The defeat marked the Trojans’ fourth by two touchdowns or more since the beginning of the 2019 season, and resulted in the dismissal of coach Clay Helton on Monday afternoon.

Cornerbacks coach Donte Williams was promoted to interim coach in Helton’s place, in the process becoming the first Black head coach in program history.

Williams called it a “humble, humble, humble experience,” during his first press conference on Tuesday evening, while also tempering personal expectations.

“There’s no I and me,” Williams said. “It’s us and we.”

The task of getting last season’s Pac-12 South division winner back on track likely starts with the offense.

USC sputtered in each of its first two games, sitting on 13 points through three quarters in the 30-7 season-opening win over San Jose State and the loss to Stanford. Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis finished Week 2 by leading a pair of touchdown drives — including a scoring pass to receiver Drake London, who Helton said on Sunday “tweaked” his back but should be full-go at Washington State — but also gave up a pick-six.

In both of their contests, the Trojans failed to generate touchdowns when getting into the red zone, combining for just four in nine trips inside the 20-yard line.

Washington State (1-1, 0-0) has not been significantly better on its red-zone opportunities, converting just 6 of 12 into touchdowns. It cost the Cougars in a 26-23 Week 1 loss to Utah State, when they settled for field goals on three trips inside the 20 and failed to score on another.

In a 44-24 victory in Week 2 against Football Championship Subdivision opponent Portland State, the Cougars reached the end zone on 5 of 7 red-zone chances.

“Communication,” wide receiver Travell Harris said Tuesday is central to Washington State improving its offensive production in Week 2. “Making sure everybody (is) on the same page, getting timing down with the quarterback, whoever is back there.”

Washington State has played two quarterbacks for significant snaps in the opening contests. After Tennessee transfer Jarrett Guarantano went just 8 of 13 for 56 yards against Utah State, however, Jayden de Laura reassumed the job he held for much of 2020.

De Laura passed for a touchdown against Utah State and another three against Portland State.

–Field Level Media

Sep 11, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Nathaniel Peat (8) scores on an 87-yard touchdown run against the Southern California Trojans in the first quarter at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Tanner McKee leads Stanford to upset of No. 14 USC

Tanner McKee threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, and Stanford rolled over No. 14 USC 42-28 in the Pac-12 Conference opener for both teams Saturday at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Stanford (1-1, 1-0 Pac-12) was a considerable underdog after sputtering through a 24-7 loss to Kansas State in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 4.

But with McKee given full control of the offense after splitting snaps with Jack West in the opener, the Cardinal moved the ball effectively with a balance of run and pass.

McKee finished 16-of-23 passing for 234 yards, with touchdown throws of three yards to Elijah Higgins and six yards to Brycen Tremayne. Higgins led Stanford with five receptions for 67 yards.

Stanford finished with 39 yards rushing against Kansas State, but picked up 87 on Nathaniel Peat’s first-quarter touchdown carry on Saturday.

Peat led all ball-carriers with 115 yards on just six rushes, and he was one of three Cardinal players to run for touchdowns. McKee scored on a goal-line sneak, and Isaiah Sanders followed suit from two yards out.

USC (1-1, 0-1) had no answer for Stanford’s offense on one end, and failed to jump-start its own offense on the other.

Kedon Slovis went 27-of-42 passing for 223 yards. He connected with Drake London on an 11-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, part of London’s four-catch, 68-yard performance.

Slovis threw one interception, which Stanford’s Kyu Blu Kelly returned 31 yards for a touchdown. The pick-six came late in the third quarter and sent fans streaming toward the exits. It punctuated a night filled with errors that plagued USC.

A targeting penalty against placekicker Parker Lewis on the opening kickoff foreshadowed things to come for USC, which was penalized nine times for 109 yards. Lewis’ ejection left kicking duties to Alex Stadthaus, who connected on field goals of 24 and 33 yards.

Trojans flags also facilitated Stanford’s second touchdown drive. USC was penalized three times for 33 yards on the possession, including a pass interference on a would-be third-down stop.

An offsides that turned a Cardinal field-goal attempt on fourth-and-goal from the 7-yard line turned into a McKee touchdown pass from the 3-yard line to answer Keaontay Ingram’s goal-line touchdown run earlier in the quarter.

The Cardinal led for the rest of the way.

–Field Level Media

Dec 18, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) throws the ball in the first quarter against the Oregon Ducks during the Pac-12 Championship at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

San Jose State takes on No. 15 Southern California

Reigning Mountain West Conference champion San Jose State seeks a landmark win Saturday, traveling to Los Angeles to face a No. 15-ranked Southern California team with designs on a Pac-12 championship in 2021.

It is the season opener for USC, which is 4-0 against the Spartans all time. The Trojans will play in front of a home crowd for the first time since routing rival UCLA at the conclusion of the 2019 regular season more than 21 months ago.

Quarterback Kedon Slovis set a program record with 515 passing yards in that game, and returned as a sophomore in 2020 to guide USC to the Pac-12 title game.

Despite the Trojans’ perfect regular season, however, Slovis’ individual production regressed. He finished 2020 completing almost 5 percent fewer of his pass attempts, threw almost as many interceptions in six games (seven) as the previous season’s 13 games (nine) and his yards per attempt dipped from 8.9 to 7.3.

“Going through all those feelings and adversity and not feeling your best to now, feeling pretty good, the best I’ve felt in a long time,” Slovis told the Los Angeles Times of his efforts to get back to form after a slight sophomore slump. “It felt like a long journey. I’m just happy to be on the back end of that.”

Slovis is throwing to an outstanding wide receiving corps, including 6-foot-5 playmaker Drake London and veteran Colorado transfer K.D. Nixon. The running back rotation returns fifth-year contributor Vavae Malepeai and Kenan Christon, a promising change-of-pace back who showed flashes of brilliance in 2019.

But defense might be the central component to USC’s Pac-12 title chances.

Coordinator Todd Orlando has a talented rotation in his first full season with the Trojans, including defensive backs Chris Steele and Isaiah Pola-Mao, edge rusher Drake Jackson and the defensive line duo of Nick Figueroa and Tuli Tuipulotu.

The USC defense faces an immediate test from San Jose State (1-0). Veteran quarterback Nick Starkel led the Spartans to their first Mountain West championship a season ago, and opened the new season last Saturday with 394 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-14 blowout of Southern Utah.

“Our offense is built not around specific players, but around schemes,” Starkel told the San Jose Mercury News. “So being able to have 10 different guys that can catch the ball and more that you are trying to get the ball to is huge for this team.”

“(Offensive coordinator) Kevin McGiven is one of the best play callers in the country. He’s an incredible teacher, and I think Nick would agree with that,” San Jose State coach Brent Brennan said in his postgame press conference.

San Jose State held opponents to 19.9 points per game in 2020 thanks in part to an aggressive pass rush, and the Spartans return standout defensive ends Cade Hall and Viliami Fehoko. The duo combined for 16 sacks a season ago.

USC counters with an offensive line built around veteran All-Pac-12 honorees Jalen McKenzie and Andrew Vorhees. Saturday marks the 26th career start for Vorhees.

–Field Level Media