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

Dec 18, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans wide receiver Bru McCoy (4) is defended by Oregon Ducks cornerback Mykael Wright (2) during the Pac-12 Championship at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Oregon defeated USC 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

USC suspends WR Bru McCoy following arrest

The University of Southern California has suspended wide receiver Bru McCoy following an arrest last month.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the 21-year-old sophomore was arrested on July 24 on suspicion of a felony and was released that night on $50,000 bail.

He was charged with intimate partner violence with injury, a Los Angeles Police Department spokesman confirmed to 247 Sports. He is scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 24.

“USC does not condone violence of any kind,” read a statement from the USC athletic department. “We are aware of the situation, and USC’s Office for Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Title IX is reviewing it. Because of federal student privacy laws, we are unable to share additional information at this time.

“The student-athlete has been temporarily removed from team activities.”

McCoy, a five-star recruit in the Class of 2019 from Santa Ana, Calif., caught 21 passes for 236 yards and two scores in six games with the Trojans as a redshirt freshman in 2020.

USC begins its fall camp on Friday.

–Field Level Media

Dec 29, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; General overall view of the 2017 Cotton Bowl logo on the back of the helmet of Southern California Trojans long snapper Jake Olson at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NCAA settles defamation lawsuit from former USC coach

The NCAA settled a defamation lawsuit filed by former USC assistant coach Todd McNair, the two sides announced Monday — 10 years after the lawsuit was originally filed.

The legal action was first filed on June 6, 2011, in response to the NCAA claiming McNair violated ethical conduct rules while the college governing body investigated former Heisman Trophy-winning running back Reggie Bush over ties to two sports marketers during the 2005 season.

McNair, 55, was the running backs coach for the Trojans from 2004-10. He sued after alleging he could not find football coaching work after the scandal. He is currently the running backs coach for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he has worked since the 2019 season.

The settlement was reached through mediation, and no further details were released.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2020; Corvallis, Oregon, USA; Oregon Ducks  quarterback Tyler Shough (12) throws against the Oregon State Beavers during the first half at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Oregon to use lifeline against USC for Pac-12 title

When the pandemic-delayed Pac-12 Conference football season started, Oregon and Southern California were the favorites to reach the title game.

The Ducks and No. 15 Trojans will indeed play for the Pac-12 championship on Friday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, but not without some twists and one final unexpected turn.

The Ducks (3-2) finished second in the Pac-12’s North Division behind Washington, but a COVID-19 spike in the Huskies’ program knocked them out of the title game Monday morning. Oregon’s game with Washington last weekend was canceled.

That left South Division champion USC (5-0) to start tweaking its game plan Monday afternoon.

“We control what we control, and that’s us,” USC coach Clay Helton said. “We’re just happy to be in this opportunity, and we’re going to make the most of it. We’re going to have a great plan, and we’re going to execute that plan because we’re going to do the things that we do well.”

The Trojans, who rallied from an 18-point deficit to defeat rival UCLA 43-38 on Saturday, knew there was a possibility Washington might not be able to play. So Helton had his coaching staff prepare for the Huskies during the day and the Ducks at night.

USC’s first three opponents of the season — Arizona State, Arizona and Utah – were playing their 2020 openers when the Trojans lined up against them, so the team is used to having limited game film to study.

“Not knowing who we’re going to play, I think our coaches make it easy on us,” said USC’s Amon-Ra St. Brown, who has a conference-leading 36 receptions. “I think it’s harder on them than it is on us. They’re making the game plan, doing all the hard work. If we listen to our coaches and go out there and do what they say, I think we’ll be fine.”

St. Brown’s 8-yard touchdown reception with 16 seconds remaining capped the comeback against UCLA, the third time this season the Trojans have rallied to win in the final seconds.

The Ducks were on pace to win the division title until dropping their past two games on the road:41-38 to Oregon State and 21-17 to previously winless California. Oregon was No. 21 in the College Football Playoff rankings before its latest loss.

“I see a team that’s really trying. I see a coaching staff that’s working their tails off,” Ducks coach Mario Cristobal said. “We haven’t done good enough the last two weeks.”

Oregon’s Tyler Shough is the conference’s top-rated passer, having completed 91 of 143 passes for 1,389 yards and 11 touchdowns against four interceptions. USC’s Kedon Slovis has thrown for a league-best 1,601 yards and 15 TDs, including five Saturday. He is 149-of-212 passing on the season.

The Trojans might be without their leading rusher, Vavae Malepeai, who sprained his knee late against UCLA. Malepeai rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown in the rivalry game.

Just having a chance to play is good enough for the Trojans.

“Having come from not having a season at all to being in the Pac-12 championship is awesome,” St. Brown said.

–Field Level Media

Dec 12, 2020; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) throws the ball before the game against the Southern California Trojans at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

No. 15 USC holds off UCLA in final seconds

Amon-Ra St. Brown caught an 8-yard touchdown pass with 16 seconds left to lift No. 15 USC to a 43-38 win against UCLA in a Pac-12 game on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

Nicholas Barr-Mira made a 43-yard field goal with 52 seconds left to give UCLA a two-point lead.

USC quarterback Kedon Slovis, a preseason all-conference first-team pick, completed 30 of 47 passes for 344 yards and five touchdowns. Tyler Vaughns caught eight passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. Drake London and St. Brown caught two touchdowns each.

Vavae Malepeai rushed for 110 yards on 19 carries and scored a touchdown for USC, which secured a berth in the Pac-12 championship game earlier Saturday when Colorado lost to Utah.

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson completed 30 of 36 passes for 364 yards and four touchdowns. Greg Dulcich caught eight passes for 167 yards and a touchdown.

London had given the Trojans a 36-35 lead when he caught his second touchdown pass of the game with 8:09 left, but USC could not convert the two-point try, allowing UCLA to move ahead on Barr-Mira’s field goal.

The Bruins (3-3) took a 35-23 lead when Thompson-Robinson threw his fourth touchdown pass of the game, a 69-yarder to Dulcich, with 1:16 left in the third.

Malepeai answered with a 10-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 35-30 with 11:40 remaining, and Talanoa Hufanga intercepted his fourth pass of the season on the next UCLA possession to set up London’s second touchdown.

UCLA took advantage of a slow start by the Trojans to score the first 14 points of the game and eventually take a 21-10 lead into the half.

Brittain Brown scored on a 15-yard run on the opening drive of the second half to extend the lead to 28-10, but Slovis came back with touchdown passes to Vaughns and St. Brown to cut the lead to 28-23 with four minutes left in the third quarter.

–Field Level Media