Nov 29, 2021; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Lincoln Riley reacts during a press conference to introduce Riley as Southern California Trojans head coach at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Ex-Oklahoma commit Makai Lemon switches to USC

Lincoln Riley has persuaded yet another top recruit to follow him from Oklahoma to USC.

On Friday, five-star wide receiver Makai Lemon announced that he was changing his commitment from the Sooners to the Trojans. Lemon became the third five-star recruit to flip his commitment after USC hired Riley away from Oklahoma last weekend.

Quarterback Malachi Nelson and running back Raleek Brown also switched their commitments to USC earlier this week.

Lemon will play much closer to home because of his change in plans. The Los Alamitos, Calif., standout is ranked as the No. 27 player in the nation based on the 247Sports Composite rankings.

–Field Level Media

Nov 29, 2021; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Lincoln Riley (left) and Southern California Trojans athletic director Mike Bohn shake hands during a press conference to introduce Riley as USC head coach at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

5-star RB Raleek Brown commits to USC

Five-star running back Raleek Brown committed to Southern California and new coach Lincoln Riley on Thursday, a day after decommitting from Oklahoma.

Brown, who plays at powerhouse Mater Dei in nearby Santa Ana, Calif., committed to Riley and the Sooners on Feb. 5. But Riley’s decision over the weekend to leave Oklahoma for USC gave Brown second thoughts about the Sooners.

“Momma I’m Staying Home… Los Angeles let’s turn it up a lil #FightOn #GoTrojans,” the 5-foot-8 back tweeted Thursday afternoon.

The 247Sports composite lists Brown as the No. 2 running back and No. 34 player nationally in the Class of 2022.

Brown told 247Sports that Riley’s move to USC cemented his decision.

“Lincoln Riley, that’s my guy,” Brown said. “… I was shocked he was leaving, but then excited he was coming to USC.

“I’ve been up to USC a ton of times, since before I even got to high school, and I’m super familiar with it there. I have a strong comfort level at the school and a lot of family nearby, so it’s honestly a great situation for me.”

Brown becomes the second former player previously committed to Riley and Oklahoma to choose USC.

On Tuesday, 2023 quarterback Malachi Nelson committed to the Trojans. From Los Alamitos High School, about 30 miles from USC, Nelson is the No. 2-ranked quarterback and player in the 2023 class behind Arch Manning, nephew of Peyton and Eli Manning.

Since Riley announced his departure, eight players combined have decommitted from Oklahoma’s 2022 and ’23 classes.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Jaxson Dart (2) throws the ball against the BYU Cougars in the first half at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

USC, Cal finish losing seasons with makeup game

The regular season concludes on championship week for Southern California and Cal, though not in a conference-title matchup.

The schools will complete losing seasons when they face off Saturday in Berkeley, Calif., for a rescheduled Pac-12 Conference game.

The Trojans (4-7, 3-5 Pac-12) and Golden Bears (4-7, 3-5) were originally set to meet on Nov. 13, but COVID-19 testing protocols in the Cal program left it without enough players to compete.

Both teams were eliminated from postseason contention with losses last week. USC rallied from down two touchdowns in the second half to take a late lead over then-No. 13 BYU, but the Cougars scored a touchdown with 3:57 remaining to earn a 35-31 win.

About 14 miles away at the Rose Bowl, Cal was outscored 25-0 in the second half of its 42-14 loss to UCLA.

With bowl berths no longer at stake, Saturday offers an opportunity to send out departing seniors on a high note.

“These guys are top-notch human beings and I’ll miss them,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said this week. Because of NCAA regulations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Wilcox noted some of the Golden Bears seniors will have the opportunity to return for 2022.

“There’s still a few guys who have decisions to make, because there could be guys (graduating) who maybe end up playing another season for us. It’s too early to determine any of that yet.”

Regardless the status of any Cal players for next season, the 2021 campaign ends with an opportunity to beat USC in Berkeley for the first time since 2003.

USC has dominated the series with Cal in the years since, winning 14 straight from 2004 through 2017 and taking 15 of the past 16 matchups. The only Golden Bears win in that stretch came in 2018 at Los Angeles, a 15-14 contest that set the Trojans on a three-game losing streak to end their last sub-.500 season prior to this year.

USC comes into the Saturday meeting on another three-game losing skid and guaranteed just its second sub-.500 finish in 20 years. The Trojans have dropped five of their past six.

Despite the lackluster closing stretch to 2021, USC ends the season on a high no matter Saturday’s result. University athletic administrators officially introduced Lincoln Riley as the program’s next head coach on Monday.

Riley went 55-10 with four Big 12 Conference championships and three College Football Playoff appearances in five seasons at Oklahoma.

Riley was tabbed to replace Clay Helton, fired after the second game of this season. Interim coach Donte Williams congratulated Riley during his Tuesday media session.

“I always told you guys the administration at USC would do the right thing and they made a splash hire. Bright, bright future for USC going ahead,” Williams said. “But right now our focus is about Cal. We still do have a game this week.”

The Trojans head to Cal a week removed from their most encouraging offensive performance since losing standout wide receiver Drake London to a fractured ankle on Oct. 30. Their 31 points against BYU marked a high since scoring 41 against Arizona a month earlier.

In his second career start, freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart completed 23 of 35 passes for 248 yards with a touchdown, and he rushed for another score. Running back Vavae Malepeai amassed 99 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.

Dart faces a Cal defense holding opposing quarterbacks to a 58.4 percent completion rate. The Golden Bears have 13 interceptions, led by Daniel Scott, Elijah Hicks and Nate Rutchena each with three.

–Field Level Media

Sep 18, 2021; Pullman, Washington, USA; USC Trojans helmets sit during a game against the Washington State Cougars in the first half at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

5-star QB Malachi Nelson follows Lincoln Riley to USC

Five-star quarterback Malachi Nelson, committed to the University of Oklahoma since July, will follow former Sooners coach Lincoln Riley to the University of Southern California.

Nelson, from Los Alamitos (Calif.) High School, switched his verbal commitment less than 24 hours after Riley was announced as USC’s new coach. Nelson made his decision known by tweeting a graphic of himself in a Trojan uniform and the words, “Yeah, this feels right.”

Ranked by 247 Sports Composite Rankings as the No. 2 quarterback in the class of 2023, Nelson is one of seven commits who have indicated they will leave Oklahoma. Nelson, a 6-foot-3, 175-pound dual-threat passer, is the first of those players to pledge to USC.

Riley may yet lure other Oklahoma commits to USC. Makai Lemon and DeAndre Moore Jr., both wide receivers and Los Alamitos High teammates of Nelson, pledged to Oklahoma. Lemon decommitted when Riley made his move to USC but has not announced his plans.

A high school player’s verbal commitment to a school is non-binding, so Nelson can change his mind by December 2022. However, the quarterback’s speedy decision to follow Riley to USC and his ties to California indicate he probably will sign with the Trojans next year.

–Field Level Media

OU coach Lincoln Riley says he was out Tuesday dealing with a personal matter.

Lx13680

Southern Cal hires Lincoln Riley away from Oklahoma

Lincoln Riley, the accomplished head coach at the University of Oklahoma, is leaving the Sooners to become the next head coach at Southern California, per multiple media reports.

Riley informed his staff Sunday.

Riley, 38, excelled as an assistant coach at Texas Tech and East Carolina before being hired as Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator in 2015. He inherited the top job at the Oklahoma program when former coach Bob Stoops retired in June 2017.

The Sooners rolled to a 12-2 record and the College Football Playoff in his first season, losing to Georgia in the semifinals at the Rose Bowl 54-48 in double overtime.

Oklahoma made two more playoff appearances during his tenure and won four straight Big 12 championships, as Riley accumulated a 55-10 record in five seasons.

Riley led the Sooners to a 10-2 record and third-place finish in the Big 12 in 2020.

The Trojans job came open when USC athletic director Mike Bohn fired Clay Helton on Sept. 13, two days after Southern Cal was wrecked 42-28 by Stanford, which is now 3-9.

Helton went 46-24 at USC, with multiple seasons of double-digit wins, but the program had slipped in recent years. USC is just 4-7 this year.

The move comes as a bombshell in the sport, not only because of its high-profile nature, but also because Riley had cut off questioning about a potential move to LSU Saturday night by saying in part, “I’m not going to be the next coach at LSU. Next question.”

Those LSU rumors ended up being a smokescreen for this move, with USC not being listed as a likely destination for Riley during its own head coaching search.

ESPN is reporting that Oklahoma will pursue Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury for its vacancy.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; Provo, Utah, USA; Brigham Young Cougars running back Tyler Allgeier (25) reacts after his first quarter touchdown against the Idaho State Bengals at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

No. 13 BYU visits USC aiming for continued success vs. Pac-12

No. 13 BYU can secure consecutive double-digit-win seasons and complete a regular-season sweep of Pac-12 Conference competition on Saturday when it visits Southern California in Los Angeles.

Since dropping consecutive decisions midway through the season, the Cougars (9-2) have rolled off four straight wins. Another on Saturday would give them 10-plus for a second straight year, a feat not achieved at BYU since the program reached the 10-win milestone four consecutive times from 2006-09.

“I know that everyone wants to talk about possibilities and future opponents,” Cougars coach Kalani Sitake said in his Monday press conference. “We are just focused on this game and this opportunity.”

USC (4-6) is BYU’s fifth Pac-12 opponent in 2021. The Cougars opened the campaign with a 24-16 defeat of Arizona, knocked off rival Utah and Arizona State in the following two weeks, then outlasted Washington State on Oct. 23.

None of the four scored more than 19 points on a BYU defense holding opponents to an average of 23.6 points per game. In their current winning streak, the Cougars have held three of their last four opponents to fewer than 20 points, including their most recent outing.

BYU pitched a second-half shutdown in last week’s 34-17 win at Georgia Southern — a program that, earlier this month, announced the hire of Clay Helton to fill its head-coaching vacancy for the 2022 season.

Helton was fired at USC in September following a blowout loss to Stanford. His tenure included a Rose Bowl win to cap the 2016 season and a conference championship in 2017, but also featured several disappointments, including the program’s first losing record since 2000 in 2018.

Under Helton’s interim replacement, Donte Williams, USC is in danger of finishing below .500 again. The Trojans need to win their final two regular-season games to earn bowl eligibility and avoid a losing campaign.

USC dropped its last two, including a 62-33 rout last week against rival UCLA. The Trojans surrendered four rushing touchdowns for a second consecutive game, and allowed a combined 542 rushing yards in losses to the Bruins and Arizona State.

BYU comes in boasting one of the nation’s most prolific ball-carriers in running back Tyler Allgeier. The native of nearby Fontana, Calif., returns to southern California averaging 118.5 rushing yards per game with 18 touchdowns.

Saturday’s matchup could come down to which offense more effectively establishes its run game, as Williams touted USC’s ground attack as an underrated strength.

“We came into this year, nobody expected us to be a good running team,” Williams said during his Sunday night media availability. “When we actually call running plays, we actually do a darn good job running the football.”

The Trojans operate a spread air-raid offense, a pass-happy descendant of the scheme Hall of Fame BYU coach LaVell Edwards popularized in the 1980s and 1990s. USC has mixed in almost 140 rushing yards per game in its version of the system, and Trojans ball-carriers are averaging 4.4 yards per carry.

USC recorded a net total of 159 rushing yards last week vs. UCLA, a figure somewhat skewed by the three sacks quarterback Jaxson Dart took in his first career start. Running back Keaontay Ingram gained 96 yards on 17 carries, and backfield mate Vavae Malepeai rushed for three touchdowns.

As for Dart, the Utah native will make the start again this week in place of injured Kedon Slovis. Dart threw for 325 yards and a touchdown against UCLA, but was intercepted twice. He faces a BYU secondary with two players, Malik Moore and Jakob Robinson, who each have three picks this season.

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA;  UCLA Bruins running back Kazmeir Allen (19) catches a touchdown pass against Southern California Trojans cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart (6) in the first half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Dorian Thompson-Robinson accounts for 6 TDs as UCLA routs USC

Dorian Thompson-Robinson passed for four touchdowns and rushed for two, Kazmeir Allen scored three touchdowns including a 100-yard kickoff return, and visiting UCLA guaranteed its first winning season since 2015 with a 62-33 rout of rival USC on Saturday in Los Angeles.

UCLA’s 62 points mark the program’s most in the series, which dates to 1929, and the most points for either team since a 66-19 USC win in 2005.

UCLA (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12 Conference) built a three-possession lead Saturday after scoring a trio of touchdowns in the second quarter, one of which was a 58-yard pass from Thompson-Robinson to Allen.

Thompson-Robinson and Allen teamed earlier on a 45-yard pass play that gave the Bruins their first lead of the game in the first quarter. But the last of Allen’s long touchdowns was the biggest.

USC (4-6, 3-5), which needs wins over BYU next week and at Cal on Dec. 4 to earn bowl eligibility, cut UCLA’s lead to nine points late in the third quarter after a 23-yard Alex Stadthaus field goal and a two-play, 72-yard touchdown drive.

USC’s Jaxson Dart completed passes of 28 yards and a 44-yard touchdown to Greg Bryant Jr.

Bryant finished with nine receptions for 161 yards. Dart went 27-of-47 for 325 yards and was intercepted twice. Teammate Vavae Malepeai rushed for three touchdowns.

Any momentum the Trojans may have gained from the quick touchdown drive was nullified when Allen ran back the ensuing kickoff the distance for the score. The return touchdown capped a three-reception, 115-yard day for him.

Cameron Johnson intercepted Dart near the goal line on the next USC possession. UCLA then went 98 yards in 11 plays, with Zach Charbonnet scoring on a 4-yard carry.

Charbonnet rushed for 167 yards on 28 carries. Thompson-Robinson rushed for 46 yards and scored touchdowns on a 4-yard run and a spectacular 15-yarder on which he hurdled over a defender into the end zone.

Thompson-Robinson went 16-of-22 passing for 349 yards. Kyle Philips led the Bruins in receptions with six for 80 yards and scored on catches of 23 and 11 yards.

–Field Level Media

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

Mater Dei cornerback Domani Jackson (3) chases after St. Frances Academy running back Blake Corum (24) on Friday, Sept. 14, 2019 (Photo: Logan Newman/USA TODAY High School Sports)

New Mater Dei cornerbacks Jaylin Davies, Domani Jackson lead strong defense

5-star CB Domani Jackson decommits from USC

Five-star cornerback Domani Jackson, one of the top players in the Class of 2022, decommitted from Southern California and reopened his recruitment.

The 6-foot-1 Jackson is the No. 6 overall recruit in the nation, per the 247Sports composite.

Jackson, who plays at powerhouse Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., committed to USC and former coach Clay Helton in January.

The early national signing period is Dec. 15-17.

“I can’t thank the Trojan community enough for all of the love and support they have shown me,” Jackson posted Sunday to Twitter. “With that being said, after a lot of thinking and talking with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to decommit for USC. Doing so will allow me to sit down and figure out what is best for me and my future.”

Jackson made an official visit to Michigan on Sept. 11 and to Alabama on Nov. 6.

The loss of Jackson leaves USC’s 2022 class with just eight commits. The Trojans’ class ranks No. 9 in the Pac-12 and No. 67 in the nation, per 247Sports.

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2021; Berkeley, California, USA; California Golden Bears quarterback Chase Garbers (7) scrambles during the third quarter against the Oregon State Beavers at FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

USC-Cal game rescheduled due to COVID-19

In what was a common occurrence a year ago, an NCAA football game has been postponed due to COVID-19. Unlike last year, this is the only FBS game moved so far in 2021, as Southern Cal’s trip to face Pac-12 foe Cal has been rescheduled from this Saturday to Dec. 4.

The Golden Bears were ravaged by a surge of players being deemed ineligible to play a week ago, helping to contribute to Cal’s ugly 10-3 loss to the Arizona Wildcats, previous losers of 20 games in a row.

Seven starters, including starting quarterback Chase Garbers, as well as 24 players and coaches overall were unavailable to Cal in the loss. The school announced Tuesday an undisclosed number of additional players have tested positive for COVID-19, necessitating a postponement.

USC and Cal negotiated a rescheduled date, and the Pac-12 approved the move.

Previously, the Pac-12 announced that teams will receive forfeits for COVID-19-related cancellations in 2021-22, but with the wiggle room to allow commissioner George Kliavkoff to have full discretion to rule differently on a case-by-case basis.

Garbers put out a statement on social media Monday, expressing frustration with Cal’s testing methodology and how it is communicated to athletes.

USC (4-5, 3-4 Pac-12) is now off this weekend before the Trojans play host to UCLA (5-4, 3-3) on Nov. 20. Cal (3-6, 2-4) will next travel to Stanford (3-6, 2-5) to take on the Cardinal Nov. 20.

–Field Level Media