Having lost several scheduled games to COVID-19 restrictions, USC booked a replacement game against UC Riverside for Tuesday night at the Galen Center, a mid-week game sandwiched between Pac-12 opponents.
The Trojans got a little more than they likely expected from the Highlanders and needed a big overtime period from Drew Peterson to complement nice efforts from brothers Evan and Isaiah Mobley and close out a 67-62 victory.
UCR used a 16-0 run in the first half to open a five-point lead at halftime and the Big West Conference visitors had a chance to win the game in regulation before 7-foot freshman Evan Mobley blocked Zyan Pullin’s shot at the buzzer. It was one of six blocks for Mobley, who boasts a 7-5 wingspan.
Evan Mobley’s dunk with 4:05 left in the extra session gave the Trojans (9-2) the lead for good but they never created much distance from the Highlanders (4-3). USC had a one-point lead when Peterson scored three-point plays on back-to-back possessions, a jumper and a free throw followed by an inside basket and free throw that extended the margin to 61-56 with 2:35 left.
Dominick Pickett came back with a 3-pointer for UCR 19 seconds later, but Evan Mobley sank a pair of free throws, Peterson hit a jumper and the Trojans had enough room to hold on.
Evan Mobley scored 20 points (on 8-for-12 shooting) and had 11 rebounds to go with his defensive contributions, and Isaiah Mobley finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Trojans. Peterson had 12 points, eight rebounds and three assists, and Tahj Eaddy added 10 points, four rebounds and two steals.
UCR had five players score in double digits: Pickett (16), Cameron Flynn (12) and Jock Perry, Pullin and Arinze Chidom 10 each.
“UC Riverside played well defensively, and we had a slow start that gave them some confidence,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “It was a good win considering we were 3 for 21 from the 3-point line.
“We’ve had trouble there recently. I think we’re 6 for 43 the last few games, and a lot of those shots were wide open. We weren’t forcing anything; we just didn’t make many.”
In overtime, the Trojans used their height advantage to post up the 6-8 Peterson for good looks.
“We’re happy to get a win,” Peterson said. “There are no free wins these days. Every win you get is gritty.”
Especially when the schedule is in a constant state of flux. That has been a concern for most Division I teams. The Trojans booked the game between conference games, which was a challenge considering the unexpected depth of the Pac-12 this season. Tuseday’s game was the first of six scheduled during a 12-day period.
“UC Riverside was a tough and local team and it was a cram session for us to be ready,” Enfield said.
“They kind of dared us to take outside shots, and were forcing us to the left side, which we didn’t expect,” Isaiah Mobley said. “We just had to start executing the way we know how. I really think this is a championship team, and winning games like this shows what we can do.”
USC led 14-9 when UCR went on its 16-0 run, Flynn hitting three 3-pointers and Wil Tattersall capping the run with one of his own with 7:56 left before halftime.
UCR led 32-27 at halftime. USC’s 52-47 lead in the second half with 3:10 left was the largest lead for either team prior to overtime.
UCR outscored USC 36-9 from beyond the arc but was just 2 for 9 from the free-throw line compared to the Trojans’ 16-for-22 mark. Both teams shot below 40 percent from the field. USC outrebounded UCR, 47-37.
WHO TO BELIEVE?
USC entered the game 5-0 all-time against UC Riverside, winning the last meeting, 70-26, on Dec. 15, 2012. USC was forced to vacate its 2008 victory against the Highlanders due to NCAA penalties. But that’s according to the Trojans’ media guide.
The Highlanders’ media guide gives UC Riverside credit for wins against USC on Feb. 3, 1967 and Nov. 30, 1979 and puts the rivalry at 6-2 in favor of the Trojans.
New services contributed to this story.
UC Riverside faces Cal Poly on the road for back-to-back Big West games on Friday and Saturday.
USC resumes Pac-12 play when it welcomes Washington to town on Thursday.
The Trojans came back from 11 points down to get the W.
This was not Arizona State, or Arizona, or UCLA that USC was playing on Friday night. This was a battle-tested program that USC faced in the Pac-12 championship game, an Oregon team that certainly heard all that talk about not belonging here and resolved to shove it in their critics’ faces.
So this was not another of those miracle comebacks that Clay Helton’s team kept pulling off in 2020, because this was too good an opponent to fall behind by two touchdowns and hope to rally – especially with a Ducks’ defensive front that kept Kedon Slovis under duress all night and by the end had sent him to the X-ray room to have his shoulder examined.
Oregon is a hurdle that much of the Pac-12, not just USC, finds difficult to surmount in December. The Ducks have played in four of the conference’s 10 championship games and won all four, with Friday night’s 31-24 victory in the Coliseum their second in a row. And they seem to be a team that has handled the uncertainty and adversity of Pandemic Football well.
They won’t rank among Oregon’s best teams, not after back-to-back losses to Oregon State and Cal as well as barely escaping at home against a UCLA club that was better than anticipated. But they were the best team the Trojans had faced this season, by far, and have now beaten USC in four of their past five meetings.
This wasn’t nearly of the same magnitude as Oregon’s 56-24 wipeout last November at the Coliseum (which, among other things, helped convince Chargers general manager Tom Telesco that quarterback Justin Herbert was the real deal.) But there remains a good degree of separation between the Oregon and USC programs, even beyond the fact that Ducks head coach Mario Cristobal just received a six-year contract extension. A vocal segment of USC fans, of course, would prefer a buyout of Helton’s contract, which runs through 2023.
USC was fun to watch during this truncated season, no doubt. The Trojans (5-1) showed grit, determination, and a willingness to believe right down to the end every week. It was impressive that Slovis had the ball in his hands on Friday with a chance to pull off yet another miracle on the final play after USC had fallen behind 14-0 less than eight minutes into the game and trailed 31-17 with 10 minutes left.
Especially since he spent all night trying to escape Oregon’s pass rush. The Ducks (4-2) sacked him three times, and two of them were from players who got away – Kayvon Thibodeaux, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound sophomore from Oaks Christian, had one sack and two other tackles for loss, and sophomore linebacker Andrew Faoliu from Mater Dei also got him once. Beyond that, Slovis spent most of the night throwing on the run and was intercepted three times.
“That’s a talented front and we know what Kayvon can do, and I thought he got tremendous jump off the ball,” Helton said. “They flushed Kedon out of the pocket, got him off his spot a bunch. I did think Kedon did a nice job of keeping his eyes up and downfield and creating a lot after being flushed. But credit to them.”
But really, as entertaining as they were all season, the Trojans were far from great. The cavalcade of errors and self-inflicted wounds that helped beat them Friday night – turnovers, penalties, poor blocking and too many missed tackles – are just as much a part of the résumé as that grit and determination. Wasting a great defensive play with an unnecessary personal foul, as Isaiah Pola-Mao did early in the third quarter, or the roughing-the-punter penalty by Talanoa Hufanga that kept an eventual Oregon scoring drive alive … these are the sorts of undisciplined things that Helton’s critics point to when they complain that the Trojans aren’t coached well enough.
As we’ve said before, this season amounted to a free pass for Helton from a job security standpoint. Had this been a full season, with fans filling the Coliseum and no worries about COVID-19 tests or canceled games or anything beyond the usual demands of the USC fan base, he might be on the clock as we speak.
Not even those inspiring comebacks quieted the critics. You can still find them on social media regularly, and they make occasional appearances in the columnist’s inbox.
The coach knows the drill, certainly.
“You know, we’re judged on championships here,” he said. “That’s the beauty of this place. That’s the expectation. That’s the standard. That’s what we fight for. That’s why our hearts are broken in that locker room, because that’s the only thing we will accept as a team, is a championship.
“And the fact of the matter is, we’re really close, but obviously we didn’t get it done tonight and that’s the next step.”
Like it or not, Trojans fans, this season earned Helton another year, and another chance.
USC managed to avoid any coronavirus-related issues for the first three weeks of its pandemic-shortened Pac-12 season. But the Trojans’ good fortune ended this week and their showdown against Colorado on Saturday at the Coliseum was canceled Thursday.
“After consultation with USC, the Pac-12 Conference announced the game involving Colorado at USC … will not be played,” the conference said in a statement. “This decision was made under the Pac-12’s football policy due to USC not having the minimum number of scholarship players available for the game at a specific position group as a result of a number of positive football student-athlete COVID-19 cases and resulting isolation of additional football student-athletes under contact tracing protocols. The game will be declared a no contest.”
The position group is the offensive line, according to ESPN.
USC (3-0) announced earlier in the day that, in addition to two players who tested positive earlier in the week, a third was being tested because he had come down with possible COVID-19 symptoms. Practice was canceled and a virtual meeting was to be held instead.
Coach Clay Helton said Tuesday an unidentified player had tested positive and was symptomatic and quarantined. The player traveled with the Trojans for last Saturday’s game against Utah and contact tracing began in conjunction with medical authorities following his positive test.
Practice was canceled Tuesday.
Further testing revealed a second positive case, and that unnamed player and five others who had been identified through contact tracing were quarantined. The Trojans were cleared to resume practice Wednesday by medical officials, but then were forced from the practice field again Thursday.
“We are disappointed for our players and fans and those from Colorado that Saturday’s game will not be played, but the health and safety of everyone in both programs is of the utmost priority,” Helton said in a statement. “Our players have worked hard since the summer not only to prepare for this season, but to do so in a safe manner by following all health protocols. I applaud their discipline and sacrifice in doing so. We will continue to test and monitor our players, coaches and staff and take guidance from health officials as we prepare for our remaining games.”
USC has scheduled games against Washington State and UCLA remaining on its six-game schedule.
The Trojans-Buffaloes game was the third Pac-12 contest to be canceled this week because of the coronavirus concerns, following the Washington-Washington State and Utah-Arizona State games. Overall, nine Pac-12 games have been canceled in only four weeks of play.
The positive tests of USC players also puts the Trojans’ game Dec. 4 against Washington State at the Coliseum in jeopardy since Los Angeles County Health Department guidelines call for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 to be quarantined for at least 14 days.
Additionally, this is Colorado’s second game in as many weeks that has been canceled, after their contest last Saturday against ASU was canceled. Instead of sitting idle for a second consecutive Saturday, the Buffaloes (2-0) reportedly will play host to San Diego State in a nonconference game.
San Diego State (3-2) had its scheduled Mountain West game Friday against Fresno State canceled because of coronavirus concerns at Fresno, one of at least 97 games called off or rescheduled this season, according to a list compiled by CBSsports.com.
Here are some highlights from the press conferences following USC’s 33-17 win over Utah:
Head coach Clay Helton
“What a great win for our football team. To come to Salt Lake, which is a really tough place to play, to go against a Kyle Whittingham team that is in my opinion one of the best coaches in the country and to come out of here with a win — which was a big win for us and for our season, really proud of our kids. I thought the storyline tonight, one, was our defense. I thought they played amazing the entire game, really only giving up 10 points themself — we gave up 7 points offensively — but we had a goal in the second half coming out of the locker room that we didn’t want to allow another point. And unbelievable, I thought the defense in the second half rallied and rallied and rallied, turnover after turnover, fourth-down stops, just did an amazing job. Kana’i [Mauga] coming in making the most of his opportunity, the play-makers in the back end with the interceptions that they got, multiple sacks by the defensive front, I thought we got the quarterback off his spot all night.
“The other thing that I thought needs to be said and noticed was the kicking game. I thought the two specialists did an amazing job tonight — both Parker Lewis in kick coverage and also with field goals that he made, and then Ben [Griffiths] just not allowing them the opportunity to get a return started. Our defense and our special teams, I thought was stellar. Not on all cylinders offensively tonight. We did enough to get it done and put enough points on the board to get the win.”
On the difference he saw Saturday compared to the first two weeks:
“I thought execution defensively was phenomenal. I thought they played with a swagger tonight and played with tremendous emotion. I think that we are growing as a football team. Coming to Salt Lake where I know with Kyle, they had not lost a home opener in the last 11 years, and I think it’s 18 total, and to come in here with the mindset this team had that we’re going to do whatever it took to come out here with the win and get 1-0 on the week, 3-0 on the season, I thought their mindset was an improvement from the last two weeks.”
On the defensive game plan:
“I thought the defensive front was stellar. We talked about that we had to stop the run. We knew they were going to come in, they had always been a 60-percent-run-plus team against us, and so that was the initial — at all costs stop the run even if that means loaded boxes. They put a little pressure on the secondary, but they held their own and that allowed us to get to third down and then our pass rushers did an amazing job. They forced throws that caused interceptions, sacks, fumbles in the backfield. It just felt like we were playing in the backfield all night, and credit to [Todd Orlando], credit to Vic [So’oto], Donte [Williams] and Craig [Naivar], they put an amazing game plan together, but more importantly the kids executed it.”
Why RBs Markese Stepp and Stephen Carr either sat out or were limited:
“Markese had a pectoral strain that we were hoping would get better throughout the week. He practiced through the week, but just wasn’t himself there. Stephen was the same way. He didn’t practice a lot during the week, and then got a little bit of a knee to the back and we went ahead and pulled him. We kind of knew it was going to be Vavae [Malepeai]’s game and Kenan [Christon]’s game, and I thought they did a nice job. Kenan came in and gave us an explosive run, and Vavae was that every-down back that we needed. I thought he did a good job running the ball, also in pass protection tonight. I was hoping both would get back to the game — Stephen was really close, but ‘Kese we just decided not to dress out tonight.”
His impression of the offense:
“Coming out of the first half thinking, not to say frustration, but lost opportunities. I really thought that should’ve been a 31-10 ballgame at halftime. We gave up 7 points offensively, and we also took seven points off the board in the red zone. I thought coming out in that first drive was really important. We drove it down and got some points on the board. I thought Graham [Harrell] did a nice job of putting the plan together, and the kids went down and executed it. Would love to have touchdowns over field goals, but we kept adding the points up. As good as the defense was playing, we just said, OK, just keep adding the points, securing the ball, and I thought we got in a little better rhythm in the second half. Obviously, the penalty that brought back the touchdown, followed by a turnover, and then the turnover for a touchdown in the first half is just what sticks out to me.”
On QB Kedon Slovis’ performance:
“What I love about Kedon is that he’s a winner, and winners find ways to win. He’s done that each and every week. The statsheet won’t be as pretty as the last couple weeks, percentage-wise, but at the end of the day, winners win, and that’s what he is. He did the things we needed him to do to walk out of Salt Lake City with a huge win, and all of our kids did. We’re such perfectionists as coaches and as players and we know what this offense could be, and we’re going to look up and it’s going to turn from a 30-point offense into hopefully a 40- or 50-point offense. We all want more. We all want to do a little bit better, and we’ll continue to work at it, but the one thing Kedon does is he finds the way to put the team on his back and win ballgames. He’s done it again for us. He’s 1-0 on the week, and 3-0 on the season.”
How USC can create separation from opponents:
“Yeah, 16 points is nice. We’d love to have even more but I saw a lot of people today saying it wouldn’t be 16, and I saw a lot of people say that Utah would win. So to be able to come into a tough place and win a ball game against a Kyle Whittingham team that we have a lot of respect for and a Utah team that we have a lot of respect for and to walk out of here with a 16-point win, we’ll take it. Obviously, like I said earlier, to be able to eliminate the turnover that caused points and the turnover that took points off the board for us is something that would create even more separation, to be honest with you. Really, I thought it should have been a 31-10 ball game at halftime. We let them stay in it into the second half and then we started to separate ourselves, which I’m proud of the kids for doing. But we will hit on all cylinders and I’m looking forward to that here soon. And we’re close. Defensively I thought we took a major, major step ahead. Offensively, we’re doing the things to win but we haven’t reached our full potential yet and I look forward to that day.”
If this was what he expected out of Todd Orlando’s defenses:
“The one thing I really enjoy about TO is his aggressiveness. He’s what I believe and what I love on offense, is be attacking, be aggressive, and he’s that way defensively. He has no fear in his calls and the kids believe in him, in the system and tonight it was evident. The confidence was just radiating off of them. I mean we were literally saying, there was one point down in the first half I said go get the ball back and bring it to me. And literally two plays later they go and get the turnover and they immediately run it over to me. It was so much fun to watch them play tonight and I thought they played for each other. The other thing TO has done a nice job of, you saw us play a lot of kids tonight. A lot of kids tonight defensively. And I thought that helped us. TO has really trained these kids within the system. It’s a system that is easy to pick up and now they’re kind of thriving in it. Now, let’s go be consistent. We got to the point where this is the level that we want to play at. Now let’s be consistent in it and take this to next week.”
The message to the team midway through the regular season:
“The approach that we’ve taken and we’re not gonna change is we just want to be 1-0 on the week. And everything that’s gone on in college football and all the unknowns, you’re just hoping to make it to the next game. Every one of these games are a gift in my opinion. It was a gift to come to Salt Lake and have the opportunity to play. I was so happy for Kyle’s kids. Can you imagine all the work that they put in and this is their first game? We’ve been around since July working at this and they got their first game tonight. I mean, that’s a gift. So the approach for us is what we’ve done the last three weeks, 1-0 on the week. We’ll go home, we’ll celebrate this one, we’ll put it to bed and then we got a good Colorado team coming in that is also undefeated right now and they’re looking for their opportunity. So as long as we stay in the moment and stay focused on our job, it’ll all add up in the end and hopefully we’re in a spot to go win a championship. So we’ll stay on that mindset. That’s what I’ve trained the kids to do, and that’s what I’ve trained our coaches to do so I’m not even looking ahead other than next week.”
QB Kedon Slovis
On his performance:
“I didn’t think I had any issues throwing the ball. Coach was helping me figure out the game balls and getting that fixed. But I don’t think I played very well as a whole. I have to execute better. We left a lot of points on the board, and that’s mostly because of my play and not being disciplined. So I think if you see my play increase, we’ll put up a lot more points and have a lot more success offensively.”
What he saw on his interception throw, and if he is frustrated by talk about the health of his arm:
“On the interception, to begin with, just a four-verts play we run all the time, we execute at a high level. I think I was just kinda on a different page as Erik [Krommenhoek], where he was running, I thought he was gonna take a different angle but still that’s on, that’s my fault, the interception. When they give us that look, I just got to check it down or just be smart with the football and it was a careless throw. And with all the chatter, if anything it motivates me to be on my best game. I thought this would be a really great week of practice offensively. I just want to see it carry over into the game.”
LB Kana’i Mauga
On how things felt for the defense:
“It felt amazing. There was a lot of talk with the whole defense that we were going to be in a bar fight, and that’s basically what we did all game. We took the fight to them. Hit more blows than we took, and we came out on top.”
The defensive emphasis:
“Basically stopping the run. That was our main goal. Utah had tow running backs that are really powerful, and we just wanted to focus on stopping the run, making them air out the ball so our DBs can work.”
Where the defense has improved the most:
“The amount of viciousness, I guess you could say. We’re really getting up to the ball, and we’re making sure the defense is zeroed in once the game starts.”
After the Power Five conference commissioners met Sunday to discuss mounting concern about whether a college football season can be played in a pandemic, players took to social media to urge leaders to let them play.
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said no decisions on the season have been made, but conceded the outlook has not improved.
“Are we in a better place today than two weeks, ago?” he said. “No, we’re not.”
Bowlsby cited “growing evidence and the growing pool of data around myocarditis.”
Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart and it has been found in some COVID-19 patients. There is concern it could be a long-term complication of contracting the virus even in young, healthy people, a group that has usually avoided severe cardiovascular symptoms.
Also Sunday night, the Big Ten’s university presidents and chancellors held a previously unscheduled meeting, a person with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was not announced by the conference.
Another person with direct knowledge of the meeting speaking on condition of anonymity said no votes were taken or decisions made about the college football season.
The final call on whether major college football will played this season rests in the hands of the university presidents who oversee the largest conferences.
All this activity comes a day after the Mid-American Conference became the first among 10 leagues that play at the highest tier of Division I college football to cancel fall sports because of concerns about keeping athletes from contracting and spreading COVID-19.
The MAC’s decision came less than a month before the first games are scheduled to be played and raised questions if other conferences might follow.
Also on Saturday, the Big Ten slowed its ramp up to the season, announcing its teams would not be permitted to start full contact practices until further notice. The Big Ten season is scheduled to start Labor Day weekend.
Meanwhile, college football players took to social media Sunday to push for a season, led by Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with a series of tweets.
“People are at just as much, if not more risk, if we don’t play,” Lawrence tweeted. “Players will all be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract covid19.”
Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth had a similar message.
“Since day one coming back to campus the Penn State Football staff and medical experts have put our health and safety first, above anything else,” he tweeted. “The guidelines put into place keep us safe while playing the game we love. We are ready to play and we want to play.”
Other players tweeted with the hashtag #WeWantToPlay, and within a few hours that movement merged with another. Lawrence, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Oklahoma State All-America running back Cuba Hubbard, Alabama running back Najee Harris and numerous other players from across the country posted a graphics with #WeWantToPlay and #WeAreUnited, the hashtag used by a group of Pac-12 players who announced a college player rights movement a week ago.
Under the logos of each Power Five conference — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — the players pronounced their platform:
— We all want to play football this season.
— Establish universal mandated health & safety procedures and protocols to protect college athletes against COVID-19 among all conferences throughout the NCAA.
— Give players the opportunity to opt out and respect their decision.
— Guarantee eligibility whether a player chooses to play the season or not.
— Use our voices to establish open communication and trust between players and officials: Ultimately create a College Football Players Association.
— Representative of all Power Five conferences.
The parents of Ohio State football players weighed in, too, posting a letter saying they were confident in the university’s plan to keep their sons safe.
“We believe that this age group represents some of the healthiest individuals, while we recognize the risk cannot be eliminated, we believe the risk is minimal and the season can safely and responsibly occur,” wrote the Football Parents Association at Ohio State.
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said he has heard the same from Fighting Irish football players. Notre Dame has had only two COVID-19 cases since it began testing athletes.
“I’ve been around our guys and they thinks it’s safe and they want to try and play,” Swarbrick said. “If we change course, we better be able to articulate the reason for doing so to our student-athletes. They are going to want to know why.”
The Pac-12 responded Monday to football players who have threaten to opt-out of the season because of concerns related to health and safety, racial injustice and economic rights with a letter touting the conference’s work in those areas and an invitation to meet later this week.
The players say they have been communicating with more than 400 of their peers throughout the Pac-12. The group released a lengthy list of demands Sunday and said if they are not addressed they will not practice or play. The group said it reached out to the Pac-12 on Sunday to request a meeting. In the letter, Scott said he was eager to discuss their concerns.
“I will come back to you in the coming days following discussion with our members and student-athlete leaders to schedule a call for this week to discuss the matters that you have raised,” Scott wrote.
Also Monday night, Washington State coach Nick Rolovich said in a statement he regretted cautioning one of his players about being part of the #WeAreUnited movement. A recording of a conversation between Rolovich and receiver Kassidy Woods obtained by the Dallas Morning News revealed the coach seemingly warning the player that being involved with the group would hurt his standing with the team. Woods had called Rolovich to inform him he was opting out of the season for health reasons related to COVID-19.
“I spoke with Kassidy Woods in a private phone conversation last Saturday afternoon. This was before the #WeAreUnited group had released its letter of concerns,” said Rolovich, who is in his first season was Washington State coach. “Without knowing the concerns of the group, I regret that my words cautioning Kassidy have become construed as opposition. I’m proud of our players and all the Pac-12 student-athletes for using their platform, especially for matters they are passionate about. WSU football student-athletes who have expressed support for the #WeAreUnited group will continue to be welcome to all team-related activities, unless they choose to opt out for health and safety reasons.”
The #WeAreUnited players’ demands focused on four areas: health and safety protections, especially protocols related to COVID-19; guarding against the elimination of sports programs by schools during an economic downturn; ending racial injustice in college sports; and economic freedom and equity.
Scott addressed each area, highlighting the conference’s:
— Medical advisory committee working on COVID-19 protocols and webinars for student-athletes and their parents;
— Support for reforming NCAA rules regarding name, image and likeness compensation for college athletes;
— Recent initiatives to address racial inequities such as the formation of a social justice & anti-racism advisory group that includes student-athletes representatives.
Scott also listed 10 areas in which, he wrote, “The Pac-12 has been a leader in supporting student-athlete health and well-being …” Included were enhanced medical coverage post-eligibility; cost-of-attendance stipends added to the value of scholarship; mental health support; and the Pac-12’s support of reforming NCAA transfer rules to allow athletes more freedom to switch schools.
Pac-12 football teams are scheduled to begin preseason practices Aug. 17 and the league’s conference-only regular season is set to start Sept. 26.
USC’s 2021 recruiting class picked up a big addition Saturday night.
Running back Brandon Campbell committed to the Trojans, making him the fifth member of USC’s upcoming recruiting class. A four-star prospect according to 247Sports.com, the Lamar Consolidated (Tex.) back made the announcement via his Twitter account.
Campbell picked USC over Penn State, LSU, Texas and Oklahoma, among others. He fills a big need for the Trojans, who did not receive a running back commit in their small 2020 class.
He is the fourth four-star recruit to commit to USC for the 2021 cycle. The Trojans only added two such prospects for 2020.
USC’s 2021 class is currently ranked 13th nationally and second in the Pac-12, according to 247Sports.com.
EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Chandler Lawson #13 of the Oregon Ducks drives to the basket on Isaiah Mobley #15 of the USC Trojans during the first half at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Southern California’s Nick Rakocevic, left, shots over Oregon’s Shakur Juiston during the first half of an NCAA basketball game in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)
The gallery will resume inseconds
Oregon’s Payton Pritchard, center, goes up for a shot between Southern California’s Max Agbonkpolo, left, and Isaiah Mobley, right, during the first half of an NCAA basketball game in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)
Oregon’s Chris Duarte, right, steals the ball from Southern California’s Daniel Utomi, back, and Elijah Weaver during the first half of an NCAA basketball game in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)
EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Chris Duarte #5 of the Oregon Ducks dunks the ball during the first half against the USC Trojans at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Chris Duarte #5 of the Oregon Ducks steals the ball from Daniel Utomi #4 of the USC Trojans during the first half at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Head coach Andy Enfeld of the USC Trojans yells out to his team during the first half against the Oregon Ducks at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Oregon’s Shakur Juiston, center, goes up for a shot against Southern California’s Onyeka Okongwu, left, Ethan Anderson and Isaiah Mobley, right, during the first half of an NCAA basketball game in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)
EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23 : (L-R) C.J. Walker #14 of the Oregon Ducks, defends against Elijah Weaver #3 of the USC Trojans, as Payton Pritchard #3 closes in during the first half at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Max Agbonkpolo #23 of the USC Trojans blocks the shot of Payton Pritchard #3 of the Oregon Ducks during the first half at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Southern California’s Onyeka Okongwu, left, and Ethan Anderson, right, battle Oregon’s Anthony Mathis, center, for a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA basketball game in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)
Oregon head basketball coach Dana Altman calls to his team during the second half of an NCAA basketball game in against Southern California Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)
EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Payton Pritchard #3 of the Oregon Ducks drives to the basket on Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans during the first half at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Oregon’s C.J. Walker, right, dunks the ball past Southern California’s Isaiah Mobley, left, during the first half of an NCAA basketball game in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)
EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Payton Pritchard #3 of the Oregon Ducks blocks the shot of Nick Rakocevic #31 of the USC Trojans asC.J. Walker #14 defends during the second overtime at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-68. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Chris Duarte #5 of the Oregon Ducks hits a shot over Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans shot late in the second overtime at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-68 in two overtimes (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Chris Duarte #5 of the Oregon Ducks reacts after hitting a shot late in the second overtime against the USC Trojans at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-68 in two overtimes (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Chris Duarte #5 of the Oregon Ducks reacts after hitting a shot late in the second overtime against the USC Trojans at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-68 in two overtimes (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Southern California’s Onyeka Okongwu dunks the ball, right, ahead of Oregon’s Shakur Juiston during the second half of an NCAA basketball game in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)
USC’s Ethan Anderson, left, and Jonah Mathews, right, battle Oregon’s Chris Duarte for the ball during the second half of Thursday’s key Pac-12 game in Eugene, Ore. Oregon won 79-70 in double overtime. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)
Southern California head basketball coach Andy Enfield, left, yells at Onyeka Okongwu during the second half of an NCAA basketball game against Oregon in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)
EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans brings the ball up the court on Payton Pritchard #3 of the Oregon Ducks during the second half at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-70. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Isaiah Mobley #15 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket on Will Richardson #0 of the Oregon Ducks during the second half at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-70. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Head coach Dana Altman of the Oregon Ducks speaks with an official during the second half against the USC Trojans at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-70. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Payton Pritchard #3 of the Oregon Ducks reacts after hitting a shot during the second half against the USC Trojans at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-70. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Onyeka Okongwu #21 of the USC Trojans dunks the ball during the second half against the Oregon Ducks at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-70. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Ethan Anderson #20 of the USC Trojans reacts after the Oregon Ducks scored during the second half at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-70. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Nick Rakocevic #31 of the USC Trojans and Chandler Lawson #13 of the Oregon Ducks battle for a rebound during the second half at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-70. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Chris Duarte #5 of the Oregon Ducks drives to the basket on Max Agbonkpolo #23 of the USC Trojans during the first half at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-70. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
EUGENE, Ore. — Chris Duarte had 30 points and 11 rebounds, Payton Pritchard reached a Pac-12 milestone for career points, rebounds and assists, and No. 12 Oregon outlasted USC 79-70 in double overtime in a battle between two teams near the top of the conference standings on Thursday night.
With 24 points and seven assists, Pritchard became the first player in the Pac-12 to reach 1,500 career points, 600 assists and 500 rebounds. When the achievement was noted on the video scoreboard at Matthew Knight Arena in the second half, the crowd gave the senior guard a standing ovation.
Pritchard is just the sixth player in Pac-12 history with 1,500 points and 600 assists, joining Oregon State’s Gary Payton, Arizona’s Damon Stoudamire and Jason Gardner, USC’s Jordan McLaughlin and UCLA’s Tyus Edney.
Duarte also had eight steals, one shy of the school record.
Oregon (16-4, 5-2) led by 11 in the second half but USC rallied with a 17-2 run to take a 62-58 lead, capped by Jonah Mathews’ 3-pointer with 1:24 left.
C.J. Walker and Pritchard hit consecutive layups to tie it at 62 and send the game to overtime.
Pritchard’s 3-pointer in the first extra period gave the Ducks a 65-64 lead, but Ethan Anderson’s layup and free throw put the Trojans back ahead by two. Duarte made free throws for the Ducks to tie it again, and Mathews and Pritchard both missed shots down the stretch.
Duarte and Pritchard each made free throws that gave Oregon a four-point advantage to open the second overtime. Duarte’s 3-pointer put the Ducks up 74-68, and USC couldn’t catch up.
Freshman Onyeka Okongwu had 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Trojans (15-4, 4-2).
Oregon was coming off a 64-61 overtime win at Washington last weekend. The Ducks overcame a 16-point deficit and won that game on Pritchard’s 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds left. But Oregon lost to Washington State 72-61 last Thursday, resulting in a fall from No. 8 to No. 12 in the AP Top 25.
USC had won nine of its last 10 games and three straight, including last Saturday’s 82-78 overtime victory against Stanford. The Trojans came back from a 21-point deficit in the second half to beat the Cardinal.
The Ducks built an early 15-7 lead after Duarte’s fast-break layup and 3-pointer. Oregon stayed in front, but USC closed to 24-23 on Daniel Utomi’s jumper.
The teams went to the break with Oregon ahead 32-30. Utomi led all scorers with 10 points.
Okongwu’s layup for USC tied it at 32 to start the second half but the Ducks responded with a 10-0 run, capped by Duarte’s jumper off a dish from Pritchard. Okongwu’s dunk ended the Trojans’ scoring drought.
Okongwu made consecutive baskets to pull USC to 56-53, and Matthews tied it with a 3-pointer to cap an 11-0 Trojans run. Pritchard answered with a layup for Oregon.
Freshman forward Chandler Lawson’s layup stretched the Ducks’ lead to 49-38 midway through the second half.
Lawson made his first start for the Ducks after he had 16 points and 12 rebounds against Washington. Oregon was without center N’Faly Dante, who was questionable for the game after hurting his knee against the Huskies.
Pritchard was one of just two Division I players averaging at least 19 points, five assists and four rebounds per game, joining Pepperdine’s Colbey Ross.
The Trojans started 4-1 in conference play for the first time since 2016. USC went 5-0 to open conference play in 2002. … Pritchard is closing in on Oregon’s career record of 614 assists held by Kenya Wilkins. … Pritchard has won 96 games as a Ducks player, one shy of Oregon’s career leader, Johnathan Lloyd.
Here are some highlights from USC’s post-game press conferences following its 41-17 win over Cal:
Head coach Clay Helton
“Good win for our football team. Another good road, Pac-12 win. And I’m really proud of the kids. I thought they had a tremendous week of preparation. I thought they brought the right energy and the right attitude today. I thought they really made a statement for their team and what they’re trying to attempt to do down the stretch here. There were some big playmakers all over the place. We had the game ball in there, I really couldn’t give it to one guy. This was really a team a win and there were big plays made by a lot of people. Defensively, I was nervous coming into the game. I thought Cal had done a wonderful job against Washington State the week before. And I thought defensively they really set the tone, especially that third quarter coming out and doing what they did. Offensively, couldn’t be more proud of how we operated as an offense. Four touchdown passes, I think that defense had only given up nine total for the entire year. That’s a really, really good defense and I’m proud of our kids for how they operated.”
On Kedon Slovis’ third 400-yard performance in four games:
“My favorite number is that zero; zero interceptions. That’s a really good defense and I think Justin Wilcox is one of the better defensive coaches in the country. I’ll never forget being here and Sam Darnold having one of his hardest days because of how they mixed up coverages, pressures and things like that. One, credit the offensive line. They did come after us and they held up. And credit the wideouts. They did an unbelievable job when they got their one-on-one situations making big plays for the kid. And he protected the football. When you have four touchdowns and zero interceptions, that’s a hell of a day.”
On the difference in the game:
“I thought the separation was the drive right before half. We talked about that, how important ending the half and beginning the half was going to be. It was the last thing we talked about in our team meeting because we lost that last year, if you remember. We had a turnover that happened right before halftime and then we came out flat in the third quarter. That cost us a loss against this team last year. We discussed it as a team and man, the kids took it to heart. To go down, get that two-minute drive for a touchdown, then come right out in the second half and double up with another touchdown, that was the separation we needed.”
On electing to defer after winning the coin toss:
“I challenged our kickoff coverage as well as our defense, that I wanted them to be able to set the tone tonight. We said it in our team meeting, that if we had the opportunity to win the toss, we were gonna defer and put that strike force out right off the bat and get back on the horse, go cover it and get it down. And the defense, I wanted them to set the tone. I was really proud after that first drive. There was no panic or anything amongst anybody that was there. We got two penalties on that drive that allowed them to get to the plus side of the field. Everybody took a deep breath and said, ‘Okay, this is what’s happened. Let’s go to the next drive.’ From that point on, I thought defensively they had a heck of a night.”
If he second-guessed that decision after Cal scored on the opening drive of the game:
“No. Sometimes you have to be able to show confidence in the guys that are around you and let them know that, ‘Hey, I’m confident in you.’ And it may not have paid off for the first drive, but it paid off for the game. When a coach has confidence in the men that are around him, they’ll feed off of it. And that was what I wanted to happen. I believe in these kids. They keep on showing up each and every week and putting their best foot forward. They got a chance to win five out of the last six games next week and really put an exclamation point on the season.”
QB Kedon Slovis
On the game:
“I thought the team played really well. Obviously a few drives wish we had of scored but overall I thought we had a pretty good night.”
When he felt like he was on his game:
“I don’t know I really thought like that, but in the second half after the second touchdown, we kinda had it rolling offensively, I thought.”
If Cal’s defense was as good as expected:
“That’s one of the things, the beauty of this offense, is no matter who we play, we’re an execution-based offense. So if we execute, if we do our job, we’re gonna score. And that’s what happened tonight.”
If his confidence grows playing with the receivers he plays with:
“Yeah, definitely. I remember in high school I wouldn’t be able to make some of the throws because I knew my guys couldn’t make it. It wasn’t their fault; they’re not Michael Pittman or some of these guys. It’s definitely getting used to what they can do and their skillset.”
On what he’s learned and gotten better at lately:
“Going through the reads and being more consistent. And that comes with reps. Obviously, the last week, made a few ugly mistakes and this week made a few mistakes too that obviously didn’t cost us, luckily.”
On Drake London:
“He’s been awesome. I think confidence-wise you see him getting more excited. He tried to hurdle someone so definitely more confident than he was a few weeks ago.”
On three 400-yard games in last four weeks:
“I think it just shows what our offense is capable of. Obviously I think I can play better even after a game like this and especially after the other three games. I think it’s just a testament to what this offense can be in the future.”
Where he wants to grow before season is over:
“Just eliminating those bad decisions, really. There’s one throw, the one to [Tyler Vaughns] that probably should have been picked off, I can’t make that throw. That’s a bad decision. So just eliminating those. We obviously got better at it throughout the year but just making that a staple.”
WR Michael Pittman Jr.
If anything surprises him about Slovis anymore:
“No, he’s showed up and he’s been the same guy week in and week out and I think that he’s getting better and he’s showing us that he’s an elite college quarterback.”
On breaking through 1,000 yards:
“That’s a big deal, I guess, so I’m just thankful that I had that opportunity.”
On how Drake London has played of late:
“I thought Drake has been big time. I actually talked to him after that Washington game when he didn’t make that tough catch and I kinda just challenged him. And he has came out and played great, especially for being so young. He still has a lot of time left here and I’m just looking for him to do great things.”
On his thoughts heading into his last game at the Coliseum next week:
“I haven’t really thought about it. It’s just happened so fast and I’m just so blessed to be part of this team and part of this brotherhood that I can’t see it ending. So I don’t really want to think about it yet.”
S Talanoa Hufanga
If the defense made any adjustments after Cal scored to start the game:
“We just had to focus on the run game, make sure we stop the run game, force them to throw. We just had to adjust. That’s the whole motto of it. We just got to relock in and that’s what we did when it came to the second series.”
WR Amon-Ra St. Brown
On Slovis’ performance:
“Kedon’s a beast. He’s been balling all year. He’s a great quarterback. I think just each game he feels more comfortable and he’s getting the hang of it.”
If the team went in expecting to throw the deep ball or if it became a point of emphasis as the game progressed:
“I think it’s just something that developed as the game progressed. We didn’t know what we were going to see, what kind of coverage we were going to see. As the game went on, the coaches upstairs saw what they were doing and just started dialing up some shots.”
On why the deep ball was so effective:
“I think we have great guys on offense on our side of the ball. Really good receivers, a great quarterback, a line that gave protection and we just went and made plays.”
Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast
On the impact of the targeting call against Christian Rector:
“It was huge. We had some things within the game plan that we were going to utilize him on third down from a rush standpoint that was kinda dialed up for him. So it was disappointing to lose him that early. But we made some adjustments for who were going to put in there and the guys stepped up and played ball.”
On the pressure the defense put on Cal’s QBs:
“Yeah, it was good. We mixed it up. We called some coverage. We called some blitzes. The guys executed it well, certainly in timely situations. The guys were disruptive.”
On Caleb Tremblay:
“He’s a guy that really benefited from redshirting last year. He’s helped us more in pass rush situations than he has in the running game. He got tied up on a couple blocks in the running game and the ball got out on the perimeter. But he’s a guy that’s still learning.”
Offensive coordinator Graham Harrell
“I thought he played pretty well. It helps to have some big monsters out there who can go get the ball. But I thought it was one of our more complete performances as an offense, at least for a full game. So I was happy with that. … When he plays well, he should always throw for 400 with those guys. You can’t replace experience. The more games you’re playing in any offense, the better you’re going to get. Obviously with the receivers we have and the offense we run, it’ll enable you to have the opportunity to put up a lot of points and the opportunity to put up big numbers.”
If it was part of the game plan to throw the ball deep:
“They were playing a coverage that I felt allowed us the opportunity to take some shots and the opportunity to hit some big ones. And turns out we did.”
WR Drake London
On his confidence:
“The game has slowed down tremendously.”
If he got frustrated early in the season:
“To be honest, I didn’t feel like I was in a lull at all. I was a true freshman, I was playing, I was going out there and blocking for my teammates. So that’s all I could ask for.”
Southern California’s Kana’i Mauga (26) tackles California’s Christopher Brown Jr. during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Southern California’s Chase McGrath (40) is congratulated by Ben Griffiths, left, after kicking a field goal against California in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
The gallery will resume inseconds
Southern California’s Amon-Ra St. Brown (8) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against California during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Southern California’s Jalen McKenzie (70) rushes against California in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
California’s DeShawn Collins (26) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Southern California during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
California quarterback Chase Garbers, left, rushes against Southern California in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Southern California quarterback Kedon Slovis looks to pass against California in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
California quarterback Chase Garbers, right, passes against Southern California in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Southern California’s Amon-Ra St. Brown (8) celebrates with Stephen Carr, right, after scoring a touchdown against California during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Southern California’s Michael Pittman Jr. (6) can’t make the catch as California’s Camryn Bynum (24) defends during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
BERKELEY — Sometimes it’s good to have balance on offense. Other times, you just got to go with what’s working.
That was the case for USC against California, as freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis threw for 406 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-17 win.
Even USC’s attempts to run out the clock in the fourth quarter of the blowout didn’t do much to disguise just how lopsided the Trojan offense was. Through three quarters, the passing game accounted for 94.3 percent of the Trojans’ total yards.
USC finished with 406 passing yards and 56 on the ground, against a defense that was ranked fourth in the Pac-12 in stopping the passing game entering the weekend.
Slovis shook off three sacks to put together one of his cleanest performances of the season with no interceptions. He was able to throw the long ball to perfection, completing seven passes for 20 or more yards, and made plays on the move when the Cal pressure necessitate it.
He spread the love, too, making sure his three leading receivers — Michael Pittman Jr., Amon-Ra St. Brown and Drake London — all had over 80 yards receiving and a touchdown for USC (7-4, 6-2 in Pac-12 play).
Slovis’ final touchdown pass before being pulled in the fourth quarter went to Josh Falo, the first USC tight end to grab a TD pass this season. It was Slovis third game with 400-plus passing yards this season, all coming in the past four games.
Both teams scored on their opening drives. Cal (5-5, 2-5) did so on a five-yard run after USC defensive end Christian Rector was ejected for targeting. Slovis found St. Brown wide open in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown, with the two executing the scramble drill to perfection.
The second quarter was marred by an injury that left both teams shaken.
On the kickoff after Cal tied the game at 10, Cal linebacker Evan Tattersall was laid flat on his back by a block from USC’s Julian Falaniko. Falaniko waved for the USC trainers to tend to Tattersall even as the play was ongoing, sensing a serious injury to the Bear.
Tattersall was down on the field for several minutes, showing little movement in his extremities. Cal head coach Justin Wilcox and USC head coach Clay Helton stayed by Tattersall’s side until he was taken off the field by a cart, giving a brief thumbs up to the crowd as he was lifted up.
Later, Cal reported that Tattersall was alert and had movement in his extremities, though he was taken to an area hospital as a precaution.
Neither team could move the ball after the injury, both offenses going three-and-out. So to get the offense moving again, USC went with the most surefire move in its arsenal: Pass to Pittman.
The senior receiver caught four passes for 61 yards on USC’s final drive of the second half, including a 33-yard touchdown pass in the end zone. It gave USC a 17-10 lead heading into the locker room.
Pittman’s 180 receiving yards on the evening put him over 1,000 yards on the season for the first time in his career.
All year, when USC has won the coin toss, it has elected to receive. Heck, even when the opponents have won, they have deferred to the second half.
So when USC won the toss and deferred on Saturday, it raised some eyebrows, especially after Cal’s opening TD. But the move paid off.
After USC took the lead on the Pittman touchdown with 43 seconds left in the first half, the Trojans marched down the field thanks in large part to a 50-yard completion from Slovis to St. Brown, all through the air as the sophomore receiver leaped to make the grab between two defenders.
It set up an eight-yard touchdown pass to London, Slovis rolling right to find the freshman receiver, who had the first 100-yard game of his career. London’s third score in as many weeks gave USC a 24-10 lead.
USC would go on to complete a 31-0 run before Cal would finally score again. But there was no way the Bears could keep up with the arm of Kedon Slovis on Saturday night.