TEMPE, Ariz. — Two weeks into USC’s two-quarters experiment, and the cracks are already visible.
In Saturday’s 31-16 loss to USC, the Trojan offense was a shell in itself. USC had the fewest yards per game (4.3) of any game this season. The Trojans went 5-for-16 on third-down conversions and only managed one touchdown, a drive magnified by a costly ASU penalty on third down.
There is no doubt that this performance was partly due to playing without star wide receiver Drake London after he fractured his ankle last weekend. Not to mention two starters on the offensive line and an ankle injury that troubled Keonte Ingram to run back in the second half.
But it was clear that no quarterback could get comfortable with the rhythm of the game as he was dragged in and out. Third-year starter Kydon Slovis makes 16 of 28 passes for 131 yards and one interception. Freshman Jackson Dart was 8-for-17 for 89 yards and his own pick.
Offensive coordinator Graham Harrell asked directly if he thought USC should play both quarterbacks at this time. “But at the same time we have two really talented players who deserve to play. We (Saturday) didn’t get into the rhythm.”
Interim head coach Donnett Williams is concerned about what the goal is with this system. Are there plans to play with both players for the rest of the season? Does he want a QB to establish himself as a man and take over? He will not say intention, moreover he will do what is necessary to win a particular game.
But in the wake of Arizona State’s loss, asked why he believed the two-QB system was the right move for the team, Williams did not attempt to defend the strategy.
“We’ll continue to evaluate everything. So I can’t tell you it’s the right decision, I can’t tell you it’s the wrong decision,” Williams said. But trying to find the answer.”
Slovis felt he was able to do a better job by staying loose and focused on the sidelines while the darts were in play, even when there was a gap of about a quarter of a quarter between attendance in the second half.
He was relied upon with the game on the line in the fourth quarter, although Williams said on Sunday that it was a matter of dealing with Dart’s hand injury. But USC took three more outs in both series, making it three straight drives where the Trojans failed to make a debut dating back to Dart’s final third-quarter appearance.
Meanwhile, Dart was largely relied upon to throw a screen pass for the second week in a row since returning from meniscus surgery. When he threw downfield, he was not particularly accurate.
“I thought there were some mistakes I don’t usually make,” Dart said. “I was a little quick on my progress at times and I fell a little behind in breaking routes.”
Dart didn’t even go as far as saying it, but those errors could be the result of the flow of the game not happening on a consistent basis. This is why USC needs to find a solution soon.
Both quarterbacks left the Arizona State game a little worse for wear.; In addition to Dart’s hand injury, Slovis struggled with a lower leg problem, although both QBs played in the fourth quarter.
Health will be a determining factor as USC evaluates the path forward for the situation, but so should the consistency of the offense.
“We’re going to do what we got to do to win the football match,” Williams said. “Not that one of them lit it (Saturday) to say that the other was clear to the other. They both made mistakes like we all made mistakes.”