LOS ANGELES – With two games left in the season, the calculus for 4-6 USC is pretty simple: win the last two, and make a bowl game. Give up on either, and stay home after the season.
It’s a tough situation for the Trojans, especially as they host a top-25 rival at No. 13 BYU on Saturday for the final game at the Coliseum this season. And that’s not normal for a program with a history. But this is the hole USC dug for itself.
It’s been a slow, painful spiral for USC this season, starting with the firing of Clay Helton after Week 2, followed by a series of historic losses, capped with a pushback at the hands of UCLA last weekend. Happened.
As the spiral worsens and the quest for coaching continues, USC’s 2022 recruiting class has been hit after hit, including Wednesday’s de-commitment by four-star quarterback Devin Brown.
There is little redemption yet as USC awaits to name Helton’s successor. But USC could make its seniors a final appearance after the season if it can overcome the disappointment of last weekend’s loss and rally first against the Cougar (9-2) and then Cal.
“The way we started practice today, we were definitely not able to come back. It was definitely slow so I had to get some guys and fire guys back,” interim head coach Donnett Williams said on Tuesday. “As practice was going on I felt a little more sense of urgency, I felt That people are starting to pick it up, but at the same time the coach doesn’t lead the teams to prominence and dominance. It has to be player driven and right now we need some leaders among them who keep moving forward.”
When BYU has the ball
During the fall camp, it seemed that the strength of this team would be its defense. The unit dominated most of the scrimmage and made it difficult to move the ball for USC’s offense.
But that’s not the reality since the game started. The Trojans are on pace to drop more points and yards per game than any USC team in history, and are struggling with basic fundamentals of ball handling and angles.
“You beat on stuff and you’re in a position to make it up and you try to fix it,” defensive coordinator Todd Orlando said. “It’s just a few critical mistakes. It’s hard to assemble it because sometimes the why is so small.”
If anything, BYU will be the toughest test of the season for USC because the Cougars are so good at one thing the Trojans are hardest to stop: running football.
The Cougars, led by Tyler Alleger, averaged 187.1 yards per game, fifth in the FBS in rushing yards per game (118.0) and second with 18 rushing touchdowns.
When USC Has the Ball
USC last played in Provo at BYU 2019. The sport featured a lean high school junior by the name of Jackson Dart. The Trojans had no original interest in the future quarterback; His father played in Utah, so he was not particularly fond of either team growing up.
Two years later, the first thing he remembers from the game is not the overtime thriller itself, but seeing USC punter Ben Griffiths on the field.
“I just remember thinking, ‘This is the longest punter I’ve ever had in my life,'” Dart quipped this week.
From a schematic standpoint, that game saw BYU upset USC quarterback Caydon Slovis on a number of issues, dropping eight in coverage. With another new quarterback leading the Trojans this season, it stands to reason that Dart could see similar coverage on Saturday.
“When they drop eight, it’s not like they’re going to put a lot of pressure on me, so I’ll have some time and I’ll just have to take what the defense gives me and we’ll go down the field slowly if that’s what it is.” is,” said Dart. “So I would just say that the biggest thing is to be disciplined with my eyes and my reading.”
USC. No. 13 in BYU
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. PT
where: LA Memorial Coliseum