Steve Sarkisian has been placed on an indefinite leave of absence at USC, Trojans AD Pat Haden revealed Sunday evening. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton will serve as interim head coach.
Sarkisian agreed to seek help after speaking to boosters (and, most importantly, being videoed speaking to boosters) while drunk at the Trojans’ Salute to Troy event in late August. It doesn’t take Magellan to draw a map from there.
Sarkisian’s leave of absence closes an ugly first half of the season for the Trojans. Picked to win the Pac-12 in preseason, USC sits at 3-2 with home losses to Stanford and Washington.
In his own way, Helton perfectly summarizes the mess the USC head coaching position has been over the past two and a half years. He led the Trojans to a win in the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl, replacing interim head coach Ed Orgeron, who left the team after he was passed over as Lane Kiffin‘s full-time replacement in favor of… Sarkisian.
In the meantime, USC visits Notre Dame on Saturday.
Last week, Jaren Hall became the first black quarterback to start a game at BYU. Whether he becomes the first black quarterback at the university to start two games remains up in the air.
In the fourth quarter of the Week 7 loss to South Florida, Hall was knocked out of the game with concussion-like symptoms. There was some encouraging news on that front midweek, though, as Hall returned to full practice on Wednesday.
Despite that, it will likely be a game-time decision as to whether Hall, who himself replaced Zach Wilson after the season-opening starter underwent thumb surgery, will be available for the Boise State game Saturday night. One hint that it could be Hall again? Passing-game coordinator Aaron Roderick acknowledged that Hall took the most first-team reps of any of the Cougars quarterbacks during that Wednesday practice.
If Hall is ultimately unable to go, freshman Baylor Romney would very likely get the starting nod. In replacing the injured Hall against the Bulls, Romney completed 6-of-10 passes for 73 yards on a couple of fourth-quarter drives.
Current No. 3 Joe Critchlow would then serve as Romney’s backup in such a scenario.
It’s been a couple of days since we’ve kicked off a morning with a portal post, so we were due.
Speculation was swirling over the past couple of days that Kenyon Reed was considering a transfer from Kansas State. Thursday, defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton confirmed to 247Sports.com and others that the defensive back has made his way into the NCAA transfer database.
According to the coordinator, he became aware of the impending departure the day before, although he wasn’t quite clear in the details surrounding the player’s decision. To further buttress the coordinator’s confirmation, Reed’s official bio is no longer a valid link.
Reed was a three-star member of the Wildcats’ 2019 recruiting class. The California high schooler surprised most observers by signing with K-State over UCLA earlier this year.
As Reed didn’t play a down this year, he can take a redshirt for the 2019 season.
UCLA has proven to a bad football team this season. On Thursday night though, we found out Stanford was worse.
The Bruins dominated their in-state rivals 34-16 to snap an 11-game losing streak and notch their second victory of the season in yet another case of a puzzling performance from both sides out of Pac-12 territory.
A lot of the effort — or lack thereof — on account of the Cardinal can be explained by their offense looking very much like one starting a walk-on third string quarterback for the first time. Jack West completed just 15 passes for 143 yards and had trouble seemingly every dropback behind an even more makeshift offensive line (seven sacks allowed). Running the ball was out of the question against a predictably stacked box and the team averaged just 1.8 yards per rush anyway.
All told, Stanford converted just three third downs all game and mustered only 198 yards total as they were booed off the field a few times by the sparse crowd in attendance. Kicker Jet Toner was also injured in the first quarter and the only other non-garbage time touchdown came off a blocked punt.
As bad as things were for the home side, they went equally well for a UCLA team that scored on their first drive and were in complete control of the game for the first time since Chip Kelly took over the program. QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson was electric with his arm (192 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) and legs (66 yards, 1 TD) while Joshua Kelley notched 176 yards on the ground with a score of his own.
In the process of stealing Stanford’s soul, the Bruins managed to end a long losing streak to their rivals in the Bay, winning on the Farm for the first time since the Karl Dorrell era in Westwood and first time overall since 2008. Coincidentally, that latter year was the last time the Cardinal missed a bowl game or won fewer than eight games — a streak that very much appears to be ending in 2019 unless the team invents a time machine in the next week or runs the table the rest of the regular season.
Make no bones about it, this was a very ugly and hard to watch rock fight between two bad teams that not even #Pac12AfterDark juju could save.
It remains to be seen just where these two programs go from here but at least on Thursday night, Kelly was able to overcome an old adversary and put an end to a streak many at his school thought would go on for a while. It didn’t however as UCLA can celebrate on their way back to Southern California while David Shaw‘s team will have a few extra days to contemplate just what kind of team they are this season.
If you can make sense of Pac-12 football, congrats on your impending move to Las Vegas to take advantage of it. Case in point? Strange first halves of football games like UCLA 21, Stanford 10 on Thursday night in Palo Alto.
The Bruins, looking for their second win of the season, looked uncharacteristically sharp on the offensive side while their defensive counterparts had one of their better performances through two quarters in recent memory in order to jump out to the early lead between California rivals.
UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson marched the team right down into the end zone on their first two drives, hitting the halfway mark with 100 yards passing and two touchdowns (one pick) while adding five carries for 67 yards and another score. Joshua Kelley notched 87 yards on the ground as well for a team that had previously struggled to move the ball at all.
Instead it was the Cardinal offense who couldn’t muster much on the offensive end. They had just 86 yards total in the game and starting quarterback Jack West very much looked like a walk-on making his first start at the position. It didn’t help that the offensive line (five sacks allowed) did him no favors but pretty much every series ended predictably in a setback before trotting out the punt team.
In fact, were it not for special teams, this first half would have been even more lopsided. Kicker Jet Toner nailed a 42 yard field goal but was injured and had to be taken to the locker room while Brycen Tremayne recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for six in perhaps the only sign of life in the contest for Stanford.
Somehow this Cardinal squad beat Washington by 10 points and somehow this UCLA side has just one win on the season. But first half performances like the one we saw on the Farm Thursday night are a good reminder as to why they play the game… and how hard it is to make sense of things out West on the gridiron.