New quarterback? No problem for the old cardinal and gold.
Kedon Slovis just might save Clay Helton’s job after all given the way his debut played out, with the true freshman signal-caller leading an impressive comeback from a two touchdown deficit to beat No. 23 Stanford 45-20 and strike an early blow in what should be a highly competitive Pac-12 race.
The story of the night — and perhaps the young season out West — was the play of the youngster out of Arizona for the Trojans. Slovis threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns in his first start in place of the injured J.T. Daniels and looked like an old Air Raid veteran with just five incompletions to spark a 42-3 run over the course of the final three quarters.
Slovis’ first career touchdown toss went to Amon-Ra St. Brown (97 yards, 2TDs on eight catches) but just about all of USC’s talented receivers made some plays. Michael Pittman finished with 82 yards while Tyler Vaughns was a highlight machine with several nice sideline catches to go with a 106 yard, one score night. Vavae Malepeai chipped in with 42 yards rushing and two trips to the end zone while Stephen Carr added another touchdown on the ground as well.
Stanford QB Davis Mills was making his first start as well after K.J. Costello was injured against Northwestern last week. While the former five-star started out the game well, the entire Cardinal offense bogged down as the game went on and they only managed 237 yards passing with a touchdown and a late interception. Cameron Scarlett did rush for 82 yards and a score but the visitors from the Bay Area were blanked in the second half at the Coliseum.
The loss certainly puts David Shaw’s group behind the eight ball in conference play and will leave them with a week of questions on both sides of the ball ahead of a very long trip East to play a ranked UCF squad. Costello is expected to be back for that game but even his return isn’t likely to overcome the number of issues that need to be fixed before playing the AAC banner-carriers in Orlando.
The flip side is that the Trojans moved to 2-0 on the season and might even find themselves ranked come Sunday afternoon given their play. They still have a brutal first half of the season still to play (at BYU, vs. Utah, at Washington and at Notre Dame on the docket) but everybody around the program has to be elated at the debut of their new quarterback and a big win over their in-state rivals already in their back pocket.