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Colorado punts on an upset as USC storms back to win in Boulder

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Colorado head coach Mel Tucker was on the verge of delivering a signature and historic victory on Friday night but the team whose motto is ‘Fight On’ just wouldn’t give up on leaving Boulder with a victory. USC avoided what could have been an awful upset as they mounted a comeback to beat Colorado 35-31 in a #Pac12AfterDark special in front of the Flatirons.

Sparking the charge with a 21 point outburst in the second half was none other than Kedon Slovis, the young freshman quarterback for the Trojans who helped his team finally notch a win on the road in 2019 by finding his talented group of wide receivers running free all over the field down the stretch. He finished the night with 406 yards, four touchdowns and an interception but most of the heavy lifting was done by the guys on the other end of the throws. Tyler Vaughns notched 104 yards and a score through the air while Michael Pittman was a big play machine on a night where he recorded 156 yards and two touchdowns of his own. Fellow receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown was also heavily involved in the display, catching five passes for 55 yards while also getting some featured touches at tailback and running for 50 more yards and scoring off a nifty play up the gut.

The outing by the offense helped cover up for a defense that was on the field for over 34 minutes and gave up a number of big plays in the second and third quarters to sound the upset alert on a chilly night of action.

The Buffs took advantage of that tired and banged up Trojans unit to break out of their own offensive slump the past two games, averaging nearly seven yards per play and going 4-for-4 in the red zone. Steven Montez threw for 324 yards and three scores while Laviska Shenault went off for 172 yards and a touchdown of his own to finally look healthy for the first time in weeks.

It wasn’t enough in the end however as the team ran out of steam and lost their aggressiveness late. Despite controlling the game pretty much from the start on both sides of the ball, Tucker’s decision to punt inside the opposing 40 yard line instead of going for it on fourth down was something fans of the black and gold soon won’t forget — especially given that it resulted in an 89 yard game-winning scoring drive going the other way. The result dropped CU to 3-5 on the season, leaving little margin for error the rest of the way if there’s any hope of making a bowl game in the coach’s debut campaign.

The flip side of not notching the program’s first ever victory over USC is that opposite number Clay Helton’s hot seat can simply stay warm instead of being set fully ablaze by cardinal and gold supporters. The Trojans rather improbably remain atop the Pac-12 South thanks to their win over Utah earlier and return home to the Coliseum next week to face what has proven to be the conference’s best team in Oregon. That game wasn’t expected to carry significant national and conference implications but that is the case with the calendar rolling over November.

Many Buffs fans will have to sit back and wonder what if after a few calls down the stretch but the bottom line is that the team that is supposed to fight on did just that to live another day in yet another wild start to the college football weekend out West.

No. 17 Washington jumps up early as major Pac-12 tilt against No. 21 USC hits halftime

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Matt Fink’s first road start as the new USC quarterback did not exactly go as well as his outing last week but the No. 21 Trojans were still in it trailing 17-7 at halftime to No. 17 Washington in an energetic atmosphere up in Seattle.

The one-time backup signal-caller was hot (one short touchdown run off a keeper) and cold (an interception that was later turned into a UW touchdown) in a difficult ask of anybody under center, much less USC’s third-stringer coming into the season and the starter for now with freshman Kedon Slovis still not cleared to play after suffering a concussion against Utah last Saturday. The play of Fink, who threw for 62 yards as well, was about all the team had going on offense with the big receivers Michael Pittman and Tyler Vaughns mostly kept in check on the outside and the ground game lacking for hardly any explosiveness.

The Huskies, meanwhile, were quite efficient at utilizing short fields on offense to jump out to an early lead. Off a solid punt return into plus territory, Richard Newton (14 total yards) wound up punching it into the end zone and Washington came right back again by scoring after their defense pulled in an interception. Andre Baccellia was the one who netted the six points on that latter score, falling on a fumble for a touchdown.

Strong-armed quarterback Jacob Eason didn’t have much of a chance to showcase what he could do under center in throwing for only 97 yards in the first half.

Washington does get the ball to start the second half and can put a little more distance between them and USC in what is shaping up to be a pivotal Pac-12 clash in the Pacific Northwest.

USC QB Kedon Slovis injured on second play of game vs. Utah

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USC quarterback Kedon Slovis started Friday night’s game against Utah, but he may have been knocked out of the game after just two plays. Matt Fink has replaced Slovis, at least for now, after Slovis headed to the USC locker room early in the first quarter. According to a sideline report on the telecast, Slovis was being treated for a possible head injury.

Utah defensive tackle Leki Fatu came charging at Slovis on a 2nd-and-1 play on the second snap of the game. After Fink got the ball away, Fatu finished off a clean play in the college game (FS1 analyst Brock Huard correctly noted the follow-through to take the quarterback to the ground would be flagged in the NFL). Slovis struggled to get back on his feet as he attempted to get off the ground.

Fink, USC’s third-string quarterback behind Slovis and J.T. Daniels (who was injured and out for the year after the season opener), got right to work to finish off the opening drive. Fink missed on his first throw but then connected on his next three attempts, including a 29-yard pass to Tyler Vaughns for the early lead. Utah cruised down the field on the ensuing possession to tie it up.

This post will be updated with more information on Slovis once it becomes available.

USC storms back to beat No. 23 Stanford behind new QB Kedon Slovis

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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.

USC survives injury to starting QB J.T. Daniels to escape with win over Fresno State

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Saturday night’s season opener for USC was supposed to be a fresh start. There was a fancy renovated Coliseum to showcase, a brand new offense to unveil and a chance for the Trojans to wash away the memories of last year’s losing season.

Unfortunately for the once proud Pac-12 bell cow and their embattled head coach, anything that could have gone wrong in their contest against Fresno State probably did early on in a slim 31-23 win over the defending Mountain West champs that was anything but easy.

Trojans starting quarterback J.T. Daniels was undoubtedly the story of the game. After getting off to a good start in running the team’s Air Raid offense for the first time (215 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), the sophomore suffered the double whammy of taking a sack just before halftime that also resulted in a serious lower leg injury. Trainers checked out his knee for several minutes and had to carry him off the field before eventually loading him into the cart.

Daniels did not return and later returned to the sidelines on crutches and with a brace on his right knee — casting doubt on his status for the rest of the young season.

Taking over behind center was true freshman Kedon Slovis, who surprisingly won the backup job out of camp and seems to be the likely starter going forward. While he did throw an absolute arm punt of an interception, he also lofted a superb deep ball down the sidelines to set up a third quarter touchdown and finished the night 6-of-8 for 57 yards and plenty of promise.

Wideout Velus Jones, who had his first kick return of the game (61 yards) called back on a penalty, turned on the jets for a 101 yard touchdown return in the second half to help the cause. Fellow receiver Tyler Vaughns also went off in the passing game by hauling in 11 catches for a career-high 150 yards while tailback Stephen Carr chipped in with a score rushing plus receiving and Vavae Malepeai had a career-high 134 yards on the ground.

Despite all of that firepower, Fresno State would not go quietly into the Los Angeles night under old foe Jeff Tedford and made things interesting throughout.

Making his first start as the new signal-caller after several seasons as the backup, Jorge Reyna did what he could to rally the Bulldogs with his arm and his legs. The senior from Southern California wound up throwing for 256 yards and two touchdowns (one INT) while also torching USC to the tune of 109 on the ground as the team’s leading rusher. It often felt like he was a one-man band at times given the amount of scrambling he needed to do in the face of a tough SC front seven but it just wasn’t enough as his supporting cast couldn’t quite come up with equally elevated play.

Still, there were plenty of nerves on high alert around the Coliseum as a result of Fresno State’s efforts and even more folks left wondering if Clay Helton’s tenure on the sidelines in Los Angeles is all but certainly over in the wake of Daniels’ injury and some questionable decisions down the stretch. The night started out with a penalty on the very first kick return to sour things from the get-go and the crowd for the first game at the renovated stadium was nearly 20,000 under capacity for a fellow in-state team.

There’s still a ton of season left to go at USC but Saturday night sure felt as much like a loss for some around the program as it did the first win in 2019.