14 days to USC football: Sam Darnold’s winning, Bru McCoy’s mystery

RoT Countdown / Photo by Alicia de Artola (Reign of Troy)
RoT Countdown / Photo by Alicia de Artola (Reign of Troy) /

Reign of Troy’s countdown to USC football’s 2019 season continues with a look at Sam Darnold, Bru McCoy and the No. 14.

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USC football will return to the Coliseum floor on Saturday evening for a scrimmage, but there are still two weeks until the Trojans kickoff the 2019 season.

That’s Sam Darnold days until the season opener against Fresno State on August 31.

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What is there to know about the No. 14? Lots:

Who wore it best?

What do punter Tom Malone, safety Artimus Parker and guard Aaron Rosenberg have in common? They played in vastly different eras. Malone kicked for the Trojans under Pete Carroll from 2002 to 2005. Parker patrolled USC’s secondary from 1971 to 1973 under John McKay. Rosenberg threw his weight around in the trenches from 1931 to 1933 under Howard Jones.

Each was an All-American. Each was a Rose Bowl winner. Each was a national champion.

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Rosenberg did it all first. of course.

Nicknamed “Rosy,” the 6-foot guard was “fast as a streak despite his 205 pounds,” as described by Henry McLemore of the San Bernardino County Sun in 1933. He pulled to lead the way on USC run plays and also did his best to stop opposing runners on defense.

Rosenberg’s “beetle-browed scowl is enough to make grown men run for the bushes,” Braven Dyer of the Los Angeles Times wrote in 1931. By 1933, his visage was arguably even more intimidating. Midway through the season he took a blow to the cheek and wore a mask that could only be described as Jason Voorhees-esque.

MORE: Evaluating the QBs after the first scrimmage

Fittingly, McLemore suggested that anyone who left Rosenberg off their All-American team “should be put in the hands of the lunacy commission.”

Whether intimidated or not, voters twice selected him as an All-American in 1932 and 1933.

Parker was a wide receiver at heart, and it showed in the way he played safety. He led USC in interceptions each of his three years on varsity. He owns the record for the most career picks in Trojan history with 20.

That Parker was ever able to put on a cardinal and gold No. 14 jersey was a product of his “fierce desire to play football” as Loel Schrader of the Los Angeles Times described it. His mother wouldn’t let him play in elementary or junior high, but that didn’t stop him.

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“Oh, I used to sneak off and get into playground games. But my mother would see the grass stains and I’d get a whupping,” he told the Times.

When he was 16, his mother finally relented. A few years down the line, his place on the All-American Wall at USC was secured.

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Malone being on the All-American Wall is unique. He is the only punter to appear on it. He owns USC’s record for punting average in a season at 49 yards and is second all-time with a career average of 44.1.

He booted 185 punts in his career and pinned opponents inside their own 20-yard line 95 times.

Sam Darnold was neither an All-American nor a national champion, but he was a Rose Bowl winner, one who arguably became the greatest of all the No. 14’s.

Famed for his backyard-football style, the quarterback simply had a knack for winning. His introduction four games into the 2016 season helped spark an impressive streak to end the campaign, capped by an epic Rose Bowl victory. Darnold went 10-of-10 for 135 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to lead the Trojans back against Penn State.

Returning in 2017, Darnold delivered more heroics late against Texas to secure an overtime victory and guided USC to their first Pac-12 title since 2008.

“On the football field, he is in a different galaxy,” ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit said.

RELATED: Darnold’s 10 most ridiculous plays of 2016

Legendary announcer Keith Jackson put it differently, talking to Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times: “[He’s] another one of those kids with some good in his gizzard.”

Who wears it now?

Bru McCoy, USC’s new No. 14, has had one of the most bizarre beginnings to a Trojan career, possibly ever.

The wide receiver signed with USC in January, intending to be an early enrollee in the class of 2019. However, the departure of newly-hired offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury disrupted that plan and McCoy decided to transfer to Texas, who he had heavily considered in his recruiting process.

Springtime in Austin didn’t stick for McCoy though. By the end of the semester he opted to come back home to California, completing his transfer back to USC.

That should have been the end of a crazy situation, with a likely redshirt while sitting out the 2019 due to NCAA transfer rules. But McCoy has done a lot more sitting out than expected, unable to practice because of a fever which has persisted for going on seven weeks.

Ryan Kartje of the Los Angeles Times detailed the extended absence, which has been diagnosed as a “fever of unknown origin” after testing and trips to specialists yielded no answers.

On Thursday, head coach Clay Helton reported McCoy is feeling slightly better these days, but the wait for his return to the field is set to continue indefinitely.

Stats to know: 14

  • Back Gus Shaver was USC’s 14th ever All-American in 1931.
  • Heisman-winning running back Mike Garrett had 14 100-yard rushing games as a Trojan. Ronald Jones II matched that number.
  • Garrett set 14 NCAA, conference or USC records. Fellow Heisman winner Marcus Allen set 14 NCAA records.
  • When he won the Biletnikoff Award in 2012, Marqise Lee had 14 touchdowns.
  • In 1923, USC won their first ever Rose Bowl appearance, besting Penn State 14-3.
  • In 1953, kicker Sam Tsagalakis lifted USC over Stanford, booting a 38-yard field goal through the uprights with 14 seconds left.
  • In the 1990 Rose Bowl, Ricky Ervins scored a 14-yard touchdown with just over a minute to play to put USC ahead for good against Michigan, 17-10.

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