USC football’s stud and duds from the season opener against ASU

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images /
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USC football QB coach Graham Harrell. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy)
USC football QB coach Graham Harrell. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy) /

The Duds from USC Football vs. ASU

Graham Harrell

It seems cruel to say the Trojans’ pass offense struggled on a day Kedon Slovis completed 72.7 percent of his passes and gained 381 yards. But they did. Until the game’s final two drives, the air raid was bottled up by zone coverages in Arizona State’s new-look 4-3 defense under Marvin Lewis. Slovis kept having to check down to his backs —Carr, Malepeai and Stepp combined for 11 catches— and it wasn’t until late that they could open up the downfield passing game. Harrell must find a way to make adjustments earlier, because there’s too many weapons of all shapes and sizes on this team to let opposing defenses completely stifle the Trojans’ offense by dropping seven and eight defenders. They’re not one dimensional enough to be treated like it.

Clay Helton

With the game seemingly slipping away in the third quarter and the Trojans down 10, Helton opted to roll the dice on fourth down at ASU’s six-yard line. They didn’t get it and USC threw away a golden opportunity to pull the game within a score. There was no need to chase the touchdown there. After failing to scoring on multiple trips inside the 25-yard line, the Trojans needed any sort of points, especially with so much time left in the game. The decision nearly cost the Trojans, forcing them to convert an unlikely 4th-and-9 to win the game, rather than settling for a more-than-reasonable 38-yard field goal to tie. Luckily for USC, Drake London came through in the clutch.

Ball Security

You can’t turn the ball over four times and expect to win. Yet that’s what USC did Saturday, with a Kedon Slovis interception and three fumbles by Vavae Malepeai, Tyler Vaughns and Markese Stepp. The first cost the Trojans six, as Malepeai lost the ball while trying to stretch the ball over the goal line in the first quarter. All told, the costly mistakes led to squandered opportunities and what was a game USC had thrown away, if not for the miraculous comeback.

The Offensive Line

It was an awful day for the Trojans up front. While ASU’s coverages forced Slovis to rely on check down options, it was a relentless pass rush —often with just three or four rushers— that led to the quarterback constantly having roam around the pocket. Slovis was sacked three times and had to escape on his feet six times.