College Professional Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: Freshman quarterback leads USC to win over Stanford

What a topsy-turvy world for USC.

One day, you’re higher than a kite after the kid quarterback overcame a 17-3 deficit 17 minutes into the game to engineer a 45-20 victory over Stanford.

Two days later you’re trying to figure out what happened to your athletic director. We’ll start with the happy news first.

Kedon Slovis, the Trojans freshman quarterback, proved he could handle the reins of the team in his first start for injured JT Daniels.

All Slovis did was pass for 377 yards and three touchdown in leading the Trojans over the Cardinal in a crucial Pac 12 opener for the Trojans. Stanford had defeated the Trojans eight of the 12 previous meetings.

Slovis looked like a poised senior, not a freshman. He spread the ball around to eight different receivers while keeping the big three of Tyler Vaughns, Amon-ra St. Brown and Michael Pittman Jr. happy.

Vaughns had five catches for 106 yards and a touchdown. Brown had eight receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns and Pittman caught six passes for 82 yards.

More important, Slovis didn’t throw an interception.

Slovis was sharp from the start, leading the Trojans to a field goal on the opening drive.

But Stanford responded with back-to-back touchdown drives to take a 14-3 lead. On the next kickoff, Velus Jones Jr. fumbled the ball and the Cardinal recovered and quickly kicked another field goal to make it 17-3. The Cardinal would score only one more field goal on the night.

Meanwhile, Slovis led the Trojans on three scoring drives in the second quarter.  The third one ended on a 7-yard pass to St. Brown with 30 seconds remaining in the half.

It gave the Trojans a 24-20 halftime lead and the Trojans never slowed down in the second half, scoring three more times.

The win elevated the 2-0 Trojans into the Associated Press’ top 25, the first time they have been there since last September.

The Trojans also moved the ball effectively on the ground. Vavae Malepeai gaoned 42 yard on 12 carries and scored twice. Stephen Carr had a 25-yard touchdown run in the second quarter while gaining 33 yards in six carries and Markese Stepp may have been the most impressive back with 33 yards in only three carries.

The Trojans’ defense got stronger as the game went on. Cameron Scarlett 82 yards in 17 carries and backup quarterback Dave Mills threw for 237 yards, but Stanford missed two field goals that kept it from getting back into the game in the second half and the Trojans won going away.

The Trojans have a tough game this week, facing the BYU Cougars in Provo, Utah, at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 14.

The Cougars are always tough at home and they are coming off a surprising upset win over Tennessee last week. This is the kind of trap game the Trojans could easily lose with Utah coming up the following week so it is a must-win game for coach Clay Helton, who lost his number one supporter at USC when athletic director Lynn Swann resigned this week.

Swann’s departure came at the request of new USC President Carol Folt, who is shaking things up at the troubled university that has been hit by several recent scandals, not the least of which was a bribery scandal in which affluent students were admitted by claiming they played sports they didn’t.

Swann hadn’t been implicated in the scandal, but he had no background in running an athletics program before being hired as USC’s athletic director  in April 2016. His prime qualification for the job was that he played football at USC, where he was an All American wide receiver in 1973.

USC has only had one outsider as athletic director in university history. Mike McGee held the post from 1984 to 1993. He died last month at the age of 80.

The last three USC athletic directors were star football players: Swann, Pat Haden and Mike Garrett.

I would expect the search committee picked by Folt to find Swann’s replacement will be looking outside the university, which means Steve Lopes, who was running the department while Swann was out golfing, will probably be bypassed again.

GOOD OPENER: Both Los Angeles teams won their first game of the NFL season Sept. 8, though neither team looked particularly good doing so.

The Rams defeated the Carolina Panthers, 30-23, after holding a 23-13 lead after three quarters.

Quarterback Jared Goff, after agreeing to the richest quarterback contract in NFL history last week, completed 23 of 39 passes for 186 yards and looked like he hadn’t played a snap in a preseason game. Running back Todd Gurley also looked like he hadn’t played in the preseason. He finally got going in the fourth quarter to finish with 97 yards in 14 carries.

Veteran safety Eric Weddle suffered a scary head injury in the second quarter when he caught a knee in the head from Panther running back Christian McCaffrey. The blow to the head caused a laceration that bled profusely and Weddle also was placed into the NFL’s concussion protocol because of the hit.

It is unknown if he will be able to play Sept. 15 against the New Orleans Saints.

Game time at the Coliseum is 1:15 p.m.

The Chargers had to go to overtime to defeat the Indianapolis Colts, 30-24. The Chargers took the kickoff in overtime and marched down the field, scoring on a 7-yard run by Austin Ekeler midway through the overtime period.

Ekeler and Justin Jackson did a fine job replacing Melvin Gordon, who continued his holdout for a new contract. Ekeler gained 58 yards and Jackson gained another 57 (in only six carries). 

But the Chargers let Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett march the Colts 80 yards in 16 plays to tie the score in the last eight minutes of the game. Maybe they wilted in the heat.

The growing trend of not using your key players in preseason games reared its ugly head in week one and bit several teams. The opener Sept. 5 between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears was particularly dreadful.

Football teams need to play at full game speed to get their timing down, while I am all in favor of eliminating most of the preseason for football, I still think each team needs one game to get used to blocking and tackling against other players and to get the timing a precision NFL offense needs to have.

There is always an injury risk in a football game, but players get injured during practice all the time.  

ANOTHER CLINCHER: Well the Dodgers clinched their seventh straight National League West Division title Sept. 10 in a 7-3 win over Baltimore.

It’s actually quite an accomplishment, but Dodgers fans are only interested in a World Series victory and nothing other than that will appease them this year.

With slightly more than two weeks left, the Dodgers can still clinch home field advantage for all of the playoffs and there are other things to accomplish in the next two weeks.

 If Justin Turner hits three more home runs, the Dodgers will have four players with 30 or more homers for only the third time in history. Kike Hernandez and Corey Seager both have a chance to reach 20 homers, which would give the Dodgers six players with 20 or more.

The team already has set a record for most home runs in a season. Eleven players have 10 or more home runs and rookie Matt Beaty has nine.

This was the earliest a Dodgers team has ever clinched a division title or league pennant. With 16 games remaining, the Dodgers will need to win 11 games to tie the franchise record for most wins in a season, set by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1953 with 105. This year’s Dodgers have already lost more games (52) than that team lost (49).