USC and STAN Look Even

USC (-1) and Stanford are both dealing with quarterback issues heading into their first big Pac-12 showdown of the season. O/U 44; USC leads the series 61–33–3 (USC was forced to vacate 2005 win, 51-21).

USC freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis will be tasked with leading the Trojans to victory over Stanford on Saturday in his first collegiate start.

Ryan Kartje (LA Times)  —  Late last Saturday, in the tunnel of the Coliseum, Graham Harrell was asked if his system, with its purposefully simple approach, might be better suited than most to withstand a change at quarterback. It was a scenario no offensive coordinator wanted to consider.

He paused for a beat, then offered a weak smile.

“I sure hope so,” Harrell said, knowing full well that his theory would soon be tested. “We’ll see.”

Up the coast, in Palo Alto, the same question lingered over the proceedings leading up to Saturday’s Pac-12 showdown between USC and Stanford at the Coliseum. Both conference blue bloods won their debuts last Saturday, but lost their starting quarterbacks — a potentially devastating blow in such a closely contested conference picture.

On Thursday, Stanford officially ruled out quarterback K.J. Costello, leaving backup Davis Mills to take the reins of a suddenly uncertain Cardinal offense. The former five-star prospect was mostly unremarkable in limited work a week ago, completing seven of 14 passes, and casting doubt over whether the Cardinal might be able to weather the absence of Costello, who was one of the Pac-12’s top passers a year ago.

Amid the outside panic over potential changes, Stanford coach David Shaw assured this week that all would remain the same with Mills under center.

“It’s not going to change our philosophy, not going to change our scheme,” Shaw told reporters. “All our quarterbacks know our offense.”

In Los Angeles, Clay Helton offered his version of the same message. All week, he’d proclaimed his confidence in Kedon Slovis, the freshman tasked with replacing JT Daniels at the helm of USC’s offense. For Slovis, the playbook was “wide open.” The system, supposedly built for such a situation, would remain the same.

Like Shaw, Helton did his best to downplay the significance of the change at quarterback.

“No matter who the quarterback is for the other team, no matter who the quarterback is for us, it’s about executing,” Helton said. “It’s about doing the things that we did last game and improving on them, getting that much better as a team.”

It’s fair to wonder, though, if either team stands any chance of improving without their starting quarterbacks in tow.

Mills does have the pedigree. The No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the 2017 class, Mills was at one point one of the most coveted recruits in the nation. He has sat behind Costello ever since, giving him ample time to develop in Stanford’s system.

Slovis just picked up Harrell’s offense last spring, shortly before he attended his senior prom. At Desert Mountain High in Arizona , where he learned under the tutelage of Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, Slovis was an overlooked, three-star prospect with only a handful of big-time offers. Now, with Daniels out for the season, the unproven freshman has had a week to confront the enormity of his circumstances.

So far, it doesn’t seem to have fazed him.

“It’s just the same game I’ve been playing forever,” Slovis said. “Nothing changes.”

Slovis, at least, seems to have the company line down pat. But against a Stanford defense that looked awfully stout last week, he’s going to need all the help he can get elsewhere.

That could mean a heavy dose of the run game, which hummed along for 175 yards and two touchdowns last Saturday against Fresno State. Since his arrival, Harrell has reiterated the importance of the run game to his version of the Air Raid. Never has that been more true than this week.

The same could also be the case for Stanford, though the Cardinal have never strayed all that far away from their ball-control approach.

With Costello, the offense was able to air it out more than in past seasons. As long as Stanford is without him, it’ll have to rely more on its run game, where the Cardinal uncharacteristically struggled a season ago, ranking 11th in the conference in rushing offense.

In a battle of backup quarterbacks, it’s impossible to know exactly what to expect from either USC’s or Stanford’s offense. Together, Mills and Slovis have thrown 24 total passes. The sample size is too small to draw much of a conclusion.

But Saturday, in their first collegiate starts, both teams will get a glimpse of what’s to come and just how much change their respective systems can withstand.

latimes.com

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Steveg
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Wow, hard to sleep after that one.

ATL D.D.S.
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I had to stay up late for this game! Almost 2 am here when the lights went out.

That game was so sweet! Why does it feel like Clay Helton had nothing to do with the results?

Golden Trojan
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Great game, they played hard for 4 quarters. Very few dumb mistakes. They look like they are jelling. I kept waiting for the collapse and it didn’t happen. Things are looking up. On to next week. My Trojans and Aztecs won today and UCLA lost, its a good day! grin

TrojanMPA90
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What an amazing performance by Kedon. Kudos to Clancy for the defensive adjustments he made to hold Stanford to just 3 points after they went up 17-3.

Let’s enjoy this game but it is still a very long season.

Fight On!

Chris
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We outmuscled Stanford. We had better schemes and adjustments. We also have a dude who can flat out play. Not going to get too amped, but we looked like a legit, physical, and talented team that had an identity tonight. I’ll take it!

TrojanRJJ
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Let’s enjoy the moment. We have had only a few of these in the last few years. The team played very physical. I saw this two years ago against Stanford in Sam’s last year. Then, reality hit. I am simply going to enjoy the moment. Tonight a true star was born. This O is impossible to stop if run by an elite talent at QB. Appears SC has that QB. Good night to all.

Steveg
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One thing I noticed tonight was Helton stayed very low key and out of the way, his coordinators ran the game.

Steveg
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Watch Stepp score.

Steveg
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well, almost.

John Weld
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He is going to be handful very soon ( think Lendale).

UtahTrojan
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Glad Fink got in, even if it is only to hand the ball off.

Trojan5
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This Defensive backfield is going to be good. Real good.

ATL D.D.S.
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Two undisciplined plays in a row by defensive players. Stupid.

Trojan5
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One was pretty weak. Not going to nit pick too much tonight. Let Coach K and Burns do it in the film room

Linkster
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What a nice night. Slovis is great but the big diff this year is the OL.

UtahTrojan
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Has a lot to do with the change at Center. But I have always liked Drevno as an O-line coach. He was an awful O coordinator though.

Steveg
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A lot of good stuff comes out of this game, confidence, and a will to win for two.

Trojan5
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Going out on a limb here: Kedon Slovis will be Pac-12 Offensive player of the week

UtahTrojan
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Something wrong if he isn’t.

Steveg
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so far 377 yds passing.

UtahTrojan
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USC has covered the over on their own.

Trojan5
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Might be a good time to say this: last week SC wasn’t as bad as all of us yayhoos said they were. And they probably aren’t as good as we are saying they are tonight.

Steveg
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Right now they look awfully damn good. Lets enjoy the moment huh?

Trojan5
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Agree. Haven’t been many really good moments for awhile.

USCJojo
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Its good to see there was no quit after going down 14 early. They look like a “team” playing together.

UtahTrojan
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Turn out the lights.

Steveg
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Defense has done their job, took Stanford out of their offense shutting down their run game. Now they have to play catch up, and they suck at it.

UtahTrojan
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That’s what we needed.

TrojanRJJ
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Well, Clay just saved his job. This is the most exciting SC team I have seen in years. It will pack out the Coliseum. May hat is off to Allen. Game is not over but He predicted this.

UtahTrojan
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Allen knows what he is talking about.

John Weld
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Listen to the crowd, I am so happy for the players to get this support.

UtahTrojan
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4th Quarter. Let’s close this out.

UtahTrojan
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Need to keep our foot on the gas.

John Weld
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This is a different team we are seeing

Trojan5
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Win or lose this game, this team is better than last year. The Oline is definitely better

ATL D.D.S.
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It is personnel and culture. New attitude. Better choice of players on the field. Especially at qb.

UtahTrojan
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Man he throws that ball on a rope.

Chris
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No joke. He’s legit.

Trojan5
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Utah, if you keep reacting to every single play you are going to give yourself an ulcer

UtahTrojan
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Tell me about it. I want this team to be everything they can be. With this game I am stoked about Slovis.

Chris
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Wow

Steveg
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Someone got a hand on that last kick. Good job. Stanford losing confidence. Now we gotta role.

UtahTrojan
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We have got to score a TD and start to put them away.

UtahTrojan
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Overall good stop by the D

ATL D.D.S.
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Defense needs to make some stops. It’s anybody’s game.

UtahTrojan
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Line did their job. dB did not.

Steveg
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Mauga!!!

UtahTrojan
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That was an ugly set of downs.

ATL D.D.S.
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David Shaw used half of the 3rd quarter and got nothing!

Steveg
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They covered well on 3rd down

UtahTrojan
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We are not covering the tight ends.

UtahTrojan
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And again we don’t cover them.

TrojanMPA90
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Kedon has been great so far. We need to make defensive adjustments at the half.

Steveg
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Slovis 249 yds 17/20 2 td. Welcome to USC. To 7 different receivers. 91 yards by USC on the ground to boot

ATL D.D.S.
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Halftime. Where Clay Helton sits on his hands and opposing teams make adjustments that usually cause SC to screw the pooch. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen tonight.

Steveg
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Right now the offense doesn’t need to change. If Stanford D drops off we start running and WE control the clock. Defense giving them some problems now also. I am fine with Slovis to continue passing, he seems to do it well.

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Actually I hope CH sits on his hands and lets his coordinators make the adjustments. wink

ATL D.D.S.
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Come on Defense! Don’t let them score before the half!

Chris
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The dude is special. No wonder GH was raving.

John Weld
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And the offense is responding to him.

Steveg
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249 yards passing in the first half. Not bad for a 3*. I’m sold on Slovis. He is everything they said JT would be.

UtahTrojan
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He might be Clay’s new Sam.

Steveg
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We went the whole first half without having to burn a timeout. Unbelievable.

ATL D.D.S.
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Gosh! You’re right! And we had one when we needed a TO in the last minute of the half. Has helton finally learned clock management?

UtahTrojan
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It has to happen more than once before I will believe it.

UtahTrojan
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We need to change our sequence

UtahTrojan
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I like Slovis’ arm

USCJojo
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I like how he fought off the sack. He seems like a leader during the shot of him on the sidelines.

UtahTrojan
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I am likening ever I see in him so far. Seems pretty poised.

Steveg
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Think about this, we haven’t seen a bubble screen yet. What a relief.

Steveg
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Finally we run around them. I can see what they saw in Slovis, JT may need to play elsewhere.

UtahTrojan
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I was never sold on JT. Even this year he was getting nervous feet when he was pressured.

Trojan5
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JT wasn’t exactly chopped liver in this offense last week. But he very well could get Wally Pipped

UtahTrojan
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No, he wasn’t bad. But he still had the same bad habits that he had last year.

Chris
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Let’s go. No more stupid mistakes. This offense is legit.

USCJojo
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Is pittman playing?

Steveg
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yep

John Weld
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Stanford is doubling teaming him top and bottom.

UtahTrojan
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Man. Kedon has a rifle for an arm.

Linkster
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No e job by Ed O. Tonight. To think he could be the USC coach…

Steveg
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I know, what a difference.

Steveg
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That was a fired up defense on that last stand.

UtahTrojan
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Now they need to maintain that fire.