“We Love Slo-vis!”

Ryan Kartje (LA Times)  —  The freshman quarterback stood alone, surveying the scene from an empty set. For Kedon Slovis, there would be no trial period, no slow ramp-up. USC’s offense was his now, for better or worse.

As his unexpected tenure began, he looked left, then right, as an anxious Coliseum crowd stared down at him, unsure what to expect.

But as Slovis settled in Saturday against No. 23 Stanford, that crippling uncertainty quickly turned to promising exhilaration. Those who know the 18-year-old best never doubted his poise, and here, for all to see, was evidence of what they’d long known.

This was a first start USC could’ve only dreamed about from a player who was never expected to play this year. Slovis threw confidently down the field, dropping deep bombs between defensive backs and hitting receivers on back-shoulder passes along the sideline. He stood strong in the pocket, unfazed by pressure.

USC wide receiver Drake London breaks off a big catch and run against Stanford in the first quarter at the Coliseum on Saturday. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

As USC rolled past Stanford, 45-20, it was Slovis in the driver’s seat. A week after the Trojans lost JT Daniels, the touted signal-caller on which USC’s hopes seem to hinge, the overlooked, small-school, three-star recruit who’d sent USC his own scouting tape was the one reigniting hope in a season that seemed lost just a week ago.

Slovis completed 28 of 33 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start, and the Trojans (2-0) shut out the Cardinal in the second half.

Even as USC’s defense threatened to break in the first half, Slovis never so much as bent. On his first possession, he marched the Trojans’ up-tempo offense down the field on a scoring drive.

But while the freshman flashed unexpected poise from the start, USC’s defense began sloppy and undisciplined. Two quick scoring drives gave Stanford an early lead that felt like a serious uphill climb.

Then, a week after his 101-yard touchdown return, Velus Jones made matters worse. The receiver tripped and fumbled on the ensuing kickoff return, handing the ball back to the Cardinal. With the ball on USC’s 21-yard line, Stanford threatened to bust the game open with a three-score lead.

A stop on that short field, though, was all that Slovis needed to take control. He proceeded to dice up a Stanford secondary that had held Northwestern to a meager 117 yards a week ago.

That was hardly the case Saturday night, as Slovis cocked back his right arm on the next possession and launched a 39-yard bomb into the L.A. night. The high-arcing pass floated down between two Stanford defenders, landing perfectly in the outstretched arms of Amon-ra St. Brown for a touchdown.

Just 18 minutes into his first start, with 147 yards through the air, Slovis already had surpassed the passing total allowed by the Cardinal a week earlier.

USC defensive back Greg Johnson intercepts a pass intended for Stanford tight end Coby Parkinson in the fourth quarter at the Coliseum on Saturday. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

USC still trailed, but its quarterback’s confidence only seemed to grow from there, as the Trojans fought out of their early deficit. After another scoring drive, punctuated by Stephen Carr’s third touchdown of the young season, Slovis marched USC down the field with the clock ticking down to halftime.

He fired a perfect, third-down pass to Tyler Vaughns along the sideline for 31 yards. He slipped out of a sack. Then, with 31 seconds remaining in the half, he hit St. Brown again for a seven-yard score and a 24-20 lead.

From there, USC’s defense decided to follow his lead. Stanford’s offense, led by its own, less impressive backup quarterback, Davis Mills, ground to a halt.

A taxing, 14-play Cardinal drive to start the third quarter ended in a missed field goal. Stanford’s next possession began near midfield but didn’t advance much farther, as USC’s defense clamped down.

Stanford’s next field goal attempt was blocked, and from there, Slovis shut the door, leading two more touchdown drives for good measure.

He had help from running back Vavae Malepeai, who ran for two touchdowns to go with 42 yards.

Vaughns topped 100 yards for the second time in as many games, finishing with 106 on five catches, and St. Brown had 97 on eight receptions.

But as the fourth quarter wound down, it was obvious whom Saturday night’s victory was about. With a victory in hand, the student section began chanting his name.

“We love Slo-vis!” they screamed.

After a first start for the ages by their freshman quarterback, they weren’t the only ones.

latimes.com

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TrojanMPA90
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I stayed up late and watched the Cal-Washington game last night. Was not impressed with Washington’s offense. I think SC can win that game.

Steveg
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It really looks to me that if USC wants to have a ground game, they need to invest some play time into Stepp. Especially short yardage situations. He runs like the Union Pacific.

Chris
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Stanford in the slowest playing team we will face all year. Even with that, our depth and pace wore them out. Only Notre Dame can match the number of athletes we roll out. Like we saw yesterday, It should be a huge advantage going forward.

Trojan96
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Hey Allen you called it! We would beat Stanford.

Trojan96
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Finally a complete game. The OLine did their job and the front 7 on defense came alive in the second half and dominated. I was fortunate to be on the field pregame and caught Drevno as he was walking out from the tunnel. I shouted out to “ Hey Drevno, are you finally going to get this line to get off the ball and create some lanes.” He looked over at me, made eye contact and simply smiled. Drevno was confident. Look, we have a long way to go, but we have the talent and it looks like #9 can… Read more »

Scipio
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I am surprised (happily I might add) of Slovis’ performance last night, but I imagine the most surprised person in California right now might be Bryce Young.

TrojanRJJ
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Shifting topics to UCLA. How many of us would have dumped Clay for Chip two years ago? Well, Chip has now tied a UCLA record for worst season starts and it about to break it (assuming OU wins on next Saturday). There was NO ONE at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. I wonder how many will show up to see OU? I have no spent any time on it, but why is UCLA so bad? Makes no sense to me. Obviously, Cincinnati is no world beater (losing 42-0 to tOSU). San Diego St barely beat Weber St. The cost to… Read more »

UtahTrojan
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As much as I have always disliked Clay as a head coach, at no time would I ever have switched to Chip

AZTrojan
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Chip is 1-0 vs Gomer, just sayin’.

Paul_Muad_dib
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Last night was the first time I enjoyed watching a USC game in quite some time.

John Weld
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Latest Rankings from ESPN: 21. USC (2-0) Maybe a different freshman quarterback will save Clay Helton’s job. The Trojans seemed all but done after quarterback JT Daniels suffered a torn ACL in last week’s opener against Fresno State, which will sideline him for the rest of the season. But Kedon Slovis, an 18-year-old freshman from Arizona, had a debut to remember, completing 28 of 33 passes for 377 yards with three touchdowns in a 45-20 upset of Stanford on Saturday. Slovis’ 377 passing yards are the most by a USC freshman in a single game. 9. UTAH (2-0) The Utes… Read more »

usc50
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Well, it finally seems like the Graham Harrell effect is finally coming into play. The offense seems so much more fluid than last year. And the OL is giving the QB time to throw and blocking good for the run game. And the tempo is good without the QB looking forever to the sidelines for a play to come in. Drevno seems to have a huge effect on the improvement of the OL. The Harrell effect even seems to have rubbed off on the defense. The defense seems more simple and the tackling is better. The defense did not run… Read more »

LawyerJohn
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Atl DDS was so happy that he chewed me out for my tongue-in-cheek negative comments about Slovis.

ATL D.D.S.
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Sorry, my bad LJ.

TrojanRJJ
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One of my sons came up with the Helton rule: whomever Clay chooses as #2 QB should become the starter! It appears Kedon was the #1 QB recruit for 2018 and who knew? GH knew after a couple of weeks.

Trojan5
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Wow! I had a wild dream last night: A TRUE freshman QB threw for 3 TD’s , the offense put up 45 and the Defense shut out the Cardinal in the 2nd half & held them to 98 yards rushing. The wildest part was that even Atl. DDS was happy.

LawyerJohn
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Coach Helton said he had been waiting 3-years for his recruited offensive line to start playing, and it looks like they have finally matured…. A player said that SC fans don’t get it– this is a different team from 2018, made up of different players and different coaches…. Playing in a real game is different from practice. Perhaps coaches should look at crucial positions such as quarterback with an eye towards seeing how candidates perform in an actual game. SC at first missed out on Darnold and almost missed Slovis… Somebody said Cal beat Washington. If so, then suddenly the… Read more »

Steveg
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Great to see Kedon at QB. Now that he has been exposed as the best USC has, I don’t think there is any returning to anyone else. I was so wrapped up in his performance that I didn’t notice any big defensive adjustments, other than the mid 2nd quarter a passion and fire arose in them that I have not seen in a long time. It was awesome to see our defense actually play with so much intensity, that there was no way they were going to lose that game. Then the offense totally caught fire and Stanford just flat… Read more »

TrojanRJJ
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I now look forward to the BYU game to see if SC can continue to play like it did yesterday. I recall SC under Helton playing one off great games. UW in Seattle Sam’s red shirt frosh year. Stanford and ASU his last year. Do not recall a Helton coached team ever doing it back to back. Team sure looked good last night.

Scipio
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Last night was great and I was jumping out of my chair for joy instead of disgust. Many things changed positively last night; 1) the offense clearly had CCH’s hands off it, 2) if there was any doubt Slovis was number 2 last night it may have created another controversy; was he number 1 instead?, 3) adjustments, yes adjustments, were made in the second half, 4) we came from behind to win, 5) we didn’t get worse in the second half, we got better, 6) the whole team and stadium was electrified, 7) pretty much every player on both sides… Read more »

TrojanRJJ
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I live in TX. It was worth staying up for. Rarely have I been able to say that for a Clay Helton team. By the way, I did not mind the two late personal fouls – they were fouls of aggression. Our D was fired up and wanted to hit and hit hard. I have no seen our D play with such aggression and emotion in a LONG time. The combination of Slovis and GH have turned SC into a truly fun team to watch.

TrojanRJJ
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Cal beat UW yesterday. I think the game was at UW. Suddenly, our first six look like an opportunity rather than a death march.

alfa1
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*

rleeholder1
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Congratulations to Kedon Slovis for a record breaking performance. He exceeded my expectations. I honestly thought the game would be low scoring, but have to tip my cap to GH and CH for not holding anything back with Slovis. I’d also like to give a thumbs up to the Offensive Line who played well and opened up some holes for VM, Carr and Stepp. Let’s enjoy this one then go get BYU in Provo next week! Fight On!

p4j
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Here’s the hard part…getting back to practice next week, continue to work hard on all aspects of the game. Ensuring we’ve a solid game plan for next week opponent…this is only one game “celebrate” and let’s move on.

In Health, WE R SC 4life

LawyerJohn
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Trojan “fans” are clamoring over each other trying to get a seat back on that SC bandwagon. But this kid Slovis is over-rated, so don’t get too excited about a victory over sad-sack Stanford. I mean, Slovis threw 5 incompletions and did not even get 400 yards passing. And you call this a star in the making?

ATL D.D.S.
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Come on, LJ. Take it down a notch. Great win for the team. Leave it there. smile

Clay
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Slovis is a 3-star recruited by 3 schools, 2nd string QB, nobody knew him till he got to SC. Praytell how is he over-rated? Perhaps he should have been a 1-star, 5th string QB? Enlighten us.

Trojan96
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Slovis played a smart conservative game. With our top notch receivers it’s easy to make a QB look good. For the most part, he put balls in good spots for our WRs to make a play. Credit to Harrell and his scheme. It works with our talent. Unless a team has 3-4 shutdown corners, this offense is going to put up points. Stanford had 1 corner (#11) that shutdown Pittman during the 1st half and St. Brown during the 2nd half. We will be competitive this year and that’s much better than last season. Drevno, Burns, the D Line coach… Read more »