Sam Darnold has spent a lot of this season explaining. Why have his turnovers ballooned? Why isn’t USC successful because it did final season? Why has he regarded completely different?
He stood within the pocket throughout USC’s first drive towards Arizona State on Saturday and delivered a reminder. He arced a cross into the desert sky. Deontay Burnett, taking pictures the hole between the cornerback and security, didn’t break stride. Landing. Darnold had positioned it completely — no rationalization wanted.
Darnold and the Trojans delivered reminders of their potential of their 48-17 win over Arizona State in entrance of 53,446 at Solar Satan Stadium. No. 21 USC (7-2, 5-1 within the Pac-12) bludgeoned Arizona State on the bottom for 341 yards — 216 of them by Ronald Jones II. Its protection was smothering, save a weird Hail Mary on the finish of the primary half. USC outgained Arizona State (Four-Four, Three-2) 607 to 357.
And Darnold confirmed once more why he’s among the many greatest quarterbacks within the nation. He carved Arizona State’s secondary for 266 yards and three touchdowns, all within the first half. He squeezed pbades into tight home windows. He moved confidently and creatively within the pocket. He even had a 39-yard scamper on a zone-read hold, the longest run of his profession. He didn’t must reply any questions on turnovers or errors.
“It undoubtedly feels good,” he stated afterward. “However I do not care about answering questions on that. I actually simply get arduous on myself. And I feel once I do not flip the ball over and I do not make dumb errors, I’ve extra enjoyable.”
When Darnold hums, USC is a unique staff. Defenses loosen. Holes materialize. Jones eased by way of one such gap within the second quarter, then stepped out of a sort out and excessive stepped like a Rockette previous one other earlier than zooming 67 yards for a landing.
It was a masterful efficiency for USC’s operating sport — and a confounding one. The Trojans regarded unstoppable on the bottom early within the season, however the floor effectivity quickly disappeared. Final week, towards Notre Dame, USC averaged 2.5 yards per carry. In opposition to Arizona State, USC averaged eight.Four, ignoring sacks.
The common was padded by huge runs, like within the third quarter when Jones slalomed by way of the Arizona State offense, bursting out of arm tackles, for a 64-yard rating.
“I do know I take advantage of the phrase ‘stability’ on a regular basis,” coach Clay Helton stated. “However that was balanced.”
USC has recaptured momentum at a vital time. Notre Dame had torched USC 49-14 every week prior. Rigidity was evident. Offensive coaches spoke defensively. An badistant stormed off the sector in the course of an interview. A father or mother publicly griped about taking part in time. The Trojans have been spiraling, it may need appeared, into darkish depths.
After which they posted its most dominant efficiency of the season in a sport they needed to win.
“It has been a protracted season,” linebacker Cameron Smith stated. “We have 12 in a row. In order that was large for us.”
With one other victory subsequent week towards Arizona, USC would want solely to keep away from calamity to win the Pac-12 South Division.
“I feel this was our turning level, if you wish to be trustworthy,” security Chris Hawkins stated. “I feel we’re gonna actually flip it round from right here and be the staff that we actually wish to be.”
On Saturday, after the early landing to Burnett, Darnold linked with Tyler Vaughns, who slithered previous the cornerback and ran for a 42-yard landing.
Darnold floated a 19-yard cross within the second quarter into a good touchdown pad between three defenders. Once more, Vaughns was there. He absorbed successful to the helmet, flagged for focusing on, however held on. He completed with 126 yards in six catches.
How explosive was USC within the first half? It scored 4 touchdowns and dipped a toe contained in the Solar Devils’ pink zone simply as soon as, after which superior to only the 19-yard line earlier than the second landing cross to Vaughns.
With about one minute left earlier than halftime, walk-on freshman kicker Chase McGrath hit a 51-yard area aim, the longest of his profession.
On the finish of the sport, Ykili Ross added a garbage-time landing on a 37-yard interception return.
USC took care of the ball, finally. Darnold fumbled as soon as however the injury was restricted: It got here on a sack on fourth down. With no badist from USC’s offense, Arizona State’s personal offense mustered little. USC’s protection pressured six three-and-outs. USC had six sacks and restricted the Solar Devils to 79 yards speeding.
“They badped our butts,” Arizona State coach Todd Graham stated. “They out-coached us and out-played us.”
The one launch, for the Solar Devils, was a weird play earlier than halftime. Arizona State lined up for a Hail Mary. What may go incorrect? Historical past stated loads. In 2014, Arizona State surprised USC on a Hail Mary on the finish of the sport to Jaelen Robust, in what grew to become often known as the “Jael Mary.”
Historical past repeated … finally. A bobble by a defensive again gave Arizona State the reception — however a yard brief, the officers dominated. The groups ran to the locker rooms. In the meantime, the officers have been reviewing. The band was about to take the sector for the halftime efficiency when the officers lastly overturned the decision: landing. Each groups have been referred to as again from the locker room for the additional level.
“It was tremendous complicated as a result of we obtained within the locker room and we have been getting hyped and everyone was like, ‘Maintain up, we gotta return out,’” receiver Michael Pittman Jr. stated. “After which we simply went again out.”
The mess at halftime and all of the factors meant the sport lasted almost Three hours 40 minutes. USC loved virtually all of them.
Comply with Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfand