In the most desperate moments of the season, which quickly slipped into anxiety, the first USC defender stood in the shadow of his own end zone, with a half-empty Coliseum lying in front of him. Last time Jaxson Dart He performed in the field six weeks earlier, his electric debut defibrillated Trojans a fan base and instilled hope in a team that has just lost its coach.
That zeal suddenly returned along with the first USC defender on Saturday in the second quarter of what would have become unnecessarily narrow Victory 41-34 over Arizona. When his first series at home was announced by speaker, the Colosseum came to life. The student section chanted his name. And when Dart scored 15 plays and a 96-yard touchdown drive, the entire stadium buzzed with anticipation of what it could be.
But by the end of the next run, that fleeting sense of hope for the future turned sharply left in despair as he Drake London, one of the best nations of wide circles and the only consistent weapon of the Trojans, lay crushed in the corner of the end zone, squeezing his right ankle in pain.
The life that once ran around the stadium was sucked in the moment the coaches surrounded London, who had just scored their second touchdown in the first half. When London was finally lifted to his feet, his right foot was in an air envelope. They loaded him into an injury cart and took him down the tunnel, waving to the Colosseum crowd as he was leaving, perhaps for the last time.
Asked if there were any concerns about an ankle injury in London to end the season, interim coach Donte Williams agreed. “It’s fear,” he said.
For eight weeks, London carried out a USC attack mostly alone, dominated by regular double teams, jumped for impossible controversial catches and scored 1,000 yards after just seven games. In an otherwise dark season, London was a lone bright spot, a parachuting star who found herself at the top of the upcoming NFL roster.
“When they brought in the cast, I knew it wasn’t good,” defender Kedon Slovis he said. ‘It’s bullshit. The best receiver, the best player on the team, so it hurts a lot. “
Now, both the near future of London and the USC were suddenly seriously in question. The Trojans ’best receiver eventually returned to the sideline in the hard lineup. Meanwhile, the USC could only manage to go through the moves as Arizona, losing 19 in a row, continued to climb back into a game in which they had no business.
Six minutes to go, the USC leadership, once thought to grow into an escape, was reduced to just one result. And when the stakes were highest, Williams turned to his freshman to keep the USC.
The two-time All-Pac-12 Trojans were watching from the sidelines the entire time. Slovis burned Arizona through Saturday’s first quarter and made nine of his first 11 assists for 145 yards.
He hit Gary Bryant in step for a 62-yard touchdown and found Bryant again with a soft touch in the corner of the end zone.
But after a quarter, the descending Slovis was replaced by his new colleague as part of a planned departure. That was the scenario the junior quarterback had been expecting since Friday when Williams informed him that Dart would get “some series in play,” Slovis said.
“I wanted to know why, honestly,” Slovis said. “I don’t take Jaxson away, he’s a great player. But I wanted to know if that was something I was doing and what the reason was. ”
Slovis, who finished with 204 yards and two touches, had no idea Dart would be in trouble in this decisive run in the fourth quarter.
When asked about the decision to go with a freshman at such a crucial moment, Williams replied only that “it was already planned to enter the game at that moment.”
However, it was Keaontay Ingram who ended up doing the harder work at the time, just like he had even in the afternoon, as he withdrew for the 55-yard sprint – one of his few long runs that wasn’t returned with a penalty. He finished with as many as 204 yards, which he achieved with a touch, wearing the USC when he needed it most.
If not for the USC’s propensity for penalties – nine that cost USC 100 yards – Ingram could have had even more.
Even then, the USC needed a 40-yard goal from the pitch of its reserve scorer, Alex Stadthausto completely finish the night afternoon.
The first victory of the Trojans in four weeks could offer only so much consolation. When the USC goes into the final four weeks of its season, it will be in an attack that is disordered in the quarterback, without its best weapon.
Williams would not say how the USC will approach the quarterback position for the remaining games. Slovis said the division of position is “definitely something to get used to.”
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen here,” Dart said.
The same could be said for the USC, which is now staring at the barrel for the past four weeks, which on Saturday felt anything but hopeful.