USC's fears come alive in win over Arizona
November 4, 2021
Halloween weekend continued to bring about spooky times for the USC Trojans football program. They fired their head coach two games into the season. The program continued to sputter after the firing and to make things considerably worse, the Trojans lost their best player for the remainder of the season. Last Saturday's 41-31 win over the Arizona Wildcats, in what has been an already ghastly season for USC, the Trojans' year got more ghoulish after they lost wide receiver Drake London for the season with an ankle injury.
With London out for the season, what becomes of this USC offense? Moving forward, do the Trojans emphasize a dormant rushing timeshare of Keaontay Ingram, Vavae Malepeai, and Darwin Barlow? Perhaps they allow Kedon Slovis to lead a balanced offensive attack, or do they use the remainder the season to evaluate the untapped talent on the roster and let the players that will be here next year glean valuable experience with snaps. The Trojans can also make the remainder of their season intriguing by handing Jaxon Dart the keys to the program.
Right now Dart is considerably better than Slovis. Anyone familiar with the program will attest to it. If sports are a true meritocracy, then the player that allows you to win and salvage your season plays. Former Culver City Centaur and USC interim head coach, Donte Williams, is in an untenable situation. Williams inherited a roster and staff and is in a position where football programs across the nation will evaluate his leadership. Williams needs to play Dart.
When Dart was cleared to play last Tuesday after tearing his meniscus, Williams planned to play him. And when the freshman quarterback's name was announced in front of the sparse Coliseum crowd last Saturday, the energy in the stadium picked up. Trojan supporters perked up; the student section came alive and emphatically began to cheer his name. After a 15-play, 96-yard touchdown drive, Dart gave onlookers even more reason to hope in the future.
But any hopes of future Dart to London connections were short-lived. After London secured a pass from Dart for his second touchdown catch in the first half against Arizona cornerback Christian Roland-Wallace, the Arizona defender rolled onto and trapped London's right ankle. As Roland-Wallace pinned the wideout's ankle against the grass field at an angle, London's body could not sustain; it snapped.
The fervor that began to reverberate throughout the stadium, and program, was silenced. As London was placed into an air cast, put on a cart, and ushered up the tunnel, USC supporters were left to dream at the possibilities of what the season could have been. Instead, what remains of that dream has now sullied into a brewing quarterback controversy.
After sprinting to a 35-14 first-half lead, USC, without London and struggling to find any offensive rhythm, found themselves in a fourth-quarter battle with a touchdown lead. With the decisive drive in tow, the Trojans turned to Dart, not Slovis, to secure the win. "It's tough," Slovis stated. "Obviously, you want to be in. You think you give your team the best chance to win, but that's the coach's decision."
Williams did decide. "So it was already planned that he [Dart] was going to play in the fourth quarter and he went out there and he did that."
USC has to find a new offensive identity. They no longer have their security blanket in London. What Williams and the Trojans have is time and opportunity. They only need to secure, and stack wins. "We'll continue to do what we need to do to win the football game," Williams said.
The Trojans travel Arizona State on Saturday to take on the Sun Devils at 7:30 p.m. USC is 4-4 overall and 3-3 in the Pac-12. Arizona State is 5-3 and 3-2.
Follow Eric on Twitter @elambsquared and IG @elamb5quared.