5 keys to USC football in critical Oregon state game

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The USC Trojans got the job done in their first game with Donte Williams as interim head coach. They started off slow against Washington State, but scored 45 unanswered points to claim a 45-14 victory over the Cougars.

Drake London went into beast mode against the Cougars, totaling 170 yards on 13 catches with a pair of scores.

Kedon Slovis was knocked out of the game, then Jaxson Dart came in and completely crashed like a savvy veteran. Now, Trojans will be deprived of Dart indefinitely after undergoing meniscus surgery.

Additionally, Slovis’s status is also on hold, as the Trojans gear up for the Oregon State Beavers on Saturday night. They will try to continue their recovery following the dismissal of Clay Helton.

All signs point to Kedon Slovis taking pictures under center after Dart’s injury, although nothing is more certain in Southern California. Miller Moss is now second on the QB depth card, waiting behind the scenes. He could become for USC in 2021 what Matt Fink did in 2019, a third spar moved up to No.2 and was put into service when Slovis was injured.

Oregon State is 2-1 on the year, although the Beavers’ two wins are against 1-3 in Hawaii and 1-2 in Idaho, their only loss being to Purdue on the road. Beavers quarterback Chance Nolan has had a good start to the year and will try to maintain his solid level of play against the Trojans.

The Trojans want to continue winning in the post-Clay Helton era, and the Los Angeles Coliseum is expected to be filled with loud and happy Trojan fans just two weeks after an astonishing loss to Stanford at the same stadium.

With that, here are five keys to a victory for the Trojans over the Beavers on Saturday night.

THROW FOR DRAKE LONDON

Sep 18, 2021; Pullman, Washington, United States; USC Trojans wide receiver Drake London (15) climbs for a catch against Washington State Cougars defensive back Derrick Langford (5) in the first half at Gesa Field in Martin Stadium. James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Jaxson Dart made the USC offensive more powerful by throwing at Drake London. Can Kedon Slovis do the same? True, USC needs to establish secondary receivers, but Slovis needs to be able to hit London for downstream gains instead of just nibbling 10 yards. This is the most precise point here.

HEALTH OF KEDON SLOVIS

Southern California team staff assist quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) after Slovis was shaken up in a game during the first half of an NCAA college football game against the Washington State, Saturday, September 18, 2021, in Pullman, Wash. (AP Photo / Young Kwak)

Is Miller Moss ready to play some meaningful snaps? Probably not. Slovis needs to stay straight in this game, and he needs to show he can bring USC’s offense to life. He failed to do so against San Jose State and Stanford.

CONTAINS LUCK NOLAN

Sep 4, 2021; West Lafayette, Indiana, United States; Oregon State Beavers quarterback Chance Nolan (10) hands it off to Oregon State Beavers running back Trey Lowe (21) during the second half of the game at Ross-Ade Stadium. The Purdue Boilermakers beat the Oregon State Beavers 30-21. Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Oh, yeah, there’s this thing called defense.

Last week, USC focused entirely on offense, given the quarterback controversy and then the revelation that Jaxson Dart had undergone surgery to repair a torn meniscus. USC also has a defense and this unit must be ready to help Kedon Slovis.

Chance Nolan is a promising quarterback prospect at Oregon State. However, this is not a fully perfected product, so Trojans need to make an early declaration and keep it from picking up speed. Keeping him in his pocket and forcing him to beat USC corners on the court should do the trick.

DONTE WILLIAMS STRIKE OF WINS

Sep 18, 2021; Pullman, Washington, United States; Interim USC Trojans head coach Donte Williams watches the scoreboard during a game against the Washington State Cougars in the first half at Gesa Field in Martin Stadium. James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Donte Williams trusted Jaxson Dart fourth and ninth in Washington state’s 38-yard line last Saturday, passing his first big test as USC head coach. Williams must continue to make game decisions that show confidence in his players. It will serve him well, even if the results are not there. He’ll earn respect in the locker room and become a better target in the next Coaching Carousel.

FREEDOM OF DEFENSE

Sep 18, 2021; Pullman, Washington, United States; Washington State Cougars wide receiver Calvin Jackson Jr. (8) is attacked after a first down by USC Trojans linebacker Drake Jackson (99) in the first half at Gesa Field in Martin Stadium. James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

USC played with aplomb in defense in the second half against Washington State. It must be supported. USC was asleep and foggy for the first 20 to 25 minutes in Pullman. Trojans need to be at their best on this side of the ball to increase their margin for error in attack.

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