In the wake of athletic director Lynn Swann’s sudden resignation, the football team continued business as usual Tuesday in preparation for its matchup against BYU.
Head coach Clay Helton expressed his gratitude for Swann’s dedication to the program, as well as his confidence in President Carol Folt’s administrative decisions moving forward.
“We have utter faith in Dr. Folt, that she’s going to bring a great AD, one that’s great for this university and great for this athletic program,” Helton said after Tuesday’s practice. “Our job is to win...and represent the tradition of excellence that is USC.”
The Trojans excelled last Saturday in their 45-20 rout against No. 23 Stanford. True freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis put up 377 yards for 3 touchdowns, completing 85% of his passes. As the Trojans’ lead grew, so did Slovis’ confidence.
The receiving trio of redshirt junior Tyler Vaughns, sophomore Amon-Ra St. Brown, and senior Michael Pittman, Jr. posted similar numbers with 106, 97 and 82 yards, respectively. The seasoned squad made themselves open for the young quarterback’s tosses.
"[The receivers] gave me a lot of room for error,” said Slovis on Tuesday, crediting his high completion percentage to the flexibility to the wideouts. “They gave me a sense of security and I was able to throw the ball out there and let them make plays.”
Though Slovis is still inexperienced, the team’s decisive victory over Stanford has given the quarterback a new sense of swagger.
“He’s more up-tempo,” Vaughns said of Slovis’ disposition since the Stanford win. “He’s more vocal since he has that [starting] role now. His confidence has always been up.”
As the offense looks toward its matchup against BYU, it recognizes the team as a formidable opponent. BYU pulled off a surprise victory over Tennessee last weekend in double overtime, proving that they should not be underestimated.
“We know what we’re up against,” said St. Brown. “Going up to BYU’s going to be a hostile environment, and we know that. We have to keep our heads locked in, focus every day in practice, and hopefully be ready by game time.”
BYU junior linebackers Kavika Fanua and Isaiah Kaufusi have been the top performers for the Cougars’ defense this season. The secondary is known for its size and speed, which may pose a challenge for the inexperienced Slovis.
Several offensive players, including St. Brown and Vaughns, echoed that BYU’s is not like a typical Pac-12 defense.
Vaughns described how the team’s tendencies, including how they position their corners and unique coverages they run, differentiate them from the teams USC typically plays.
“They have a good defense,” said Vaughns. “So we just have to come in knowing what we have to do, come in and do our assignments.”
Slovis reflected that sentiment, maintaining that USC’s offense will continue without worrying too much about opposing teams’ strategies. Slovis’ passing prowess, paired with the Trojans’ talented receiving personnel, lays the perfect foundation for offensive coordinator Graham Harrell’s air-raid style offense.
Coming off a glorious win against Stanford, the Trojans are keeping their heads down and focusing on continual improvement, which will be the key to success against BYU.
“We’re not here to win one big game,” Helton expressed after practice. “We’re here to have a great season, and it takes one week at a time.”