This USC team does not, and will not, have a two-quarterback offense, Coach Clay Helton has said on a number of occasions. Except of course when it comes to games, when both quarterbacks Max Browne and Sam Darnold, will absolutely play.
Without doubt. And without exception, as they did again Saturday in USC's 45-7 romp over Utah State to even the Trojans' record at 1-1. Max was 23 of 30 passing for 182 yards with one interception and two TD passes. Sam came in and hit on five of seven passes for 62 yards and two TD as well with no interceptions. Darnold had two carries for four yards, Browne three for a net loss of eight after two sacks.
"It's different but if it helps us win, I'm all for it," Max said of Helton's system that has the redshirt sophomore coming on in the Red Zone and short-yardage situations. USC also unveiled its "bandit package" QB running offense for wide-receiver-turned-QB Jalen Greene late in the game as he carried it twice, once for 20 yards.
On Max's play, Helton said "He missed a couple but on the day, 23 for 30 is pretty efficient. There were a few deep balls we'd like to have back. We have some stuff to clean up but it was an efficient day."
"I just have to throw the ball better," Max said of his interception that was short and into double coverage. "I can make that throw. I just have to fit it in there."
As to Sam, "I try to stay in the game," he says of his time on the sidelines. "I try to learn from any mistakes out there. It's pressure, especially coming in when we're in the Red Zone."
But then there's this, as Sam noted of his 15-yard TD pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster in the fourth quarter to make it 38-7. "That was a great play call," he said of the quick slant. "I knew in pre-snap JuJu was going to be able to get behind the linebacker."
By the numbers
*** 62,487: Saturday's announced attendance may have been the smallest for a USC home opener at the Coliseum since the 45,568 who turned out for Pete Carroll's inaugural home game against San Jose State in 2001 but it was enough to exhaust the supply of 50,000 Marcus Allen bobblehead dolls and cause a major jam at the gates the final half-hour before the 11 a.m. kickoff thanks to the new security checks that make the required timing more like catching a flight at LAX -- not John Wayne.
*** 49: The net rushing yards by Utah State, a team that ran for 428 yards a week ago against Weber State, was the fewest USC has allowed since the Washington State game Nov. 1, 2014, when the Cougs gained just 34.
*** 253: Utah State's total net offensive yards were the fewest allowed by USC since the Trojans defense held Oregon State to 181 on Sept. 27, 2014.
*** 30: The number of kicks USC has blocked since 2010 although freshman Michael Pittman's first career punt block in the first quarter was the first for USC since Soma Vainuku blocked one in 2013 against Colorado, one of his three that season.
*** 28-21: The last time USC scored as many as 21 first-half points came last year against Utah in Clay Helton's first game as interim coach in 2015 when the Trojans scored 28 against Utah.
*** 13: With his team-high 13 tackles against Utah State, sophomore Cameron Smith has now led USC in tackles in seven of his 11 starts.
*** 7-82: While Darreus Rogers may have struggled on a couple of catches, he finished with career-high totals of seven catches and 82 yards receiving.
*** 11: Multi-talented USC junior Adoree' Jackson now has 11 career touchdowns after his 77-yard punt return TD and he's scored them every way except for rushing the football: five pass receptions for TDs, three punt return TDs, two kickoff return TDs and one interception return TD.
*** 40-125-1, 0-6: Utah State lost its 125th game Saturday against current Pac-12 members after 40 wins and falls to 0-6 against USC.
*** 9-10-5: USC spread the ball around plenty Saturday with nine different ball-carriers, 10 different pass receivers and five punt, kickoff and interception returners.
They said it
ADOREE' JACKSON: Tweeted "Thankful to have my momma back . . . God is good" after a post-game interview where his mother noted how grateful she was to be able to return to watching Adoree' play after missing last season with breast cancer that she has now conquered and this second tweet from Adoree': "Prayers up to Daniel Gray and Dallin Leavitt on Utah State, hope you guys get back on the field soon."
UTAH STATE COACH MATT WELLS: "We weren't going to kick it to Jackson and obviously you saw what he could do" and "We didn't get a lot of movement on the line of scrimmage. But it's [USC's] a good front and a good defense and they did a good job taking [Devante] Mays away."
CLAY HELTON ON USC'S O-LINE: "I think we have some cleanup to do."
HELTON ON USC'S MENTALITY COMING IN: "It was a team that wanted to perform and get back out there. It was a mad football team, an emotional football team. It felt like the week creeped along -- to be out there and play was special. We needed it as a football team to get that bad taste out of our mouth."
USC'S MICHAEL PITTMAN ON HIS PUNT BLOCK: "I knew I had it when they split out wide" before the snap.
UTAH STATE TIGHT END WYATT HOUSTON: "I think we came out kind of slow. USC defense played really well. We need to start faster."
For USC, D-linemen Noah Jefferson (sore AC joint) and Khaliel Rodgers (hamstring) sat out the game and did not dress. Their status for Stanford is unknown . . . two players, according to Clay, were "dinged up" in the Utah State game -- a shot to the head for S Marvell Tell, who said he was fine after the game and looked fine but had no helmet after the trainers hid it, and a shot to the ribs for TB Ronald Jones after five carries . . . Clay said of Marvell, "he was a little dizzy" and of Ronald, "I don't think it's serious." . . . For Utah State DB Daniel Gray, who was stretchered off the field after a headfirst hit on a tackle, USU coach Wells "the X-rays came back negative and he was in the locker and seemed to be OK."
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