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USC makes QB change: Sam Darnold to start against Utah

USC will start Sam Darnold at quarterback against Utah.

Change is in the air...and under center for USC.

Head coach Clay Helton announced after Monday evening's practice that redshirt freshman Sam Darnold will start against Utah Friday night when the Trojans travel to Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.

"I had an opportunity to evaluate the first three games and made the decision for our football team to make a change at quarterback," Helton said. "I truly appreciate how honorably Max has played and he's competed. He's done it with extreme honor and extreme class.

"He is not the reason we are 1-2. He is not the scapegoat here."

"The way he competed and performed was more than honorable. But the realism of football is that when you're 1-2 and you've scored one touchdown against Alabama and Stanford, I want to see a spark in our offense and I hope that Sam can bring that."

The 6-foot-4 San Clemente (Calif.) product takes over for redshirt junior Max Browne, who won the starting job in fall camp. Through three games, Darnold had produced better passing efficiency numbers with a 136.5 rating to Browne's 112.0. Browne was 55-for-87 (63.2%), passing for 474 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Darnold was 14-for-22 with two touchdowns and out interception. He has thrown for 136 yards being used in red zone packages and getting an opportunity to lead the offense in the fourth quarter of each of the first three games. After Helton's announcement to the media, Darnold said he wasn't expecting a change.

"I had no sense of what was coming. I had no idea," he said. "I just knew I was going to be ready when my number was called."

"I'm stoked about it. I'm stoked to get that opportunity."

Browne was expected to be handed the job after Cody Kessler's graduation, but Darnold forced a quarterback competition with his play in the spring. He performed well enough that Helton chose to continue the competition through the fall where Browne won out.

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