Darnold loaded up and threw to a spot nearly 15 yards in front of Rogers that was devoid of Huskies. Rogers came across and made a small hop, snatching the ball from the air in front of his face. He looked down as he tapped both of his feet in the purple-painted end zone for a 13-yard touchdown to give USC a lead that it would not relinquish Saturday night at Husky Stadium.
“I had a post route, but it wasn't there,” Rogers said. “I just kept working the back of the end zone. He just found me right then and there. He believed in me. We connected on a good play.”
Though he didn’t need it on Rogers’ touchdown, Darnold’s ability to extend plays with his legs and his elusiveness in the pocket has made the Trojans’ wide receivers that much more dangerous. They know that if they keep working to get open, Darnold will often find them.
“It makes it harder for the defenders to stick us for that long,” Rogers said. “Once he's rolling out, the play is never over. The kid makes incredible plays. We just try to create a little bit of space where he can throw it to us and he finds us.”
For Rogers, the catch and the Trojans’ 26-13 win over the Huskies was a bit of redemption. Rogers was injured and did not play last season when Washington beat USC in the Coliseum, so this was his only chance to play the Huskies in his career.
“This is big for me,” Rogers said ranking it behind only USC’s 2013 win over No. 4 Stanford. “To get this victory was big for me and my teammates.”
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior finished as the Trojans’ leading receiver with six catches and 84 yards. He didn’t have to do much on his touchdown grab as Darnold hit him with a perfect pass. But later in the game, Rogers used his size and strength to save Darnold from a potential interception and help the Trojans flip the field with a big third down conversion inside their own 15-yard line.
Cornerback Kevin King came up to play press coverage and got his hands all over Rogers. King latched on to Rogers jersey and wouldn’t let go as Rogers ran six yards down the field and then turned back to catch a pass on a hitch route.
“All week we've been working on man-to-man drills trying to get open. Third down, my down. Try to extend the drives and when third down comes, I'm expecting the ball.”
King was directly in the path of the ball, so Rogers broke free from his clutch and tossed him arm aside as he tracked back to the ball, contorting his body to make a catch in front of King. He then took off sprinting away from the spot of the robbery and was eventually dragged down after a 27-yard gain.
Pass interference was called on King, but the penalty was declined because of Rogers’ spectacular grab.
“Tough catches, that's my type of game. Big man, physical game. I can go catch the ball with somebody on your back,” Rogers said. “Coach Tee [Martin] told us before the game that those are the type of catches that we were going to have to make. That's what we did and came out with the victory.”
“We were waiting for the opportunity to show that we can play in these big type of games and make the big upsets. [We] just had a lot of fun. Coach [Clay] Helton told us to come out there and have fun. That's what we did.”
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Publisher Ryan Abraham contributed to this story.
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