While USC Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold's statistics are impressive (25 of 36 for 262 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions) they don't tell the entire story. The redshirt freshman has helped to bring this Trojan team back to life and in the hunt for a Rose Bowl berth.
His position coach Tyson Helton talked about what was working and what wasn't for Darnold and the Trojan offense in the win over UCLA.
"I thought he did a good job, made a lot of big plays and I'm really, really happy about that," Helton said. "We had two interceptions that obviously weren't good. I think at times he tries to make big plays and tries to press a little bit. But anytime you come away and throw and run for that many yards, control the ball and have that many snaps, it's a pretty good night."
One of his better plays came in the second quarter, a 31 yard touchdown pass to senior De'Quan Hampton.
“‘Quan is the third progression, he’s the third read," Helton explained. "So it took him a minute to get back there but he found him. And then he made a great play, just put the ball in a good spot and Quan went up and got it. It was a great play.”
In the second quarter Darnold threw a couple of picks, but according to Helton only one of them was his fault.
"The first interception I am going to take total blame for, it was my fault," he said. "It was a quick game route and we teach Sam that we are going to take two steps and pull the trigger. It was a cover two look and De'Quan actually ran a pretty good route, the corner just had a pretty good jump on the ball and I needed to call a better play. I put Sam in a bad situation. That's on me."
The second? Well that was Darnold trying to do a little too much on third down and 36.
"It was all Sam," Helton said. "He was just trying to make a play, over analyzed things, he thought the guy was going to go deep and he cut it off. But really, the ball shouldn't have been thrown at all."
Maybe the most impressive attribute of Darnold is his ability to extend plays and convert on third downs, even in third and long situations. Helton was asked if he had been around anyone like that before.
"I have seen guys like that, "Helton said. "Those are the guys you want to have. The guy that I coached last year at Western [Kentucky] did a great job, Brandon Doughty. I had another quarterback Joe Webb who is a backup with the Carolina Panthers, he did a great job with that. I'll say this, Sam's as good as I've been around about creating plays and making them last. Of all the guys I've been around, he's been the best."
One such play Darnold was rolling off to his left and threw back across the field to Deontay Burnett for the first down.
"That's what he does a great job of," Helton said. "We try to move him out of the pocket some because he does a great job of having vision down field and creating plays. So any time we can move him, we do that. In that situation on third down, he had been in the pocket a little bit, they were starting to pin their ears back and get a good pass rush, so we felt like we needed to move him and it worked out well."
After coming in from Western Kentucky in the offseason, this was Helton's first experience in the USC vs. UCLA rivalry.
"It was a great experience," he said. "I loved it, great atmosphere. I thought the guys did extremely well and I'm looking forward to a lot more."
Stay tuned to USCFootball.com for more updates from the Trojan players and coaches following the huge win over UCLA.
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