No. 24 USC takes potent offense on the road to BYU
By JOHN COON
PROVO, Utah (AP) Now it's time to see how the Kedon Slovis show plays on the road.
The freshman made a big splash last week in his first start for USC as he helped lead the No. 24 Trojans past Stanford and back into the rankings heading into their first road game of the season, at BYU on Saturday.
"My guys came out there and did a great job for me, and when the guys do a great job up front, it's not really that difficult," Slovis said. "You're practically playing 7-on-7 out there. But it's good to keep our eyes forward and focus on BYU."
Slovis threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns in the 45-20 victory over the Cardinal. Those numbers were the best ever posted by a freshman Trojan quarterback making his first start.
Five different receivers caught at least five passes against the Cardinal. Tyler Vaughns and Amon-Ra St. Brown had the biggest performances, piling up 203 yards and three touchdowns combined.
Their efforts positioned USC to chase its second 3-0 start in eight seasons.
"(Slovis) didn't have to be Superman," USC coach Clay Helton said. "The skill kids did. Our skill kids, I thought, played really well for him. Our offensive line blocked extremely well for him. The entire team rallied around him."
BYU (1-1) saw some promising signs from its own offense late in the Cougars' 29-26 double-overtime win over Tennessee. It was a step in the right direction after a flat performance against Utah a week earlier.
"In all three phases, there's a lot of things we can adjust and improve on," BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. "We made some improvements from week one to week two, but I'd like to see it continue."
The Cougars have struggled with stopping the run in their first two games, allowing 252 yards per game and 5.2 yards per rush. Their passing defense could get the bigger test this time around. BYU ranks 20th nationally in that category, allowing just 141.0 yards per game.
Keeping USC's version of the Air Raid grounded will be the team's focus Saturday.
"Our mindset needs to be get to the QB as fast as we can," defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga said. "Pressure their freshman quarterback. That has to be a key for our defensive line. We need to crush the pocket."
Here are other things to know when USC visits BYU on Saturday:
Getting protection hasn't come easy for BYU QB Zach Wilson. The sophomore has been sacked five times through two games for a total loss of 21 yards. Wilson suffered four of those sacks against the Volunteers, which led to the Cougars' offense stalling on multiple drives. It is a definite concern for BYU with USC averaging 3.0 sacks per game.
Velus Jones Jr. could be a game-changing threat for USC on special teams. Jones has already tallied 240 yards and a touchdown on eight kickoff returns this season. His 30.0 yards per return average ranks second in the Pac-12. He will go up against a BYU special teams unit that allows just 6.67 yards per return on opponent kickoff returns, which ranks second among FBS teams.
BYU defensive end Devin Kaufusi will sit out the first half after being ejected against Tennessee for targeting. Kaufusi has appeared in BYU's first two games, totaling a single assisted tackle.
USC defensive tackle Jay Tufele will make a return to his home state after committing to the Trojans in 2018. Tufele, who has 10 tackles and a sack in two games, went to Bingham High School in South Jordan, a 30-minute drive from Provo. He was the No. 1 recruit in Utah in the 2018 class.
"I've got a lot of family and friends that are coming out, and I'm just really excited to go back home and put on a show for them," Tufele said.
USC receiver Devon Williams entered the NCAA transfer portal after seeing limited action so far this season. Williams caught one pass for 11 yards against Stanford on Saturday and did not play in the opener against Fresno State. The sophomore appeared in all 12 games for the Trojans last season, totaling 87 yards on four receptions.
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Updated September 13, 2019