Kedon Slovis was eager to get back on the football field after USC’s victory over Utah three weekends ago. The Trojans had won, but Slovis wasn’t fully satisfied with his performance.
“Not my worst game in the world, but I felt like we left a lot out on the table as an offense,” the sophomore quarterback said. “So I was really looking forward to that Colorado game.”
The Colorado game, however, was canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak among USC’s offensive line. So Slovis’ return was delayed a week. But in the end, it didn’t matter.
Slovis put together his best performance of the season on Sunday night against Washington State. He completed a season-high 78.1% of his passes for 287 yards and a career-high five touchdowns.
“I think that carried over to this week,” Slovis said after No. 16 USC’s 38-13 win. “With our situation up front, we knew we were going to throw the ball and we knew the looks that we were going to get that we were going to throw the ball as well, so those opportunities kind of presented themselves.”
The performance was a good reminder of what USC’s offense is capable of when its star quarterback is playing up to expectations.
The first three games were still wins for the Trojans (4-0), but they inspired more questions about the health of Slovis than anything else. His throws were at times shaky or appeared to slip out of his hands.
It led some to wonder if the elbow injury Slovis suffered in the 2019 Holiday Bowl had carried over, an idea that Slovis dismissed.
But Sunday’s performance did more to alleviate concerns than any answer at a podium could. After an incompletion on his first attempt, Slovis completed his next 18, seven for first downs and five for touchdowns.
The second score was probably Slovis’ best throw of the game. The Trojans faced third-and-9 from the Washington State 22. USC played four wide, and Slovis examined the field as he stood at the line of scrimmage. By the time he reached the third step of his dropback, Slovis knew exactly where the ball was going.
He stepped into the throw and sailed it toward the end zone. It met receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, running a go route, right on time, and with just enough air under it that only the Trojan wideout had a play on the ball.
Sure enough, St. Brown fell to the red turf with the ball securely in his hands.
“I thought Kedon was extremely accurate in this game,” head coach Clay Helton said.
This is the Slovis that USC will need the next few weeks. On Saturday, the Trojans face rival UCLA, needing a win to book the Pac-12 South’s spot in the conference championship game. Win against the Bruins and the North champion the following week, and USC would earn the Pac-12’s spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game against a top-level nonconference opponent.
“They know,” Helton said of his team’s approach at this point in the season. “You always want to play meaningful games in December and here we are.”
GAOTEOTE ENTERS PORTAL
USC linebacker Palaie Gaoteote IV has entered the transfer portal, per multiple media reports. A former five-star recruit, Gaoteote missed the past two games with a concussion after starting the first two games of the season and recording nine tackles. He had 58 tackles in eight games last season. Gaoteote can still return to USC after exploring the transfer market.