LOS ANGELES (AP) — The last time Southern California played at home, there were so few fans left at the end of a 42-28 loss to Stanford that individual critiques could be heard as Clay Helton headed up the tunnel for what would be the last time as head coach.
Whether the stands are full to embrace the Trojans under interim coach Donte Williams in his first game at the Coliseum against Oregon State on Saturday is one of the questions lingering for a program that seems to attract drama.
“I hope everybody’s in there, is happy to cheer on the Trojans, and we play the way that everybody is accustomed to us playing,” Williams said.
A 45-14 win at Washington State in Williams’ first game in charge of USC (2-1, 1-1 Pac-12) seemed capable of generating the enthusiasm that had been lacking for nearly all of Helton’s tenure.
However, freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart, who ignited the Trojans by coming off the bench to throw for 391 yards and four touchdowns, isn’t expected to play against the Beavers (2-1). Dart hasn’t practiced this week after injuring his right knee in his collegiate debut, and Williams has not provided any details about the nature of Dart’s injury.
That means junior Kedon Slovis should remain the starter. Although Slovis was the target of some booing along with the rest of the offense for poor play against the Cardinal, running back Keaontay Ingram believes the new energy Williams has brought should lead to a more positive atmosphere.
“Even though Coach Helton got fired, we still got to keep pushing, keep moving forward,” Ingram said. “And Coach Donte coming in with new rules, new traditions, new circumstances and stuff, and everybody on the team is buying into that, so I feel like it’s gonna be one fun weekend this weekend.”
As for the Beavers (2-1), they remain something of an unknown as they start Pac-12 play despite delivering emphatic wins by a combined margin of 87-27 in their past two games. Coach Jonathan Smith recognizes even with their uncertainty at quarterback, the Trojans represent a significant test.
“I think everybody in this league can beat everybody, and you’ve got to play well on Saturday to win and we’re gonna have to play really well to beat these guys,” Smith said.
MIGHT BE DUE
Oregon State has won just three of 48 games (3-42-3) against USC in Los Angeles, the last coming in 1960. Smith said the Beavers’ lack of success in the series is not a talking point for the current team. “In the locker room, the team meetings, it’s so much about what we’re headed towards,” he said. “The previous years don’t matter. It’s going to come down to who plays the best for 60 minutes this Saturday.”
The Trojans should have junior WR Drake London, their top offensive weapon, available after he suffered an apparent head injury against the Cougars. London, who ranks second in the FBS with 29 receptions and fourth with 375 yards receiving, returned to practice Wednesday after being limited to conditioning drills earlier in the week.
BACK ON TRACK?
After seeing progress from its running game to start this season, USC took a step backward as it managed 48 yards rushing against Washington State. Dart was the team’s leading ball-carrier with 32 yards on six attempts, while Ingram and Vavae Malepeai combined for 25 yards on 16 rushes.
The Beavers did not allow a play of 20 yards or longer in a 42-0 win over Idaho last week, something they had not done since a 38-3 win against Arizona on Oct. 13, 2001. It also marked the first time Oregon State did not give up a pass play covering at least 20 yards since denying Stanford in a 26-15 loss on Nov. 5, 2016.
AP Sports Writer Anne Peterson contributed to this report.
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