No sophomore slump for USC’s Kedon Slovis, Drake London – Press Enterprise
With the game on the line Saturday against Arizona State, USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell identified that the Sun Devils were playing split safeties wide. He called for the Trojans to change formations to set up one of USC’s favorite plays.
“As soon as we saw the coverage I knew where the ball was gonna go and I had a lot of confidence that we were gonna make it,” Harrell said Tuesday, “because of the two guys that were involved with it were Drake and Kedon.”
Sure enough, quarterback Kedon Slovis fit the ball into a seemingly impossible window and receiver Drake London took advantage of his mismatch against a linebacker and grabbed the decisive touchdown, finishing the play through desperate Arizona State attempts to dislodge the ball.
It was another moment for USC to bask in the growth and development of the second-year quarterback-receiver duo.
Saturday seemed like an off-performance for Slovis through much of the game. Prior to the last four minutes of the fourth quarter, the quarterback had zero touchdown passes and one interception. Then again, that might just show what a lofty standard Slovis has set for himself.
“I was talking to somebody last night, and you go there, and a kid throws 72 percent and throws for 381, and you’re like, ‘How can he get better?’” head coach Clay Helton chuckled. “For most guys, that’s a career day.”
But what stood out most to Helton about Slovis’ day were the throws he didn’t make. The USC coaching staff, when reviewing Saturday’s film, counted 11 throws where Slovis made a checkdown pass rather than forcing the ball to his primary target.
The checkdowns didn’t garner as many yards in the moment, but prevented mistakes that Slovis made early as a freshman last season.
“Where we saw those early turnovers last year, that really hurt us from the quarterback position,” Helton said. “I didn’t see that in that game. Hopefully that’s where he continues to grow.”
“I think that’s an obvious sign of growth,” Harrell added. “We have a great group of receivers, but those running backs are pretty talented, too.”
London, on the other hand, had a giant day. He led the Trojans with eight receptions and 125 yards, including that 26-yard touchdown reception to give the Trojans the unlikely win.
The performance builds on a true freshman year in which London outplayed expectations set for him out of Moorpark High.
“He was confident last year, but if anything he’s even more confident because of the success he had last year, and experience and success produces confidence, which is natural,” Harrell said. “He’s as gifted of a receiver as I’ve ever been around just with a skillset that’s rare in football with his size and ball skills and body control, like I said, that’s rare. You see a lot of basketball guys that do that, but not many of them play the game of football.”
USC center Brett Neilon (sprained ankle) and defensive tackle Brandon Pili (broken finger) are each questionable for Saturday’s game against Arizona, Helton said.