Donte Williams will coach first home game as interim

Interim head coach Donte Williams hold a football with both hands in front of a grey background.
The Trojans will take on Oregon State this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. (Photo courtesy of USC Athletics)

USC interim head coach Donte Williams grew up just 2.5 miles away from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. On Saturday night, the native Californian will lead his squad out of the tunnel in his first home game as interim when USC faces Oregon State. 

The Trojans and Beavers are both 2-1, coming off blowout victories last week. 

Oregon State comfortably defeated Idaho 42-0 last week in the Beavers’ first shutout since 2008. Their defense headlined the win as it held the Idaho offense to just 192 yards. 

USC comes off a win where it scored 45 straight points in its 45-14 victory over Washington State. Freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart’s 391 passing yards smashed the USC record for most passing yards in a debut. Sophomore wide receiver Gary Bryant Jr. came alive with his first two career touchdowns. 

The big question for the Trojans this week had been who will start at quarterback. However, it was reported by that Dart underwent surgery for a torn meniscus and is out for an extended period of time.

The Trojans avoided talking about Dart’s status. Williams, when asked about Dart at practice Tuesday, said he’s only worried about who’s on the practice field for the week. 

“He wasn’t here today,” Williams said. “Today was pretty much about Kedon and [third-string freshman quarterback] Miller [Moss], and I am happy to talk about those two.”

The Beavers are also dealing with quarterback problems of their own. 

Oregon State began the year with Colorado transfer graduate student Sam Noyer as its starting quarterback. He was pulled in the middle of Oregon State’s first game after struggling against Purdue. Redshirt sophomore Chance Nolan, the expected third string quarterback coming into fall camp, was thrust into action. 

Nolan threw for three touchdowns and was 14 of 19 through the air in the win against Idaho. The former junior college standout and Southern California native seems to have grabbed hold of the starting spot. 

Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando spoke highly of Nolan’s toughness at his practice press conference this week. 

“He’s a tough kid,” Orlando said. “Those are the guys that are dangerous. The guys that have the arm, that can run, but also have the mentality too. He’s a really, really good player.”

While the Beavers have played three games this season, the jury is still out on what kind of team they will be this year. Oregon State was picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12 north just ahead of Washington State but has started the season 2-1. 

The Beavers lead the Pac-12 in all-purpose yards per game with over 450. Their defense tops the Pac-12 in interceptions with five, and their nine tackles for loss are second in the Pac-12. With their two wins coming against teams who are both 1-2 through the young season, Saturday night’s Pac-12 opener will be a real benchmark for Oregon State. 

For USC, the quarterback intrigue will be the headline, but it’s the supporting cast that could play a huge role. 

Bryant Jr. already matched his reception total from last season. On the defensive side, freshman Calen Bullock worked himself into the first team and led the team in tackles for the second time in three games a week ago. 

USC is back at home, and for the first time in five years, Helton won’t be leading the charge. Williams called on USC fans to pack the Coliseum for his homecoming debut.  

“I hope it’s crazy,” Williams said. “I hope it’s a sellout. I hope everyone that’s in there is happy to cheer on the Trojans and we play the way everyone is accustomed to us playing.”