USC hosts No. 13 BYU in final home game of season

Freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart takes out his mouth guard after a play.
Freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart started his first game Saturday versus UCLA, throwing for 325 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. (Amanda Chou | Daily Trojan)

Off the back of a home loss to UCLA, USC (4-6) will return to Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the last time this season to face No. 13 BYU (9-2). 

The Trojans are 2-1 against the Cougars, with the most recent game being a 2019 overtime 30-27 win for BYU in Provo, Utah. 

The last two games of the season dictate USC’s fate in terms of bowl eligibility, as the team needs a total of 6 wins to qualify for a bowl game. The Trojans have lost two straight games, the second being Saturday’s 62-33 loss to the Bruins.

“In every aspect you can imagine, I feel like we should get better,” interim Head Coach Donte Williams said in a press conference Sunday. “Whether that’s coaching, whether that’s playing … there’s something that we could’ve done better.”

USC is 2-4 at home this season with just one win in five Pac-12 home games. The Trojans haven’t lived up to expectations at the Coliseum, unable to capitalize on home-field advantage. 

“I don’t know another way to put it, but [it’s] disgusting,” Williams said in reference to USC’s home record. “That’s just something that we have to correct. It’s something different every time … and it almost seems like [the opponent is] in our huddle, calling our plays.”

Defensive woes have marred the Trojans at home this season. USC has allowed a staggering 45 points per game in home games against Pac-12 opponents. 

Away teams have made a habit out of breaking records at the Coliseum this season. Oregon State picked up a victory on the road against USC for the first time since 1960, Utah won in the Coliseum for the first time in 105 years and UCLA scored its most points ever against the Trojans. It’s become routine for opposing teams to have their best offensive performances when facing USC, a trend that indicates an inability to adapt defensively.  

Defensive Coordinator Todd Orlando declined to be interviewed after the game Saturday, telling media that he would speak with them Wednesday. 

As the season draws on, injuries have taken a toll on the squad. Junior wide receiver Drake London’s season is over, and other key contributors such as junior outside linebacker Drake Jackson and redshirt senior defensive lineman Nick Figueroa have played with injuries in recent weeks. Junior quarterback Kedon Slovis also missed the UCLA game with a lower leg injury, and his future remains uncertain. 

“[There are] a lot of guys that are playing a lot of football for us that we didn’t expect to have to play a lot of football for us this year,” Williams said. “We have a ton of injuries on this team, [but] that’s by far no excuse at all. All of these guys are on scholarship and gotta continue to get better, just like we gotta do a better job of coaching.” 

BYU’s season has gone according to plan, despite losing its quarterback Zach Wilson to the NFL draft last offseason. In Wilson’s place, sophomore quarterback Jaren Hall has seen the most playing time. In 9 games this season, he’s thrown for 256 yards per game with 18 touchdowns and 3 interceptions on the season. 

The BYU offensive scheme’s main threat is the run game. Sophomore running back Tyler Allgeier is ranked No. 5 in the nation in rushing yards with 1,298. He has 18 rushing touchdowns on the season, tied for second-most in FBS.  

The Trojans have struggled against strong running teams this season, giving up just over 172 rushing yards per game, making them the No. 96 ranked run defense in FBS. 

BYU is known for jumping on its opponents early in the games this season, outscoring opponents 107-33 in the first quarter. 

USC will take on BYU at 7:30 p.m. Saturday Nov. 27 at the Coliseum.