USC placekicker Chase McGrath got excited when his high school teammates at Santa Ana Mater Dei, JT Daniels and Amon-ra St. Brown, committed to the Trojans last year.
Knowing they were going to be playing for USC on Saturday made him adjust his expectations for how much work he would have to do in the opener against Nevada Las Vegas.
“My senior year, I had like five attempts the whole year,” McGrath said. “So I was expecting to get, like, no attempts.”
As it turned out, the Daniels-led offense needed plenty of help from McGrath. The sophomore went five of five on field goal attempts, making kicks from 46, 38, 29, 47 and 36 yards on the way to tying USC’s school record for field goals in a game.
“If they need to call on me, I’m there for them,” McGrath said. “It was a little different.”
USC coach Clay Helton would prefer that it was more like McGrath’s Mater Dei days. Helton was asked if McGrath making five field goals was good news or bad news.
“That’s the bad news,” Helton said. “That’s called not putting the ball in the end zone. Early in the season I felt like we had to play great defense and great special teams while our offense grew up. I thought the kicker did a wonderful job. That’s 15 points. But as we know, we’ll look at this as five opportunities not to get a touchdown. That’s a negative in my mind.”
Last season was McGrath’s first as the starter. He didn’t attempt a field goal until the third game when he sent it to overtime and made the game-winning kick against Texas.
He finished the season 12 of 17 and is off to a better start this season.
McGrath was asked who between him, Daniels and St. Brown should get the theoretical USC Mater Dei player of the week award. Daniels was 22 of 35 for 282 yards and a touchdown to St. Brown, who caught seven passes for 98 yards.
“I’ll split it three ways,” McGrath said.
Lobendahn sits, Neilon starts
USC senior center and captain Toa Lobendahn sat out the Trojans’ win over UNLV with a pectoral strain that kept him out of practice last week.
In his place, redshirt freshman Brett Neilon got the start.
“I just prepared like a starter and I was ready to go in,” Neilon said. “I felt some nerves the first couple series. I haven’t played since senior year of high school. It was just getting that rust off.”
Fink has role
In the second quarter, USC had second and goal from the eight-yard line and was looking for its first touchdown. Helton put backup quarterback Matt Fink into the game for a designed running play that lost three yards. The Trojans had to settle for a field goal.
Helton said Fink would continue to have his number called throughout the season.
“We are going to use Matt and have a designed package for him every single week,” Helton said. “The ability to use his athleticism is something that we put in.”