After Iman Marshall forced a Manny Wilkins fumble that was recovered by USC at the Arizona State 36, the Trojans struck again with a trick play.
Jack Sears threw a lateral pass to wide receiver Tyler Vaughns, and Vaughns chucked one deep to Michael Pittman Jr., who was covered closely by Arizona State’s secondary. Vaughns put his faith in Pittman, and Pittman repaid him by coming back for the ball and making the catch for a 36-yard touchdown.
USC has now scored 21 straight points and leads 28-24.
USC can’t stop shooting itself in the foot. On Jack Sears’ fourth college snap, the Trojans called for an option pitch to Aca’Cedric Ware. Sears’ pitch was too close to Ware and went past him, and Arizona State recovered at the USC 6.
Eno Benjamin punched it in for the Sun Devils from the 3.
It was expected that Cameron Smith would not play for USC Saturday with hamstring and knee injuries. Porter Gustin was already out for the season with a broken ankle.
But Marvell Tell spending pregame warmups on the sidelines in sweats was a surprise. Helton said Sunday that Tell had some “bumps and bruises” after USC’s loss at Utah, and it appears those carried over a full week.
USC will be without all three of its defensive captains. The Trojans will depend on true freshman Talanoa Hufanga and redshirt sophomore CJ Pollard at safety and look to true freshman Chase Williams as a backup.
For the coaches at San Clemente High, it is becoming a harder comparison to make: Sam Darnold to Jack Sears. One is a starter in the NFL, a newly minted $50-million man. The other skateboards back and forth from class to the McKay Center and is preparing to make his first start for the USC Trojans on Saturday against Arizona State at the Coliseum.
But one thing sticks out to Tritons coach Jaime Ortiz and offensive coordinator Troy Kopp when thinking about the two young men who lifted their program to heights previously unseen: They were playmakers first and had to learn to be quarterbacks.
Playmaking ability can be difficult to assess in certain scenarios, like a controlled practice setting where coaches are quick to call a play dead and limit improvisation. Darnold wasn’t fully able to show the USC staff what he could do until he was unleashed in a game. Trojans fans can only hope that too will be the case for Sears, who competed with JT Daniels and Matt Fink throughout fall camp but ultimately finished third on the depth chart.