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The Sports Report: USC wins season opener, but JT Daniels is injured

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USC safety Richard Hagestad reaches out to console JT Daniels as he is helped off the field.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

USC FOOTBALL

Even as USC held on for an 31-23 victory over Fresno State on Saturday, the dread of the moment near the end of the first half, when quarterback JT Daniels suffered a knee injury, lingered.

The 19-year-old former Mater Dei star had started strong in USC’s new offense, completing 15 of his first 17 passes. Before he fell writhing to the turf, he had 215 yards and a touchdown in less than a half.

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Without Daniels, the Trojans were forced to rely mostly on their run game. For one night, that would be enough. The returning rusher from last season’s 5-7 squad, Vavae Malepeai ran for 135 yards and a touchdown, while all-purpose back Stephen Carr added 99 total yards and two touchdowns.

SATURDAY’S TOP 25 SCORES

No. 2 Alabama 42, Duke 3

No. 3 Georgia 30, Vanderbilt 6

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No. 5 Ohio State 45, Florida Atlanta 21

No. 6 LSU 55, Georgia Southern 3

No. 7 Michigan 40, Middle Tennessee 21

No. 10 Texas 45, Louisiana Tech 14

No. 16 Auburn 27, No. 11 Oregon 21 (read game story here)

No. 13 Washington 47, Eastern Washington 14

No. 15 Penn State 79, Idaho 7

No. 20 Iowa 38, Miami of Ohio 14

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No. 21 Iowa State 29, Northern Iowa 26 (3 OT)

No. 22 Syracuse 24, Liberty 0

No. 23 Washington State 58, New Mexico State 7

No. 24 Nebraska, 35, South Alabama 21

No. 25 Stanford 17, Northwestern 7

Read all about them by clicking here

SATURDAY’S PAC-12 SCORES

USC 31, Fresno State 23

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No. 16 Auburn 27, No. 11 Oregon 21

No. 13 Washington 47, Eastern Washington 14

No. 23 Washington State 58, New Mexico State 7

No. 25 Stanford 17, Northwestern 7

California 27, UC Davis 13

Read all about them by clicking here.

ANGELS

Bill Shaikin takes a closer look at the Tyler Skaggs situation. Read it here.

How did Tyler Skaggs come to die with two opioids in his bloodstream, plus enough alcohol that he would have been considered legally impaired?

Investigations into that question could determine whether the Angels and the family of one of their most popular players face off in legal proceedings that could take years and be worth tens of millions of dollars — or more.

The Skaggs family and the Angels each have retained attorneys based in Texas, where Skaggs died July 1 on the first day of a team trip to play the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros. The prospects of a wrongful-death lawsuit appear significant, given that the family‘s assertion in a statement Friday that they had learned the “circumstances surrounding Tyler’s death … may involve an employee of the Los Angeles Angels.”

That statement prompted Major League Baseball to launch an investigation. Police in Southlake, Texas — where the Angels were staying that night — have been investigating since Skaggs’ death. The attorney hired by the Skaggs family, Rusty Hardin, intends to pursue his own probe.

“We’re going to want to know how it came about that those drugs were ingested,” Hardin told The Times, “and whether or not others are responsible for what happened.”

The prospects of success for any wrongful death suit could depend on whether attorneys can identify a party besides Skaggs that might be at least partially responsible for his death, said Julie Cantor, who teaches law at UCLA.

“You need to have a wrongful act,” said Cantor, speaking generally because she has not reviewed any records in the Skaggs case.

Investigators likely would focus first on how Skaggs obtained the drugs. Under federal law, the opioids found in his system — fentanyl and oxycodone — are illegal to possess without a legitimate medical prescription.

The league could have records showing that Skaggs had a medical exemption to use the drugs, or that he had tested positive for them and had been referred to a counseling program. Major league players are not tested for so-called drugs of abuse without probable cause or participation in a treatment program.

Positive tests for drugs of abuse are not made public under the major league testing program, and neither are individual exemptions.

Skaggs’ family could waive confidentiality to obtain those records so investigators could discover whether an exemption or a positive test had existed, said Wylie Aitken, a prominent Orange County attorney who has tried wrongful death cases.

Aitken said investigators also would consider whether Skaggs obtained the drugs from a legitimate prescriber, then continue up the supply chain to the pharmacist and manufacturer.

Aitken said the Angels could be liable if a team employee furnished the drugs to Skaggs, even without the knowledge of the team.

“Even though it’s a third party, somewhat rogue act, you could be held accountable for not monitoring your own employees,” Aitken said.

In the event of a lawsuit, and depending on the results of the investigations, Cantor said an employer could argue that it should not be held responsible for an employee’s addiction or recreational drug use.

That kind of behavior could reduce a damage award to the Skaggs family, Aitken said, but it would not necessarily absolve other parties of liability, depending on “who put all these lethal weapons in his hand in the first place.”

If the Skaggs family can show his death was wrongful, the damages could approach nine figures, and possibly go higher, experts say, including salaries he might have earned.

DODGERS

Clayton Kershaw allowed five runs on five hits, including two home runs, across five innings as the Dodgers lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks, 6-5.

TENNIS

Helene Elliott on an amazing scene at the U.S. Open:

Naomi Osaka had earned the right to stand alone in triumph, to celebrate advancing to the fourth round of the U.S. Open after she’d given teen sensation Coco Gauff a powerful example of clutch play and what it takes to be a champion, but she wouldn’t have felt right soaking up the applause when she knew Gauff would be in the locker room sobbing.

They had embraced at the net after Osaka’s masterful 6-3, 6-0 decision, and it was a delightfully heartfelt scene. If they had left it at that, if Gauff had packed up and exited the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium and Osaka had conducted the usual how-did-you-feel TV interviews by herself, it would have been enough to confirm Osaka’s keen empathy and 15-year-old Gauff’s respect for her elders and to declare the future of tennis to be uncommonly bright because it’s on the rackets of these incandescent young talents.

But it wasn’t enough for Osaka. Obeying her instincts and her heart, Osaka approached Gauff with an unusual request.

Stay out here and share the interview with me, Osaka begged. Fans who rooted for you deserve to hear what you’re feeling. They won’t know unless you tell them now. “I wanted her to have her head high, not walk off the court sad,” Osaka said. Gauff, holding back tears but determined not to cry in public, said no. She said it more than once. As she later explained, she didn’t want anyone to think she was stealing Osaka’s glory. Faced with those arguments, Osaka resorted to her most persuasive reasoning.

“She told me it’s better than crying in the shower,” Gauff said with a small smile. “After the match, I think she just proved that she’s a true athlete. For me, the definition of an athlete is someone who on the court treats you like your worst enemy, but off the court can be your best friend. I think that’s what she did tonight.”

RAMS

The Rams finalized their roster Saturday afternoon by cutting 17 players, including several from their last two draft classes.

Defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers, who sacked New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, running back John Kelly and linebacker Trevon Young were 2018 draftees who were waived. Linebacker Dakota Allen, a seventh-round pick in April’s draft, also was cut.

Those cut were: linebacker Dakota Allen, receiver Alex Bachman, tackle Chandler Brewer, linebacker Josh Carraway, defensive tackle Marquise Copeland, running back Justin Davis, defensive back Donte Deayon, defensive end Landis Durham, defensive end John Franklin-Myers, defensive back Dominique Hatfield, receiver Khadarel Hodge, running back John Kelly, guard Jeremiah Kolone, defensive back Steven Parker, defensive back Kevin Peterson, quarterback John Wolford and linebacker Trevon Young.

Rams roster by position:

Quarterbacks (2): Jared Goff, Blake Bortles

Running backs (3): Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson

Receivers (7): Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, Mike Thomas, Nsimba Webster, JoJo Natson

Tight ends (3): Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt

Offensive linemen (8): Andrew Whitworth, Joe Noteboom, Brian Allen, Austin Blythe, Rob Havenstein, David Edwards, Bobby Evans, Jamil Demby

Defensive linemen (6): Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Morgan Fox, Tanzel Smart, Greg Gaines

Linebackers (10): Cory Littleton, Bryce Hager, Clay Matthews, Dante Fowler, Samson Ebukam, Troy Reeder, Travin Howard, Natrez Patrick, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Justin Lawler

Cornerbacks (6) : Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Troy Hill, David Long, Darious Williams

Safeties (5): Eric Weddle, John Johnson, Taylor Rapp, Marqui Christian, Nick Scott

Specialists (3): Greg Zuerlein, Johnny Hekker, Jake McQuaide

Reserve/injured: LB Micah Kiser

Suspended: OL Aaron Neary

CHARGERS

The Chargers will open the season without Russell Okung and with Melvin Gordon possibly on another team.

The club has given Gordon’s representatives permission to seek a trade as his holdout stretches into its sixth week.

Okung will miss at least the first six weeks of the regular season after the Chargers left him on the non-football illness list Saturday while trimming their roster to the league-mandated 53 players.

See the Chargers’ list of cuts by clicking here; view their 53-man roster by clicking here.

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Dodgers at Arizona, 1 p.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570

Boston at Angels, 1 p.m., FSW, AM 830

Galaxy at Seattle, 3:30 p.m., FS1

Minnesota at LAFC, 7:30 p.m., YouTube TV, 710 ESPN

BORN ON THIS DATE

1866: Boxer James J. Corbett (d. 1933)

1904: NFL coach Ray Flaherty (d. 1994)

1923: Boxer Rocky Marciano (d. 1969)

1937: Golfer Al Geiberger

1962: Soccer player Ruud Gullit

1966: NBA player Tim Hardaway

1972: Swimmer Josh Davis

1974: NFL player Jason Taylor

1975: NBA player Cuttino Mobley

1981: NFL player Clinton Portis

DIED ON THIS DATE

1989: Baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti, 51

1998: Golfer Cary Middlecoff, 77

2013: Boxer Tommy Morrison, 44

AND FINALLY

Rocky Marciano‘s gazelle punch explained. Watch it here.

That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email me by clicking here. If you want to subscribe, click here.


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