USC coach Clay Helton had his reasons for extending the Trojans’ quarterback competition into the first game week, potentially taking away valuable reps for JT Daniels running the first-team offense.
When Daniels took a big hit on USC’s first offensive series, bruising his hand, Helton received his validation. He wanted to be confident that Matt Fink or Jack Sears would be game-ready if called upon, and, with Daniels being checked out by doctors and training staff in the injury tent, Helton looked Fink’s way.
Fink wasn’t asked to do much during his lone series, as the ground game pounded away at Stanford’s defense. He kept the ball once on a read-option play for five yards to move the chains and completed one pass for three yards.
On third and 10 at the Stanford 35-yard line early in the second quarter, Fink was pressured from behind and held onto the ball too long. He was hit while throwing, and his pass fell incomplete.
Then, USC’s best scoring chance of the first half ended without points when Chase McGrath missed a 52-yard field goal.
Daniels came back into the game for USC’s next drive after throwing on the sideline and feeling he was good to go.
Safety depth tested
USC was already down to its third-string strong safety at the beginning of camp, redshirt freshman Isaiah Pola-Mao, entering Saturday’s game. Personnel issues with Bubba Bolden (undisclosed) and Ykili Ross (who left the team to focus on graduating so he could come a graduate transfer) put the Trojans in that position.
In the first quarter Saturday, Pola-Mao left the game with a shoulder dislocation, Helton said.
CJ Pollard and Talanoa Hufanga, a true freshman, alternated in Pola-Mao’s place.