Clay Helton has always believed a quarterback’s true mind-set shows in his eyes. So when Kedon Slovis stared down a top-10 team, a historic road venue and a 14-point halftime deficit at Notre Dame two weeks ago, Helton looked at the quarterback for reassurance.
The USC coach was met with competitive fire from the freshman’s blue eyes.
“I was like, ‘Whoa, this is what you want to see from your quarterback,’ ” Helton said Wednesday, his eyes widening as he smiled. “There’s no fear, no hesitation.”
After Slovis caught fire late against Notre Dame, the Trojans need him to pick up where he left off in South Bend, Ind., when they face Colorado on Friday in Boulder, in search of their first road win of the season.
The first two road losses were marred by turnovers — six interceptions total by two quarterbacks making their first road starts — but Slovis rebounded against Notre Dame. He had just 74 passing yards in the first half, but finished with 255 and two touchdowns without having a pass intercepted.
It was still not enough to prevent USC’s fourth straight road loss in the series.
“You can see we can play well on the road,” Slovis, who completed 24 of 35 passes in the 30-27 loss to the Fighting Irish, said this week. “We just have to put a complete game together.”
Slovis, who became the starter when JT Daniels suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener, has completed 73.6% of his passes this season and
hasn’t had a pass intercepted since he had three at Brigham Young. He missed one game this season, a loss at Washington, because of a concussion.
Slovis gave himself a C grade for his 19-for-28 passing performance last week against Arizona in which he added 232 yards and two touchdowns. The Scottsdale, Ariz., native was disappointed he wasn’t always able to bounce back quickly from mistakes. He lamented that he allowed one miscue to pile up into two or three.
Helton, however, commended his “mature” performance.
“He found a way to win, put 41 points up on the board and not make the critical error and that’s back-to-back games,” Helton said. “Now we’ve got to take that on the road. He did it at Notre Dame. I expect him to do it again.”
Defensive backs Olaijah Griffin (back), Greg Johnson (shoulder) and Isaac Taylor-Stuart (ankle) are all expected to play against Colorado, Helton said Wednesday. Griffin and Johnson missed last week’s game against Arizona, while Taylor-Stuart had three tackles in limited snaps.
Despite the return of three full-time starters, the secondary couldn’t escape this week without a new injury as freshman Chris Steele suffered a minor knee sprain in practice Tuesday. The Bellflower St. John Bosco alumnus did not practice Wednesday. Helton said his availability for Friday will be determined closer to game time.
Defensive lineman Christian Rector (ankle) is “50-50 at best,” Helton said. The senior is a game-time decision, but is “probably looking more towards next week than this week,” Helton said.