‘I can no longer fight on’: Keyshawn Johnson joins USC fans blasting Clay Helton

USC coach Clay Helton watches the Trojans warm up
USC coach Clay Helton watches the Trojans warm up before a loss to Stanford at the Coliseum on Saturday night.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

USC coach Clay Helton has lost one of his early ardent supporters.

Former Trojans All-American receiver Keyshawn Johnson, who once lobbied for Helton to be promoted from interim to full-time head coach, vented his frustration following then-No. 14 USC’s ugly 42-28 loss to Stanford.

Johnson posted, “I’m so pissed , I can no longer FIGHT ON for Him ….. Period embarrassing.”

He echoed the sentiment of fans who booed USC throughout the Stanford loss, including during Helton’s halftime sideline interview, and started streaming for the exits of the Coliseum before the fourth quarter began, by which time the Cardinal had taken a 35-13 lead.


Fellow former USC star Matt Leinart compared USC with No. 12 Oregon, which pulled off a signature 35-28 win at No. 3 Ohio State on Saturday.

“This is just bad,” Leinart wrote. “I saw [Oregon] today up close and personal and they would drop the hammer on SC. Two programs going in different directions.”

USC athletic director Mike Bohn and President Carol Folt have to accept Clay Helton has proved he cannot win when it counts and need to change coaches.

Sept. 12, 2021

He later praised Stanford after the Cardinal “took it to USC in their own building.”

Former USC captain and radio host Petros Papadakis is a longtime Helton critic who highlighted the lopsided loss and continued his push for a coaching change via his Twitter account.

Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd, who also has been a longtime Helton critic, took issue with the team’s slow start during a 30-7 home win over San Jose State in the season opener.


“Clay Helton is in his 6th year at USC. They are struggling at home against … San Jose State,” Cowherd tweeted. “Offense is a mess. That’s his side of the ball. [Offensive line] remains weakest unit — six years running. Rinse and repeat.”

Cowherd added Saturday after Stanford ran over USC, “sometimes a really ugly home loss is just what a program needs.”

In case the crowd reaction at the Coliseum left any doubt, fans joined USC’s Twitter livestream of Helton’s postgame news conference and vented their frustration. The negative comments spiked after Helton responded to a question about fan discontent by saying: “It’s early in the season. ... Our fans love this university, and they love these players. We’ll do our job. We’ll come back out and we’ll continue to get wins and add them up, and we’ll see where we are at the end of the season.”