Road clash with Washington State is nothing to ignore

first_imgOllie Jung | Daily TrojanI feel like I’ve been writing the same column for the last five weeks. If anyone actually has a bead on this USC team, I’m all ears.It’s crazy: the fifth-ranked Trojans are undefeated through their first four games of the season, meaning their playoff aspirations remain very much alive — and they have beaten so-called “rival” teams in three of those matchups, taking care of business against Stanford, Texas and Cal in consecutive weeks. Yet, it’s hard to shake the feeling that something has been missing so far this fall. USC fans may still be dreaming big for the postseason, but you can bet they’re relieved that the playoffs are months away — if the Trojans even make it there.There is plenty to get excited about when watching this year’s team play. Junior wide receiver Deontay Burnett has established himself as a true top option following the departure of JuJu Smith-Schuster, freshman running back Stephen Carr has brought an unexpected nitro boost to the Trojans’ backfield and sophomore cornerback Jack Jones has three interceptions in his last two games.And how about defensive end Christian Rector? After totaling four tackles across 12 games last season, the redshirt sophomore has gone off for two forced fumbles, one recovery, 3.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for a loss so far this season. Thanks to numerous emerging threats, the Trojan defense has become a force to be reckoned with, and explosive plays have become a possibility on any snap on offense.Then again, so have turnovers. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold has thrown seven interceptions this year, and though some have not been his fault, the total is third highest in the FBS. Add in a lost fumble from Carr last week, and USC is tied for 97th nationally in ball security with eight total giveaways.Thanks to their ball-hawking defense, the Trojans still own a positive turnover margin (+3), and they rank top 20 in the FBS in both first downs and third-down conversion percentage, meaning they do move the ball on offense. Nevertheless, they also entered the fourth quarter tied against Western Michigan and Cal, and they needed overtime to beat Texas. It seems like the team isn’t struggling offensively as much as it is struggling to make timely plays, especially early in the game. USC was able to scrape by in its opening four games, but continuing the trend will likely prove costly tonight.Matt Karatsu | Daily TrojanFor better or for worse, undefeated No. 16 Washington State will be the litmus test for this Trojans squad. The short week is a real concern for a banged-up roster, and it means the defense might not be fresh enough to bail USC out with turnovers, especially facing the Cougars’ superstar quarterback Luke Falk. Falk is the best signal-caller the Trojans have faced all season by a significant margin, spearheading a Washington State passing attack that ranks fifth in the country.The onus, then, will be on Darnold to prove that he is indeed the best quarterback in the nation. He may have to prevail in an old-fashioned shootout; fortunately, it’s exactly the type of game the gunslinger loves to play. Outperforming Falk and overpowering the Cougars’ defense would undoubtedly be a massive boost to Trojan fans and Darnold alike, and a win tonight may even begin carving an unlikely path back into the Heisman Trophy race.But as has been the case all year, it’s almost impossible to predict how things will play out in Pullman. I can imagine almost anything: an impressive road victory a la the Trojans’ trip to Washington last season, to a shocking blowout loss in a packed, raucous and cold Martin Stadium. Win, and USC continues to survive and advance — optics be damned. Given how unimpressed AP Poll voters have seemed by the Trojans so far this fall, however (USC has dropped one spot from its preseason No. 4 ranking despite remaining perfect), a loss could be disastrous, especially against the team’s highest-ranked opponent of the year.So — and I’ve definitely said this before — this week marks a turning point for head coach Clay Helton and his squad. The Trojans will aim to put all doubts to rest with a road win against a strong opponent, and the Cougars look to keep their season on the rise while killing USC’s. Let’s see which team seizes the moment and establishes its playoff credentials.This isn’t a trap game; it’s a legitimate clash of Pac-12 titans. Brace yourselves.Ollie Jung is a senior studying print and digital jouranlism. He is also the sports editor for the Daily Trojan. His column, Jung Money, runs on Fridays.last_img read more

Jerick Mckinnon injury update: Starting season on IR ‘an option’ for 49ers running back

first_img“It’s been a long process,” Mckinnon told reporters earlier this week (via NBC Sports Bay Area). “I told myself, just feel it out, make sure everything is smooth, focus on the details, work on trust, cutting off that knee. Everything will come, so trying to not get ahead of myself. It really hits you when you have something you love taken away from you. So, every little thing was exciting for me.”The 49ers also have running backs Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman on their roster. Mckinnon will undergo a platelet rich plasma injection and could start the season on injured reserve, Shanahan said.“It’s all an option,” Shanahan said about Mckinnon going on IR (via 95.7 The Game). “I hope that doesn’t happen. I know he doesn’t. But, that’s an option with anybody. Those are tough decisions you have to make.” Related News Kyle Shanahan says Jerick McKinnon is dealing with knee soreness after two days of practice & won’t practice for awhile. Shanahan details if McKinnon could be an IR designated to return candidate. #49ers— 95.7 The Game (@957thegame) August 8, 2019Mckinnon signed a four-year, $30 million contract with San Francisco in March 2018 but did not appear in a game last season after he tore his ACL in early September. The 49ers activated Mckinnon from the PUP list earlier this week.“I feel our goal is (for Mckinnon to play in) Week 1, with everything that is going on, that’s not just because we’re hoping Week 1, that’s because the doctors feel that’s a realistic goal,” Shanahan said. “That (the IR) is pretty far from my mind right now. But, anytime guys are in this situation, that’s always the tough thing about the 53 (man roster).“We have more guys here than the 53 people and sometimes it’s tough, you get rid of people to keep someone, well, when are they going to be available. That’s just an issue you have with rosters.”Mckinnon began his career with the Vikings, where he rushed for 1,918 yards and seven touchdowns in 58 games over four seasons. Jerick Mckinnon may not be healthy for Week 1.The 27-year-old running back continues to deal with knee soreness and has been shut down for two weeks, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters Thursday.center_img Nick Bosa injury update: 49ers rookie has ankle sprain, will sit preseason Jimmy Garoppolo injury update: 49ers QB (knee) fully cleared for preseasonlast_img read more