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USC defeats Fresno State 31-23, but loses JT Daniels to knee injury

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USC escapes their season opener with a victory over Fresno State, but loses sophomore starting quarterback JT Daniels in the 2nd quarter to a knee injury.

NCAA Football: Fresno State at Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any tougher for USC, the hill might have gotten a little steeper.

The Trojans played host to the Fresno State Bulldogs to open their 2019 season. Despite a penalty during the opening kickoff due to Chase Williams and Stephen Carr wearing No. 7 at the sometime to negate a 65 yard Velus Jones Jr. return, The USC offense managed to debut their new air raid scheme on the way to a score. The following Trojans drive saw a mix of the air game and ground game that ended with a Stephen Carr touchdown pass to put the Trojans up 14-0. Things seemed to be moving rather smoothly and 2018 was put behind them right?

Well the same issues that haunted the offense last year turned it’s ugly head. Drops and turnovers by Daniels kept the Bulldogs in the game. Fresno State quarterback Jorge Reyna used his scrambling ability to avoid sacks and pick up extra yards to extend a pair of Bulldog scoring drives. Next thing you know USC is up 17-10 and couldn’t come at a worse time as the offense went stagnant.

NCAA Football: Fresno State at Southern California
JT Daniels went down with an apparent knee injury in the final minutes of the 2nd quarter.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

However, low point of the game came in the final minutes of the 2nd quarter where USC quarterback JT Daniels was sacked and his knee gave way under him. USC went into the half with a 7 point lead and having to turn to true freshman backup Kedon Slovis.

The second half brought back to back turnovers by both the Bulldogs and Trojans, which only resulted in Fresno State scoring a field goal to cut the lead to 17-13. A 100 yard Velus Jones Jr kick return would be just the juice the Trojans needed to push the lead to 24-13. Following a Fresno State 3 and out Slovis made himself know with a 41 yard bomb to Tyler Vaughns to put USC in position to push the lead to 31-13 in the 3rd quarter. Again the Trojans once again taking control. However Fresno State wasn’t going to go away that easy.

Fresno State v USC
USC wide receiver Velus Jones Jr’s 100 yard kick return gave the Trojans the spark they needed during the 3rd quarter.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Reyna and the Bulldogs take advantage of long scoring drives to put the defending Mountain West Champs down 31-23 in the fourth quarter. USC had the opportunity to put the nail in the coffin on fourth and one, but a bad snap followed by Slovis and Vavae Malepeai running into each other gave Fresno State the ball back inside their own territory and a chance to drive down the field to tie the game up. The Bulldogs had hope following a Reyna to Chris Coleman 36 yard strike to put Fresno State in the red zone, but USC Safety Isaiah Pola-Mao would quickly put an end to those hopes with an interception in the zone to preserve the victory for the Trojans.

USC had shown signs of promise early on with the air raid working perfectly and the ground game functioning, however they’ve also showed signs of worry and reverted back to issues that hurt them last season. Self inflicting issues that kept Fresno State in the game. Now the Trojans will prepare to move forward with another true freshman in Kedon Slovis with the injury to JT Daniels. It’s the first game of the season and there’s plenty of time for USC to fix it’s issues, but with a rough few games coming up early the luxury of time isn’t quite on their side at the moment.