The injury bug has once again hit the Trojans before they hit the road. USC will be without three key starters when they take the field to face No. 17 Washington. Safety Talanoa Hufanga, cornerback Olaijah Griffin, and quarterback Kedon Slovis are officially listed as out for Saturday’s game per USC head coach Clay Helton following Thursday’s practice. Matt Fink was officially named the starter against the Huskies.
Matt Fink will start vs. Washington, Clay Helton announced. Kedon Slovis has been ruled out. So has Talanoa Hufanga and Olaijah Griffin. That’s three starters out for #USC.— Antonio Morales (@AntonioCMorales) September 27, 2019
Slovis injury occurred during the second play of last weeks game when Utah defensive tackle Leki Fotu planted the freshman to the ground, taking him out the game. Fink stepped in and threw for 351 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception. The redshirt junior made a couple of big plays including a 77 yard touchdown pass to Michael Pittman Jr. Fink will have to be more careful with throwing the 50/50 passes against the Huskies secondary. One thing that Fink brings to the position is his ability to expand plays with his legs. He will need to utilize that against a Washington pass rush that had a two sacks and forced 3 turnovers against BYU last week.
While Fink is making his first college start against Washington, he’s seen snaps while filling in for an injured Sam Darnold at Notre Dame and the following year when JT Daniels had to sit for injuries at Stanford and Utah. He missed the opportunity to start when he suffered broken ribs last season in the blowout loss to the Utes. Many will remember the 51 yard touchdown run he had against Oregon State at the L.A. Coliseum in 2017.
While it was already a foregone conclusion that Fink would replace Kedon Slovis this Saturday, the big impact comes in the secondary with the news of Talanoa Hufanga and Olaijah Griffin. Both were unable to practice which further made their status for Saturday’s game look grim. Griffin was forced to leave last week’s game in the second half due to back spasms. Hufanga on the other hand was in concussion protocol and was not cleared by team doctors through the week.
The USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast has prepared to play with out the two starters in the secondary. The Trojans played without Griffin during the second half against Utah where Greg Johnson and Chris Steele managed to step in and have a solid game. While USC will lose two key starters in the secondary, they will have Isaac Taylor-Stuart back from concussion protocol. The redshirt freshman was forced to sit last week’s game after he was not medically cleared to play.
The Trojans will likely slide Greg Johnson and Chris Steele to the outside while Chase Williams take over at the nickel cornerback position. Head coach Clay Helton also stated that freshman cornerback Max Williams could also see rotation time at cornerback. CJ Pollard will likely take over at safety for the injured Hufanga. The sophomore safety has been the Trojans MVP thus far in the season. His production will be missed on Saturday as the Trojans secondary prepare to face Jacob Eason and the Huskies passing game. Hufanga made up for a lot of USC’s mistakes on the defensive side of the ball and will need someone to step up in his place.