Sam Darnold finished the job, leading USC back into the football spotlight after the Trojans’ 52-49 victory over Penn State on Monday night in the Rose Bowl.
Darnold threw five touchdown passes and passed for more than 400 yards in the Trojans’ win. However, it was more than his statistics that really showed why coach Clay Helton entrusted him with the offense as a redshirt freshman after a disastrous first three games for USC.
He was poised. He was more than poised. He looked like a veteran – even as the Trojans went down 49-35 in the fourth quarter and not doing a good job moving the ball in the first half of the final frame. It took him three plays to tie the game with under two minutes to go.
He completed two passes – one to JuJu Smith-Schuster and another to Daniel Imatorbhebhe. Two defensive pass interference calls later and Darnold struck Deontay Burnett for the game-tying touchdown pass. Even after all of that he wasn’t deterred.
When USC got the ball back with seconds to go, his handoff to Ronald Jones III wasn’t fumbled. It was a cool give to setup the game-winning field goal.
Darnold deserves a lot of the credit for keeping the offense running smoothly as Max Browne transitioned out of the starting role.
The 19-year-old will finish his first season under center with 3,086 passing yards, 31 touchdown passes and only nine interceptions. He also had a 67 percent complete rate and he only started the last 10 games of the season.
The future is bright for this young star. The hype will certainly grow around him as he heads into his sophomore year.
There is one thing for certain, he looked more like a veteran quarterback than any USC quarterback that has played since USC was slapped with crippling sanctions.
Darnold is here to stay so you better get used to what’s to come – winning.