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USC’s Sam Darnold aims to duplicate production in Stanford rematch

By in Press Enterprise on November 30, 2017

By Joey Kaufman

LOS ANGELES — As USC’s 42-24 victory over Stanford from earlier this season has been revisited this week in light of the teams’ rematch in the Pac-12 Conference title game, one area has often been highlighted.

The Trojans rushed for 302 yards against the Cardinal, about as productive as their running game has been this fall. They ran it and ran it often, more than two-thirds of the time, harkening to an era of “student body right.”

But it was also as proficient as Sam Darnold has been in his second season as the Trojans’ starting quarterback.

Darnold completed 21 of 26 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions. His 12.2 yards per pass attempt marked a career-best, a combination of efficiency and an eye toward big plays.

As USC coach Clay Helton has reviewed game film, he contended that it was no coincidence that Darnold’s most effective game occurred simultaneously with the running game’s best effort.

“The run game went, and it provided some one-on-one matchups,” Helton said. “You looked up, and all of a sudden, it was a one-on-one drill all over the park as far as throwing the ball. And that’s not a lot of confusion for a quarterback. ‘There’s my wide receiver, there’s a DB on him, there’s nobody else, it’s him on an island.’ That makes a clear picture for him.

“When you’re able to run like that, it’s usually able to provide you with an effective quarterback.”

The third-year sophomore passer averaged 12 yards per pass attempt just once since, in a victory over Arizona earlier this month.

It too coincided with a strong effort on the ground, as the Trojans compiled 331 yards against the Wildcats.

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