USC coach’s job shaky as Trojans await Arizona State
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Southern California coach Clay Helton kept his job last year despite the Trojans‘ first losing season since 2000.
As USC stumbles through another mediocre season and a new athletic director is in place, the calls for Helton’s job grow louder by the loss.
The key Saturday against Arizona State and the rest of the season will be finding a way to tune out the noise.
“This is our family right here, so let’s focus on us,” Helton said. “Let’s focus on nothing that’s outside but us right here right now in this moment for three weeks because this three weeks dictates our season. We’ve always trained ourselves not to worry about the outside noise or what’s going on, especially here.”
USC (5-4, 4-2 Pac-12) is still in the chase for the Pac-12 South, a half-game behind No. 8 Utah. The Trojans may have to overtake the Utes for Helton to keep his job following last week’s blowout.
Coming off consecutive conference wins, USC fell 56-24 to No. 7 Oregon. The Trojans led 10-0 until the Ducks scored touchdowns after each of USC freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis‘ four turnovers during a 19-minute stretch to run away with it.
“We’ve got to be more consistent more than anything and that’s kind of been a theme all year,” USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell said. “Obviously, turnovers hurt, but I think consistency can obviously help with the turnovers (and) also across the board.”
The Sun Devils (5-3, 2-3) also looking for some consistency.
Arizona State climbed to No. 17 in the AP Top 25 after opening the season 5-1, but suffered an ugly loss against Utah and a road loss to UCLA.
The Sun Devils are coming off a bye week of regrouping.
“It’s like I always say, it’s funny in football, like in sports: When you’ve got ‘it,’ you know you’ve got it. It’s just a wonderful thing,” Arizona State coach Herm Edwards said. “We lost it. We’ve got to find it again. And every team goes through that. Players know, coaches know, it’s ‘it.'”
The Sun Devils were a disciplined bunch early in the season but were plagued by penalties in their past two losses.
Arizona State was hit with nine penalties for 122 yards against Utah and nine more for 72 yards against UCLA.
“We addressed it. That’s all you can do,” Edwards said. “You’ve got to show them where it hurts the team. I think they understand that now.”
PITTMAN VS. WILLIAMS
USC’s Michael Pittman Jr. has been one of the nation’s best receivers the past two seasons. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior is among the FBS leaders with 58 catches for 792 yards and eight TDs.
Arizona State senior Kobe Williams has been thrown at 21 times, fifth-lowest among cornerbacks who have played at least 50% of their team’s snaps. He’s also fifth for fewest yards allowed in coverage with 104.
THIRD DOWN WOES
One of Arizona State’s biggest issues on defense is stopping teams on third down. The Sun Devils are 102nd in the FBS, allowing teams to convert nearly 44% on third down and allowed the past two opponents to convert 14 of 28.
Arizona State WR Brandon Aiyuk is fifth nationally with 508 yards after the catch. … USC leads the series 22-13 and has won three of the past four against ASU. … Arizona State’s Michael Turk is seventh nationally in punting average at 46.8 yards per kick. … Slovis is 14th nationally in completion percentage at 68.5%.