Darnold delivers clunker in possibly final game for USC

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — If Sam Darnold returns to the home of the Dallas Cowboys in four months, he figures to leave feeling a bit better than after a rough night in the Cotton Bowl.

Darnold threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, lost two fumbles on sacks and misfired on several other throws in No. 8 Southern California’s 24-7 loss to No. 5 Ohio State on Friday night.

A third-year sophomore, Darnold is projected as a possible top overall pick in the NFL draft, which will be held at AT&T Stadium in late April. If he’s the first one on stage with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, that’ll be a better look than a quiet walk to the locker room as the Ohio State players gathered to celebrate.

Darnold remained noncommittal on his future after the game.

“Talking to my family, talking to coaches, people who have been in my position before,” Darnold said. “That’s kind of how I’ll go about it.”

If Darnold declares for the draft, he figures to be gone by the time the Denver Broncos are on the clock. Still, general manager John Elway and former coach Gary Kubiak, one of their scouts, were in the press box for the Cotton Bowl.

The NFL evaluators will have to overlook Darnold’s showing against the Buckeyes. While he threw for 356 yards — his eighth 300-yard game of the season — Darnold was just 26-of-45 passing. With the two lost fumbles, he’s tied for the FBS lead with 22 turnovers.

“I think I’m really just focused on just hanging out with my teammates for the next couple of days and really just saying bye to the seniors because they’ve put together such a great season,” Darnold said. “It’s tough. I’ll look at everything and make my decision after that.”

Darnold threw into double coverage on a short route, and Damon Webb jumped the throw and returned the interception untouched 28 yards for a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter.

The Buckeyes made it 24-0 later in the second two plays after Darnold was hit from behind as he tried to escape a collapsing pocket. On the second fumble, Darnold was hit as he threw. Both times, the Trojans were inside the Ohio State 25.

“Whenever you turn the ball over that much, it’s hard to win games,” Darnold said. “I made a bad read on the pick-six. Shouldn’t have thrown it obviously. I missed a couple of throws too that I’d like to have back. A lot of stuff where we shot ourselves in our foot.”