Gordon Monson: Uh-oh. USC comes alive, stirred by a freshman quarterback just in time to face BYU and Utah

(Kyusung Gong | AP file photo) Southern California quarterback Kedon Slovis is shown during an NCAA college football game against Fresno State, in Los Angeles, Sept. 31, 2019. With J.T. Daniels out for the season, the freshman backup is in charge when the Trojans face BYU Saturday.

The kid’s name is Kedon Slovis.

Commit it to memory.

K-e-d-o-n S-l-o-v-i-s. Pronounced Keee-don Slow-vis.

You’ll hear it a lot over the next two weeks, as BYU and Utah focus on a USC team energized by a fresh-faced, fresh-scrubbed, fresh-bloomed quarterback, the one bearing the name above, the one you’re now supposed to keep in mind, the one everyone around here, including Ilaisa Tuiaki and Morgan Scalley, will be dialed in on from cover to cover, from consonant to consonant. Kalani Sitake said during his Monday news conference that he is impressed by Slovis, which is exactly what he should be.

“He’s poised and made some really tough throws,” he said.

Nobody around here, not Sitake, nor those D-coordinators, knew much about Slovis before Saturday night, when USC rolled over then-ranked Stanford, 45-20. Nobody, not even Trojan coaches, no matter what they say now, knew Slovis could throw for 377 yards, completing 28 of 33 passes, three of them for touchdowns, with no interceptions, in his first start.

Nobody knew with exactness that he could play at all.

USC players only suspected as much, from what they had seen in practice, namely Slovis slinging the ball around.

Sling it, he did, for real against Stanford.

Repeatedly firing downfield, calmly and accurately and efficiently, he did more than just that. He breathed life into Trojans football again, when it seemed like it might be dead, partly dead, mostly dead. He’s helped make it formidable once more, a difficult team to beat.

Slovis is an 18-year-old freshman who wasn’t figured to be any kind of factor this season. He wasn’t recruited much out of high school in Scottsdale, Ariz. During his senior season at Desert Mountain High, his team went just 3-7. He sent videos of himself to the storied Pac-12 school he wanted to attend — his only other league offer came from Oregon State — because there was no way that program would have recruited him otherwise, despite the fact that he’d been tutored by an all-time great quarterback. Pro Football Hall of Famer Kurt Warner was his prep QBs coach and offensive coordinator.


USC vs. Stanford • 28 of 33, 377 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs

But, somehow, he ended up at USC.

And now, somehow, through the strange twists and turns of the football, and, in particular, of the knee joint, with former starter JT Daniels finding himself in a starring role of the classic, sad feature film, Gone With the Bend Slovis has taken his place.

He’s taken the Trojans by storm.

And in doing so has become that focal point of BYU and Utah coaches, all of whom will be faced with stopping the young quarterback in consecutive weeks, the Cougars on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium and the Utes the following Friday in their Pac-12 opener at the Coliseum.

That’s the place this past Saturday night where the student section started in on a chant, “We love Slovis … We love Slovis.”

Only the fourth true freshman quarterback ever to take the field for USC, Slovis had given them reason to love him, playing rocksteady, even after the Trojans fell behind early by two scores. He launched a 39-yard TD pass to commence a comeback that saw USC outscore the Cardinal 42-3 down the stretch. Inside of three quarters, he pivoted USC’s season, transforming it from mountains of doubt to manifest destiny.

OK, that might be a bit of a stretch, but the kid is a gas to watch, especially with a crew of fast, skilled receivers.

His teammates, who had seen him go throttle up through spring ball — he showed up at USC early — and preseason camp, climbing the depth chart past more seasoned quarterbacks, were blown away by his poise under pressure in live action. One of his coaches called him “fearless.”


When • Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

TV • Ch. 4


When • Sept. 20, kickoff TBD

TV • FS1

According to a report in the L.A. Times, after the Trojans fell behind, Slovis huddled up with his offense and said, “We’re scoring on every drive from now on.”

He was wrong. USC scored touchdowns on only six of its next seven drives. All told, he led the Trojans to points on seven of 10 drives, en route breaking nearly every freshman record for an initial start.

The youngster was nothing short of stellar, showing a strong arm and even more importantly, a big brain and a collected demeanor. After witnessing Slovis’ game-turning deep ball, Trojan center Brett Neilon said in the postgame: “I saw that pass go for a touchdown and I turned around and thought, ‘Dang, this kid is for real.’”


Real enough to have stirred a talented Southern Cal team just before coming to Provo, and immediately thereafter playing host to the Utes in Los Angeles.

Stanford coach David Shaw said, “They’re going to be a tough team down the road.”

And by down the road, he meant, like, right now, on Saturday afternoon at LaVell’s Place, a building that has seen a few balls fly through the air in seasons gone by.

GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.