Kedon Slovis’ late magic runs out in USC’s loss to Oregon

The quarterback who seemed unshakable in the biggest moments finally blinked.

With USC in position to score another comeback victory Friday, Kedon Slovis was flushed out of the pocket in the fourth quarter against Oregon and found nothing but white and green jerseys in front of him. He slung a prayer into space near the sideline. The Ducks’ Jamal Hill was on the receiving end as the defensive back tipped the ball to himself and scraped his toe across the Coliseum grass before falling out of bounds.

After watching the slow-motion review on the big screen, the cheers from Oregon players filled an empty Coliseum.

USC’s comeback kids had fallen.

After engineering three last-minute comeback victories this season, Slovis’ fourth-quarter magic ran out Friday in USC’s 31-24 loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game as the sophomore quarterback bookended the performance with costly interceptions in the first and fourth quarters. The final interception Friday, which was Hill’s second of the night, was Slovis’ first fourth-quarter interception of his career.

“The kid made a nice play on the sideline,” USC coach Clay Helton said. “I know that [Slovis] was trying to get that ball out of bounds.”

Slovis finished with 320 yards on 28-of-52 passing with two touchdowns and three interceptions. His 17 touchdown passes in six games lead the Pac-12. But so do his seven interceptions.

Oregon safety Jamal Hill, pictured celebrating in the first quarter, intercepted USC’s Kedon Slovis twice. His second interception came in the closing minutes and thwarted the Trojans’ comeback bid.

(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Between each misstep Friday, Slovis remained calm in front of his teammates as the Trojans (5-1) had chances to tie or win the game twice in the fourth quarter, first on a drive with 4:43 remaining and then again with 23 seconds left.

“He’s going to have some hiccups here and there, but it’s Kedon Slovis,” said receiver Drake London, who finished with a team-high eight catches for 75 yards. “We all trust in him.”

Slovis threw two interceptions in USC’s first three drives, spotting the Ducks, who gained entry into the championship game only after first-place Washington was forced to pull out because of a COVID-19 outbreak within the program, a 14-0 lead.

It looked like an early repeat of last year’s loss to the Ducks when Slovis had the worst performance of his Pac-12 offensive freshman of the year season. The Scottsdale, Ariz., native threw for three touchdowns and 264 yards with three interceptions while completing just 56.1% of his passes in USC’s 56-24 loss.

Slovis was sacked three times in both games, and the pressure Friday seemed to rattle the sophomore.

Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux was a menace in the backfield with five tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup, earning him game MVP honors.

“We know Kayvon and what he can do,” Helton said of the former Westlake Village Oaks Christian star. “I thought he had tremendous jump off [the ball] tonight. … They flushed Kedon out of the pocket. Got him off his spot a bunch.”

It persisted until the final play of the game, when Slovis was forced out of the pocket and illegally flipped the ball to a nearby lineman to avoid a sack near the sideline, but still got crunched.

The game officially ended with an intentional grounding call with Slovis flat on his back surrounded by concerned coaches and trainers. He slowly got to his feet with assistance, but his right throwing arm was hanging limp by his side as he gingerly walked off. Helton said after the game Slovis was undergoing X-rays.