Homecoming for the USC Trojans turned out to be a rude and unexpected turn of events. Instead of celebrating a well-earned 41-34 win at United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Trojans had to deal with seeing wide receiver Drake London carted off the football field.
“It’s always a fear anytime somebody goes down and you see him go ahead and get the air cast and everything,” USC interim head coach Donte Williams said. “So that is a fear. At the same time we have a lot of guys in this locker room that fought hard tonight and they’ll continue to fight no matter what.”
It was a routine play that London was injured on. London went in motion and ran a simple flare route out of the backfield, caught a pass thrown by quarterback Jaxson Dart, turned upfield and lunged into the endzone with a defender draped over him.
It appeared that London may have had his right leg get tangled underneath the defender as he rolled into the endzone. A brace was put on London’s right leg before he was taken off the field. Keaontay Ingram, who rushed for 204 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries in the Trojans’ win, said the whole program felt the impact of London’s injury.
“Just keep your head up,” Ingram said. “Drake comes in every single day and works his butt off. He treats every day like game day, so to see a player like that go down, the entire team felt it. Losing a player like that in this type of environment is rough. At the end of the day though, we’ve got to have a 1-0 mentality and it’s just next man up.”
As it relates to the game itself, the Trojans were rolling at point, going ahead of the Wildcats by 21 points (28-7, 35-14). A blowout win appeared to be in the works. Or so the Trojans thought. Arizona had other things in mind, and the Wildcats played like it. USC, on the other hand, seemed to regress after London was forced out of the game.
“Credit to USC for battling and finishing the game,” Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch said after the game. “Credit to our team as well, they battled their tails off man. It was 35-14 at halftime and it came down to the very last play of the game.”
He continued, “Then it’s 41-34 and anything can happen. We had opportunities, first and goal on the three with a holding penalty. Illegal formation, we will look at that. But I was pleased with the way our guys battled, the way Will Plummer played.”
By midway into the fourth quarter, Arizona had closed that early 21-point deficit to just being down, 38-31. The running of Ingram, however, was able to help the Trojans preserve their fourth win (4-4) on the season.
Even after USC expanded their lead 41-31, the Wildcats would not go away, narrowing the Trojans’ advantage to 41-34. The Trojans managed to hold on. With Ingram leading the way running the football, the Trojans totaled 256 yards on the ground.
“I wouldn’t say it (London’s injury) changed the offense truly because we had to lead so it was about what we needed to do to win the line of scrimmage,” Williams remarked. “If we win every game by one point, I’m just happy with one.
“So at the end of the day, I was happy the way we ran the football,” Williams added. “I mean we have 44 rushes today. I can’t tell you the last time that SC had 44 rushes. So that was something I’m proud about. Not only were there 44 rushes, but it was 44 productive rushes.”
Losing London for the season would be a big blow for the Trojans. Hopefully, that’s not the case. By far, London has been the MVP for the USC football team this season. Through the Trojans’ first seven games, London snagged 79 passes for receptions for 1,003 yards, good enough to be ranked No. 2 in the nation. London’s numbers dwarf what he did in 2020.
In six games last season, London caught 33 passes for 502 yards and recorded three touchdowns. He made the Pa-12 second team last year. With the way he was playing this season, the 6-foot-5, 210 London was well on his way to catching over 100 passes and becoming the benefactor of a whole lot of college football awards,
Just a week ago, in a 31-16 loss to Notre Dame, London was dominant against the Fighting Irish, catching 15 of the 19 passes thrown his way for 171 yards. London was just as unstoppable in the Trojans’ 42-26 defeat against Utah the week before.
Against the Utes, London caught 16 of the 20 passes thrown his way. He finished the game with 162 receiving yards and a touchdown. Interestingly enough, London’s spectacular season comes a year after Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns were making a lot of noise as centerpieces to the Trojans’ offense.
Before he left the field against Arizona, London had already recorded nine catches for 81 yards and two touchdowns. USC cornerback Chris Steele said seeing London go down was tough.
“Drake is a competitor and somebody that I genuinely care about,” Steele said. “I look at him as a leader on the team and obviously I compete with him every single day, so to see a player like that go down, especially when he’s having the year that he’s having, it never looks good. Him going down gave me more juice if anything, and made me want to go out there and make some plays. Not only for the team, but also for my guy that went down too.”
Featured Image Caption: USC wide receiver Drake London in game action against the Arizona Wildats. London finished the game with nine catches for 81 yards and two touchdowns in the Trojans’ 41-34 win at the Los Angeles Memorial oliseum on Saturday, October 30, 2021. Photo credit: Melinda Meijer/News4usonline