The legend of USC freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart’s Trojans debut only grows more impressive in light of the news that he played the second half of that game with a torn meniscus in his right knee.
While USC kept his status under wraps all week, Dart underwent minor knee surgery on Tuesday, according to a source. It’s unknown what his timeline for recovery or return would be, but the news ends any talk of a QB competition for the time being as Kedon Slovis will remain the unchallenged starter moving forward.
USCFootball.com’s Keely Eure broke the news and TrojanSports.com was able to independently confirm the details soon thereafter.
Dart came off the bench last Saturday when Slovis was forced out of the game with a neck injury after a sack on the opening series. The freshman went on to complete 30 of 46 passes for 391 yards, 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in leading USC to a 45-14 win in Pullman, Wash.
The injury occurred when Dart was upended by Washington State defensive back Jaylen Watson after a 7-yard run, as Watson dove into Dart’s right knee. He came up limping noticeably but stayed in and led the Trojans to their first score of the game, eventually hitting Gary Bryant Jr. for a 38-yard touchdown on fourth-and-9 in the final minute of the first half.
USC had been trailing 14-0 before that drive and would go on to score 45 unanswered points, led by the freshman QB.
He played the second half with a brace on the knee and Trojans coach Donte Williams played coy about the injury throughout the week. It’s unclear when the formal diagnosis of the tear came.
Williams initially talked Sunday night about wanting to see a quarterback competition between Slovis and Dart and that it might take until the end of this week to name a starter.
Dart was not at practice Tuesday, but Williams provided no details and when asked if that was a sign that Slovis would start, he said “Shoot, I hope he’s here tomorrow, so we’ll see. He just wasn’t here today.”
Dart wasn’t at practice Wednesday either and again Thursday morning Williams said there was no update.
The gamesmanship in theory might have caused Oregon State to have to prepare for two QB scenarios.
Now, however, it’s clear that Slovis will be the QB this weekend and moving forward. Whether there is a competition to revisit later in the season if Dart is cleared to return will be determined in part based on how Slovis plays in the meantime and how cautious the Trojans want to be with the star young QB.
Slovis, a third-year starter and first-team All-Pac-12 honoree, will look to reassert himself this week and remind everyone why he was in the first round of many early mock drafts heading into the season.
Slovis has passed for 487 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT through two full games and 2 pass attempts last week.
“You know what, I see somebody that came to practice and they came hungry as far as they battled back from something that’s an injury from the previous game that probably was a targeting that I should have picked up on a little sooner and he bounced back from that and he came out to practice and he was throwing that ball around, taking shots downfield,” Williams said of Slovis on Thursday morning. “He already has command of the offense, and a lot of guys in this locker room including myself believe in him. He’s won a lot of football games here and he’s played and saw a lot of different defenses.
“I saw somebody who’s coming back that’s just resumed their role where they normally are, which is the starting quarterback. And so far this week he’s been able to do that. He’s been working with the 1s and the second group, so I look for really good things from him this coming game.”