USC QB Sam Darnold hasn’t been great, but he’s still delivering

You’d think that Sam Darnold has tanked this season, better to save himself for the inevitable riches that will follow his illustrious college career — and yes, it is not unwise to remind college football nation that USC’s quarterback is still enjoying a rather fine college career.

Peruse the headlines following Darnold’s three-touchdown, 316-yard performance in a 38-10 win over Oregon State on Saturday and you’d think that the score was actually the reverse, that the Beavers were the ones with 38 to their name and USC subject to a monumental upset.

Sports Illustrated wrote: “The Pressure Gauge: Sam Darnold among those feeling the heat.”

Three days prior, SI headlined a story: “The Sam Darnold Hype Train Slows Down.”

The LA Times wrote: “USC’s Sam Darnold finds room to improve.”

It would be easy to assume that Darnold and USC have lost more than one game in the last calendar year, and that Darnold is not No. 13 in the country in passing yards, that he is not No. 22 in passing touchdowns and 16 in points responsible for. But USC has not lost more than one game in the last calendar year, and Darnold is among the top 25 in most any passing category that matters.

His numbers not Heisman numbers. Darnold is throwing more interceptions, at least one every game thus far. He’s missing passes he may not have missed last year. He’s getting sacked more. But they are fine numbers — fine enough for USC to be 5-1 on the year and ranked No. 13 in the country while heading into the back-half of the schedule, in which the Trojans are likely to be favored in every game. It’s not unreasonable to look to the pre-season hype that surrounded Darnold and suggest that it was just a tad overblown. For there was Darnold, on the cover of Sports Illustrated. There was Darnold, on the cover of ESPN The Magazine. There was Darnold, leading every pre-season Heisman list.

It seemed easy to forget that, prior to this year, Darnold had only started 10 college games, during a season in which he wasn’t expected to start at all, after only playing one full year of quarterback in high school. But this is the College Football Hype Machine, and no matter what numbers Darnold put up, they would never have been enough.

The quarterback just down the road, Josh Rosen of the UCLA Bruins, can relate. Rosen is currently leading the nation in every positive passing category that matters, yet the only number people seem to point to are his wins, which have come few and far between despite Rosen leading the country in yards, touchdowns, and points responsible for per game. The opposite is true of Darnold, who wins games — 14-2 as a starter, with a Rose Bowl to top it off — yet isn’t delivering Rosen’s yard and touchdown total.

USC coach Clay Helton is only concerned with Darnold’s ability to win games, saying after the Oregon State victory: “The biggest thing about being a quarterback is winning games and that’s what the kid does. As coaches, that’s why they pay us is to improve him each and every week, get him more technical and fundamentally sound and that’s what we’ll do as coaches.”

And what Darnold will more than likely do as a player is win football games. He will not win the Heisman. But maybe he will begin to put up the numbers his critics would love to see. As he said on Saturday: “I’ve just got to continue to improve and hopefully one game it will click. “

The post USC QB Sam Darnold hasn’t been great, but he’s still delivering appeared first on Diehards.

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