BERKELEY — Freshman running back Stephen Carr learned on Friday he would make his first college start in USC’s 30-20 victory over Cal.
Ronald Jones did not travel with the team to the Bay Area, remaining in Los Angeles with injuries, including a thigh contusion and a sprained ankle.
Carr was ready for his chance.
“I love the pressure, man,” Carr said. “Pressure makes diamonds.”
Prior to kickoff on Saturday morning, he sent Jones a text message.
“I told him I’d hunker down for him,” Carr said.
He did. Carr, a product of Summit High in Fontana, was USC’s most effective threat on offense amid a bumpy performance for the group. He finished with 129 total yards with 82 yards on 20 carries and six receptions for 47 yards.
“He’s a total back,” offensive coordinator Tee Martin said. “He can run inside, he can run outside, he can catch it.”
Martin added that Carr was also adept in pass protection, noting he “did not have one mental assignment bust.”
Through four games this season, Carr has rushed for 298 yards.
Quarterback Sam Darnold threw his seventh interception in four games when his pass to Deontay Burnett, who was running along the left hashmarks, in the second quarter was intercepted by cornerback Josh Drayden.
By comparison, Darnold threw nine interceptions in 13 games last season, including 10 as the starter.
“I think it’s 100 percent my fault first of all,” Darnold said, “just not getting the ball far enough on a deep route, or whether it’s balls being tipped, not seeing a d-linemen and him getting a big paw on it to tip it in the air. So I’m just going to continue to play. That’s all I can do.”
The Trojans were stopped twice on fourth down.
On fourth-and-7 on its second drive Darnold’s pass to Michael Pittman was incomplete and almost intercepted. Running back Aca’Cedric Ware was also stuffed on a fourth-and-1 to start the third quarter.
In the past two games, USC has been stopped on all five of its fourth-down attempts.
Coach Clay Helton pointed to mistakes on the offensive line.
“If you have one kid miss an assignment, there’s somebody in our backfield,” Helton said.
MAKING HIS KICKS
Freshman kicker Chase McGrath made all three of his field-goal tries against Cal, including a career long 46-yard attempt, as well as two other fields goals from 37 yards and 34 yards.
McGrath, a walk-on, has made five consecutive field goals, including the winning 43-yarder in…