LOS ANGELES — USC starting quarterback Kedon Slovis left Friday’s game against No. 10 Utah because of an apparent head injury after absorbing a hit on the second play from scrimmage. Junior Matt Fink relieved Slovis and threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns as the Trojans beat the Utes 30-23.
Slovis, a freshman making his third start in relief of JT Daniels, was hit by Utah star defensive tackle Leki Fotu after throwing a pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown for an 8-yard gain. He tried to get up before falling again and remained on the ground for several minutes before walking to the USC sideline. Several minutes later, Slovis left the field for further evaluation. He returned during the second half in street clothes, wearing earplugs.
“Kedon got dinged,” USC coach Clay Helton said. “It was to the point where we wanted to be careful. … He knew exactly what happened, but you could tell that something was wrong. We’d rather be careful with all our players and make sure of their safety.”
Helton said Slovis was not medically cleared to return. An update on Slovis’ status probably will come early next week as the Trojans prepare to visit Washington on Sept. 28.
Fink took over for Slovis and led USC on consecutive touchdown drives to open the game, throwing scoring passes of 29 and 31 yards. He completed 10 of his first 12 attempts and finished with 21 completions on 30 attempts with three scores and an interception.
He redshirted in 2016 and played sparingly in a reserve role in 2017 and 2018, completing 13 of 18 pass attempts for 89 yards and a touchdown with 106 rushing yards. He entered the transfer portal during the offseason and took an official visit to Illinois, nearly joining the Illini before opting to return to USC.
“In a world where everybody goes different places, this one stayed for his family,” Helton said. “Waiting for his moment, waiting for his memory, and what a memory it was tonight. He’s one of the more special people I’ve ever been around. When his number was called, he made the most of it tonight.”
Fink credited Helton for letting him explore his transfer options without closing the door on a return. Although he ended preseason camp as the third-string quarterback, he sensed his chance would come.
“What it comes down to is, this team, it’s stacked,” Fink said. “You have the best players in the nation here. Why would I go somewhere else and play with lesser athletes? Not saying that any other school isn’t a great school and they don’t have good athletes, but SC, it’s on the rise. We have guys that are going to push us to the top here.”
Daniels, who started throughout the 2018 season, tore the ACL and meniscus in his right knee during USC’s season-opening win over Fresno State. He will sit out the rest of the season.