USC’s Daniels determined to bounce back from rough 2nd start

LOS ANGELES (AP) — J.T. Daniels doesn’t know much about losing. He only did it a few times during his three years as a high school quarterback in Orange County, and he never even trailed during any of Mater Dei’s 15 games last year.

So Daniels’ first setback as Southern California’s starting quarterback has presented the precocious freshman with an unfamiliar disappointment, along with a few lessons about the Trojans’ offense and his responsibilities in it.

“Losing is never fun,” Daniels said. “But every time, you can come out and learn more. I’m happy that we got to get that experience under our belt earlier in the season than Week 10, Week 11.”

Daniels went 16 of 34 for 215 yards in the 22nd-ranked Trojans’ 17-3 loss at Stanford last weekend, throwing two late interceptions and generally struggling along with his entire offense. He also lost a fumble and was sacked four times by the Cardinal, who regularly broke down the Trojans’ pass protection. USC (1-1) failed to score a touchdown in Daniels’ second career start, and it was only close because of a strong defensive game by the Trojans.

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Daniels’ teammates and coaches are confident he’s a quick learner. Although the Trojans’ offensive struggles were far from his fault exclusively, Daniels knows he’ll need to improve if he hopes to avoid another defeat in Texas (1-1) this weekend during the Trojans’ tough early-season schedule.

“He’s going to go through some growing pains, and we’re going to live with it, and we’re going to move on as an offense,” USC coach Clay Helton said. “I’m not worried about his progression. I’m looking forward to seeing how he reacts in this game, and I think he’ll have his jaw set and be ready to play. That’s the type of kid he is.”

Daniels also ended the game at Stanford with a bruised throwing hand after hitting it on a helmet. The injury isn’t expected to affect him this weekend when USC visits Austin for a high-stakes showdown between powerhouse programs that really don’t need a second loss this early in the year.

“The kid went out there and fought, I’ll give him that,” USC quarterbacks coach Bryan Ellis said. “He stuck in there and came back when probably most men wouldn’t have. We’re working on it every day, and I think we’ll come out this week and play a lot better.”

Daniels didn’t say much about his hand, but he thinks it will be fine for Saturday. He isn’t using the bruise as an excuse for a few errant late throws at Stanford, either.

“It was just an adjustment I had to make,” Daniels said with a shrug. “That’s football, and it happens, and something I’ve got to be able to handle.”

USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin took a share of the blame for the Trojans’ woes against their Pac-12 rivals, lamenting their inability to lean on a solid running game. Martin also admits he needs to fine-tune his play-calling to benefit the freshman passer with the strong arm and two games of elite collegiate experience.

“I’m learning the quarterback,” Martin said. “He’s learning me, I’m learning him, and I’ve got a good feel for what he likes now after watching the last two games. We sat down and watched film and talked about it. And that’s part of this growing process, this maturation and this learning process. He’s awesome. His attitude is really great, and we’re going to learn a lot from it going forward down the stretch.”

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