USC QB Jaxson Dart looks his age in first career start – Long Beach Press Telegram

LOS ANGELES — As Jaxson Dart sat down at the podium, the streak of black down his right eye smeared, sweaty hair hanging in his face, there was no trace of satisfaction on his face for having made his first career start. Just the bitterness of USC’s 62-33 defeat to UCLA hardening his features.

There was little to feel good about from the Trojans’ effort, and Dart’s performance was a mixed bag to evaluate, too.

From a statistical standpoint, Dart had a pedestrian game. He completed 57.4% of his passes for 325 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He moved the USC offense for 484 total yards, though, and five scores in five red-zone attempts. The Trojans did settle for field goals twice, a familiar trend for USC this season.

“I feel like I missed a lot. Wasn’t able to do enough to come out with the win,” Dart said. “I felt like I honestly didn’t make too many bad reads. I felt like I could see the field pretty well. Just missed some things here or there.”

Dart was not helped by the numerous drops by his receivers, including three in third-down situations in the first half. And he had little time to operate in the pocket with the pressure UCLA dialed up against the Trojans’ beleaguered offensive line.

But it was clear that Dart wasn’t playing at the same level as he was prior to his meniscus surgery in September. He wasn’t his typical dual-threat self, being sacked three times and accounting for negative-25 rushing yards.

And early in the game, he didn’t look comfortable with down-field throws. His only completion of more than 20 yards in the first half came on a throw behind the line of scrimmage to Keaontay Ingram that the running back took for 32 yards. One of his first attempts was tipped up and intercepted by UCLA after Dart threw into tight coverage.

But it seemed like his comfort level increased as the game went on. In the third quarter, Dart connected with Gary Bryant Jr. for passes of 28, 44 and 37 yards. The pair linked up for another 33-yard completion in the fourth.

“He played great, took shots, that’s who he is,” Bryant said. “I like the way he played and I look forward to seeing him later on.”

Added offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, “I think he did a whole lot of good things. The one pick in the red zone, I think he’d like to have back. Other than that, there were some freshman mistakes, sure, but he did a lot of good things. And even the first pick, trying to make a play, it’s third-and-long, he’ll learn from that one.”

With Kedon Slovis’ timeline to return from a lower leg injury still up in the air, Dart reiterated the message of building off this start.

“I’m gonna make the adjustments I need to and fix them so we can come back and come out victorious the next one,” he said.