Cotton Bowl: School is cool, Sammy, stick around a few more years

ARLINGTON, Texas — Sam Darnold’s final pass of the 2017 season hit the AT&T Stadium turf, 10 yards from the nearest USC receiver.

So sums up Darnold’s first full season as the Trojans’ starting QB.

11 wins, Pac-12 title, first QB is USC’s storied history to throw for more than 4,000 yards in one season — Good.

Turnovers (lots of them) — Bad.

Stay in school, Sammy.

Stop if you’ve heard this one before.

A year ago, Darnold stole the heart of the college football world when he took over the starting job at USC a few games into the 2016 season and proceeded to lead the Trojans to an epic Rose Bowl win over Penn State.

All the offseason talk centered around the 2017 season being Darnold’s final one in a USC uniform.

His final stats in a 24-7 Cotton Bowl loss on Friday night: 26-of-45 for 356 yards.

But, he was sacked eight times and two of his three turnovers equaled 14 points for Ohio State.

“Whenever you turn the ball over that much, it’s hard to win games,” Darnold said. “It’s tough. As an offense, we try to create turnovers. And we had the ball …. three times in the red zone. And we didn’t put up points. Those are tough. We’ll look at the film and get better.”

A first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft?

Pump the breaks, folks.

While the former San Clemente star certainly passes the eye test for a future NFL QB… and most definitely has the size, arm strength and, at times, the accuracy … the redshirt sophomore still struggles in some of basic elements of the game.

On the second quarter pick-6 to Buckeyes safety Damon Webb (the first in the bowl game since 2009), Darnold faked the handoff then attempted to quickly throw a quick strike to a receiver.

Problem is: Ohio State was ready.

The play had worked earlier in the game, but on this ocassion, Webb got in position for Darnold to basically throw Webb the ball.

Cotton Bowl: Ohio State smothers USC for 24-7 victory

And Darnold did … 23-yards the other way for 6.

Then, later in the second quarter, Darnold and the Trojans finally got moving.

But, instead of points on the board, Darnold fumbled the ball away on the 10th play of the drive — which, two plays later, resulted in another Buckeyes touchdown and a 24-0 lead.

In the second half, as Ohio State’s offense sputtered, USC had multiple chances to cut into the Buckeyes’ lead … but failed.

Here’s how the five second-half drives went for the Trojans: 3 plays, 2 yards, punt; 9 plays, 41 yards, punt; 8 plays, 66 yards, missed field goal; 4 plays, 70 yards, fumble; 17 plays, 53 yards, downs.

Yikes.

But all is not lost.

“We had 11 wins. We won a Pac-12 championship. We’re proud of those accomplishments. But are we satisfied? No, we’re not. We’ won’t be satisfied until we win a national championship, and that will be our goal,” Helton said.

Following the game, USC coach Clay Helton said no one is more loved in the locker room than Darnold, and, that he will sit down with his QB to talk about Darnold’s future.

Hopefully, it has Darnold back in USC colors for 2018.

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