There was a time when a 17-14 win by USC over Utah State would’ve been greeted with cries of panic by those who follow Trojan football.
But expectations have fallen so much at USC, any win these days over any level of opponent is seen as something to be taken without reservation.
And so, Lane Kiffin survived another week — barely — as his Trojans squeaked out a 3-point win over out-manned Utah State in the Coliseum.
If not for the resiliency of the USC defense, Kiffin might already be on the outskirts of town, run out ignominiously on a rail. The new 5-2 scheme under defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast suffocated Utah State’s brilliant quarterback, Chuckie Keeton, holding him to just 179 yards passing and negative 15 yards rushing. Meanwhile, the USC offense continued to look like something out of the stone age.
The Trojans put up 282 yards of offense, went 3 of 13 on third down conversions and were held to just 3 yards per carry. USC managed just 17 total points despite spending most of the game inside Utah State territory. But mistakes, dropped balls, penalties, poor play calling and a scrappy Aggies defense handicapped the Trojan attack all day.
Utah State had a chance to win this one. Beating the Trojans would’ve been a landmark win for the program, but Keeton couldn’t get it done and the usually-slippery quarterback seemed out of sorts most of the day. The Aggies now stand at 2-2 after dropping its second close game to a Pac-12 opponent.
For USC, things do not get any easier. The Trojans travel to Arizona State next week and, based on how they’ve looked in the first four games, things could get ugly in the desert.
But USC is not Florida. Despite this narrow win, it’s still a novice at winning ugly. Unless the Trojans get better quick, playing ugly will just mean losing ugly.