USC Trojans

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - SEPTEMBER 23: Quarterback Troy Williams #3 of the Utah Utes looks to pass the ball in the second quarter of their game against the USC Trojans at Rice-Eccles Stadium on September 23, 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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Utah captures win over USC thanks to thrilling fourth quarter comeback

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With the clock winding down in the fourth quarter and the game on the line, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham didn’t flinch.

The Utes converted two fourth downs on a game-winning drive to complete a 10 point comeback in the final quarter to stun USC 31-27 in Salt Lake City on Friday night.

The loss moved Utah to 4-0 to start the season but much more notably dropped the Trojans to 1-3 before we’ve even reached October.

Quarterback Troy Williams finished the night with 270 yards and a pair of touchdowns, torching the USC secondary on quick passes on the final drive and making a few plays with his legs as well by adding 17 yards rushing during the game. Tailback Zack Moss was part of an effective ground game and led the team with 90 yards on 23 carries.

If there was any bright spot for USC on the night, it was that redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Darnold looked good in his first start for the Trojans (253 yards, no interceptions). Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster finally got going to the tune of 98 yards on eight receptions and teammate Adoree’ Jackson chipped in with a 100 yard kick return in the first quarter.

Still, it will be a long week for the men of Troy as they are staring at a huge uphill climb to even make a bowl game with one of the toughest schedules in the country. They’ll host a rapidly improving Arizona State next week looking to avoid going 0-3 to start Pac-12 play as talk of coach Clay Helton’s hot seat is bound to heat up in Los Angeles.

Utah, SMU debut slick new helmets for Friday night games

Utah football's newest helmet design was unveiled before the team played USC.
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Friday night’s slate of college football games is not a bad one at all this week. SMU is playing metroplex rival TCU in the Battle for the Iron Skillet while Utah is hosting a big Pac-12 South battle against USC.

The Utes and the Mustangs must know they’re on national TV tonight because both teams tweeted out some slick new helmet designs.

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Football uniforms have become as much about recruiting as they are for displaying the school name so kudos to both programs for unveiling such unique and good looking designs. The fire emoji is certainly appropriate to use for both.

Clay Helton denies being punched in the face by transferring Trojan

PALO ALTO, CA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Head coach Clay Helton of the USC Trojans looks on as his team warms up prior to playing the Stanford Cardinal in a NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Yet another bizarre situation has surfaced at USC — and we’re not even talking about having eight men on the field for an extra point.

Internet message boards were set ablaze the last couple of days with rumors that E.J. Price was leaving the football program after being dismissed for punching head coach Clay Helton in the face during a physical altercation. Tuesday night, Helton set the record straight in confirming that Price will be leaving his program as a transfer — and that he hadn’t been punched by the 6-6, 325-pound offensive tackle as “I wouldn’t be here. I’d be dead.”

“I talked to E.J. a couple days ago. E.J. has some personal family issues that are going on — a lot of homesickness and missing family really bad,” the coach said. “With us sitting down and visiting, really felt, mutually, that it was important for him to go find a school that is closer to home, where he can deal with his family. …

“I want everybody to understand that anytime something like that goes out, I hate that it presents a perception of a kid, because this is a really good kid. He’s going to be a very good college football player, and I wish him nothing but the best and looking forward to him being successful.”

A four-star member of USC’s 2016 recruiting class, Price was rated as the No. 9 tackle in the country and the No. 11 player at any position in the state of Georgia.

To say that Helton’s first full season as head coach has gotten off to a rocky start would be a mammoth understatement.  In addition to the Price situation, Helton over the past month or so has seen…

Other than that, not much is going on in the Land of Troy.

USC players involved in rape investigations no longer on roster

FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2016 file photo, Southern California's Osa Masina works out during NCAA college football practice in Los Angeles. He is one of two USC football players under investigation for sexual assault. The team has sent linebacker Don Hill home from Dallas, where the No. 20 Trojans are set to open the season Saturday, Sept. 3, against No. 1 Alabama. The team on Friday would say only that Hill had violated team rules. Masina did not make the trip with the team. (John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News via AP, File)
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Even as there are more important things in play, it appears the USC playing careers of two Trojans have, at least for now, come to a close.

Monday, Osa Masina and Don Hill were listed on the Trojans’ online roster. Tuesday, that changed as both of their names were removed a day later.

The twin removals came a few days after Masina (picturedhad been charged with one count of first-degree rape and two counts of forcible sodomy in connection to an alleged July incident in Cottonwood Heights, Utah. All three of those counts are felonies.

On July 26, the victim alleged, she passed out and awoke to find Masina on top of her, anally raping her.  She claimed to have woken up the next morning in pain and went to police, while a rape kit was subsequently administered.

In addition to that incident, Los Angeles police are investigating another alleged rape of the same woman by Masina July 14.  Hill is also connected to that investigation.

Masina and Hill were suspended for the first two games of the season after the allegations surfaced, but had been permitted to practice with the team.  Last week, both players were banned from all football-related activities.

Neither Masina nor Hill have been charged in connection to the alleged Los Angeles rape.

Sam Darnold to start at QB for USC vs. Utah

EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 21: Head coach Clay Helton of USC Trojans looks on as his team warms up before the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on November 21, 2015 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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Following last week’s lifeless 27-10 loss to Stanford, USC head coach Clay Helton revealed Monday evening Sam Darnold will start at quarterback for the Trojans Friday at Utah.

Max Browne started the first three games for USC, including Saturday’s Stanford debacle. He completed 18-of-28 passes for 191 yards before giving way to Darnold, who hit 5-of-7 throws for 45 yards and an interception.

Darnold is a redshirt freshman from Capistrano Beach, Calif., and the Utah game will represent his first collegiate start. A four-star recruit and the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2015 as rated by 247Sports, Darnold has played in all three games to date and hit 14-of-22 passes for 136 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

Browne, for his part, said he doesn’t expect to win his job back and allowed that a transfer is a possibility following this season.

The move signals Helton is feeling heat after a disastrous start to the season for USC. Granted, there is no crime in losing to Alabama and Stanford, but doing so by a combined 79-16 sends waves of panic through Trojans nation.

To date, USC ranks 115th nationally in yards per play, 108th in scoring, 111th in rushing and 97th in passing efficiency. Meanwhile, Helton is just 1-4 since accepting the full-time job last fall. The record is ugly, but, as shown by the numbers above, the execution may have been worse.

USC will face No. 24 Utah at 9 p.m. ET Friday (Fox Sports 1).