Michael Pittman

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USC receiver looks forward to running up the score on Notre Dame

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The last time USC won a game in South Bend, Indiana against Notre Dame was in 2011. With the Trojans making the trip to Notre Dame Stadium this week, Trojans wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. is not only looking forward to a win over the Fighting Irish, but running away with the game on the scoreboard.

Pittman was asked what advice he is sharing with younger players making their first trip to South Bend, where the game-time temperatures are projected to be in the mid to low-40s. In his response to the question, Pittman said “it’ll be fun when we’re running up the score,” according to Ryan Kartje of Los Angeles Times.

As that quote started making the rounds, Pittman chimed in on his Twitter account to clarify he was not intending that to be a show of disrespect for USC’s opponent.

The last time an unranked USC team won on the road against a top 10 Notre Dame team was 1971. USC finished the 1971 season with a record of 6-4-1 under John McKay. The 28-14 victory over No. 6 Notre Dame snapped a three-game losing streak against Oklahoma, Oregon, and Stanford. The Trojans didn’t lose a game the rest of the season and ended the year with a tie against rival UCLA.

No. 17 Washington clamps down on Matt Fink, holds off No. 21 USC for big Pac-12 win

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No. 17 Washington was trending toward falling in the same old hole they did in a loss to Cal earlier this season, with big drops, lackluster red zone trips and a number of blown assignments holding back the Huskies from taking full control of a pivotal Pac-12 contest. Luckily tailback Salvon Ahmed was back in the lineup and proved to be fully healthy in breaking off a game-breaking 89 yard touchdown run that all but cemented their eventual 28-14 win over No. 21 USC on Saturday afternoon.

Ahmed wound up finishing with 153 yards on the day in his return to action after missing last week’s win over BYU, helping pace an offense that was solid but unspectacular in a situation where they simply didn’t execute up to a level you expect out of a Chris Petersen-coached team. A lot of that had to do with several overthrows and drops in the passing game, which was far from crisp on an otherwise perfect fall day on Montlake. QB Jacob Eason recorded only 180 yards on 16 completions and failed to find the end zone through the air.

Richard Newton chipped in with 20 yards and a score of his own on the ground, while wideout Andre Baccellia complemented two catches for 13 yards by falling on a fumble in the end zone for a big score late in the first half. The Huskies did move into the red zone two other times but had to settle for a pair of Peyton Henry field goals otherwise the final score could have been a lot more comfortable for the purple and gold.

The outcome probably wasn’t too surprising for those that follow the Trojans given how beat up the team was coming in. Matt Fink started for the first time on the road at quarterback in place of Kedon Slovis, who reportedly travelled to Seattle but didn’t play after suffering a concussion last week in the win against Utah. The veteran quarterback had a few moments where he flashed (one long TD pass to Michael Pittmanone scramble for a rushing score) but far more where he didn’t (163 yards passing, three bad interceptions that led to points the other way) against one of the league’s best defenses.

The end result dropped USC to 3-2 on the year, which somehow still allows them to stay in the thick of the Pac-12 South race but makes life difficult overall for head coach Clay Helton. The team heads into their off week with plenty of questions beyond the quarterback position and still has to travel to South Bend to face a Notre Dame squad in the top 10. The loss to the Huskies only further cements the head coach’s spot on the hot seat and the number of penalties and defensive lapses are enough to cause many in the cardinal and gold pining for a change being made sooner rather than later.

As for Washington, they’ll hit the road as well the next few weeks against Stanford and Arizona as that battle with No. 13 Oregon looms in the middle of next month as possibly the game of the year in the Pac-12 North.

No. 17 Washington jumps up early as major Pac-12 tilt against No. 21 USC hits halftime

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Matt Fink’s first road start as the new USC quarterback did not exactly go as well as his outing last week but the No. 21 Trojans were still in it trailing 17-7 at halftime to No. 17 Washington in an energetic atmosphere up in Seattle.

The one-time backup signal-caller was hot (one short touchdown run off a keeper) and cold (an interception that was later turned into a UW touchdown) in a difficult ask of anybody under center, much less USC’s third-stringer coming into the season and the starter for now with freshman Kedon Slovis still not cleared to play after suffering a concussion against Utah last Saturday. The play of Fink, who threw for 62 yards as well, was about all the team had going on offense with the big receivers Michael Pittman and Tyler Vaughns mostly kept in check on the outside and the ground game lacking for hardly any explosiveness.

The Huskies, meanwhile, were quite efficient at utilizing short fields on offense to jump out to an early lead. Off a solid punt return into plus territory, Richard Newton (14 total yards) wound up punching it into the end zone and Washington came right back again by scoring after their defense pulled in an interception. Andre Baccellia was the one who netted the six points on that latter score, falling on a fumble for a touchdown.

Strong-armed quarterback Jacob Eason didn’t have much of a chance to showcase what he could do under center in throwing for only 97 yards in the first half.

Washington does get the ball to start the second half and can put a little more distance between them and USC in what is shaping up to be a pivotal Pac-12 clash in the Pacific Northwest.

USC takes charge in Pac-12 South after upset of No. 10 Utah

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Late Friday night saw the first upset of the weekend in college football. No. 10 Utah (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) was upset on the road by USC (3-1, 2-0 Pac-12), 30-23, despite the Trojans playing with a third-string quarterback and the Pac-12 officials throwing enough flags to fill five loads of laundry. The win by USC moves the Trojans into a comfortable spot in the Pac-12 South before even getting to October.

USC lost starting quarterback Kedon Slovis on the second play of the game. After Slovis left to be evaluated for a possible head injury, third-string quarterback Matt Fink stepped in to lead the offense. All Fink did was lead USC to touchdowns on their first two possessions of the game and then make some big passes in the second half to keep the Trojans in front of Utah. Fink ended his night off the bench with 351 passing yards and three touchdowns. Michael Pittman Jr. was on the receiving end of 10 of those receptions for a massive 232 receiving yards. The highlight of the night was a 77-yard touchdown pass that saw Pittman come down with a jump ball and then push aside a would-be tackler on his way to the endzone.

A win is a win, fo course, and USC will take them any way they can. On Friday night in the Coliseum, they had to overcome an onslaught of bad penalties. USC was flagged 11 times for 117 yards. Utah had their share of laundry too with 16 penalties called for 120 yards. Both teams were guilty of personal foul penalties as the game was certainly chippy at times. But some of the penalties were questionable at best. Neither coach will walk away from this game feeling great about the discipline or the officiating, as there was plenty of blame to go around in this one.

Utah had their chances to come away with the win, but an inability to defend deep jump ball passes by Fink killed them too often. The Utes ran for 247 yards as a team but managed just one touchdown on the ground. Quarterback Tyler Huntley put his team on the back for much of the night with 210 passing yards and 60 rushing yards, but it was not enough as defenders were able to get to him and bring him under pressure.

In the end, it was just USC’s night, and it was one Clay Helton really needed. For now, USC can live in the moment and not have to worry about distractions about the future of Helton. USC is already 2-0 in conference play with wins against Stanford and Utah. The road is not going to get any easier, with a road game at Washington coming up next week, followed by a trip to South Bend, Indiana to play Notre Dame. But USC ha splayed themselves into a favorable spot in the Pac-12 by being 2-0 and owning a head-to-head tiebreaker with Utah. That gives USC a margin for error in conference play, and they look to be the best team within the Pac-12 South the rest of the season.

While we should be wise not to pencil USC into the Pac-12 championship game just yet (remember, third-string QB and they still have Washington and Oregon to play in a difficult crossover division rotation), but there have been some true signs of promise for the Trojans early on this season. And bouncing back from a hard-fought loss at BYU last week to knock off No. 10 Utah is quite a turnaround for USC.

As USC hits the road to challenge Washington next week, Utah will look to rebound at home in Salt Lake City against Washington State. As of the conclusion of the USC-Utah game, the Washington State Cougars were one of three undefeated teams in the Pac-12 left standing (Cal, Arizona State).

BYU upsets No. 24 USC with game-winning interception in overtime

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BYU scored their second straight win against a team from a power conference, and this time they did it on their home field. BYU (2-1) needed overtime to score their first victory against No. 21 USC (2-1) in program history. It came in dramatic fashion with Dayan Ghanwoloku picking off a pass by Kedon Slovis in overtime to seal a 30-27 win. An official video replay review had to confirm the call on the field after fans had already started to strom the field.

 

USC took a 24-17 lead in the fourth quarter thanks in part to bad personnel management by BYU’s special teams. On 4th and 1 form the BYU 32-yard line, the Trojans appeared set to attempt a 50-yard field goal, but BYU head coach Kalani Sitake was forced to burn BYU’s second timeout of the half because they had 12 players on the field. After getting some extra time to think things over, USC head coach Clay Helton opted to let his offense go back on the field and Markese Stepp rewarded him for that decision with a two-yard gain to move the chains. Then, on the very next play, Kedon Slovis took to the air to find Michael Pittman Jr. for a 30-yard touchdown. The ruling of a touchdown was discussed by officials to determine if Pittman should have been flagged for illegally touching the football after stepping out of bounds, and a review upheld the decision on the field.

After cutting the lead to four with a field goal, the BYU defense come up with a controversial stop on 3rd & 8 (officials ruled Pittman had caught a pass out of bounds, although video review showed there was a chance he may have had a foot inbounds), BYU took over around midfield. A big 35-yard pass from Zach Wilson to Gunner Romney picked up 35 yards right away, and two plays later Wilson took the ball himself straight up the middle of the Trojans defense.

But USC responded with a 52-yard field goal off the leg of Chase McGrath, a career-best, to tie the game at 27-27 on the ensuing possession.

USC is now 2-1 all-time against BYU. The two teams played in 2003 and 2004, with the Trojans winning by scores of 35-18 and 42-10, respectively.

USC will jump back into Pac-12 play next week with BYU’s rival, and preseason Pac-12 media favorite, Utah. The Trojans will get the Utes at home in an early pivotal matchup in the Pac-12 with the winner taking the early lead in the Pac-12 South Division standings. Utah was getting a final tuneup at home against Idaho State in Week 3. Utah also opened the season with a victory against BYU.

BYU will welcome another Pac-12 contender to Provo next week when the Washington huskies make the trip to LaVell Edwards Stadium. Washington head coach Chris Petersen is 2-1 all-time against the Cougars, including a 1-1- mark at Boise State.