Soma Vainuku

Associated Press

Unranked USC upends No. 3 Utah in 42-24 blowout

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This was how it was supposed to be this season for USC. Speedy wide receivers slicing up defenses, while a running game chews up yardage and clock thanks to a dominant offensive line. A defense that matches the offense with big plays of its own. And a top five opponent sent home to lick its wounds. But thanks to a topsy-turvy, inconsistent start to the season, USC’s 42-24 win over Utah will go down as the upset that wasn’t.

Despite carrying in three losses to Utah’s none, bookmakers saw underachieving USC for what it was: a team capable of doing exactly what it did to the third-ranked team in the country.

The Trojans trailed 14-7 after the first quarter, but completely dominated from there. Cameron Smith got the ball rolling with a 41-yard interception return early in the second quarter, setting Soma Vainuku up for a game-tying one-yard touchdown plunge. Ronald Jones II gave the Men of Troy the lead with an 18-yard touchdown run with 3:40 to go before the half, and Smith added to it by snaring another Travis Wilson pass and racing it 54 yards for a touchdown.

Utah’s Andy Phillips added a 35-yard field goal just before the half to bring the score to 28-17, but that proved to be a brief respite in the midst of a route.

USC added to the lead by moving 83 yards over 17 plays and nearly nine minutes, culminating in a one-yard Cody Kessler sneak, then marched another 92 yards over eight plays and four minutes, capped by a 25-yard pass from Kessler to JuJu Smith-Schuster. The second score was set up by – you guessed it – another Smith interception. The true freshman was Wilson’s second-leading receiver on the night with three grabs for 122 return yards and a touchdown.

Utah added a cosmetic score with four minutes remaining when Wilson hit the Utes’ only bright spot of the evening, Britain Covey, for a 66-yard touchdown. Covey snagged seven receptions for 129 yards and two touchdowns and set up Utah’s other touchdown with a 40-yard punt return.

Make no mistake, this night was about USC, and USC performing like the team it’s capable of being. Kessler hit 21-of-28 throws for 264 yards and a touchdown, Jones and Justin Davis combined to rush 34 times for 139 yards and two scores, and Smith-Schuster contributed eight grabs for 143 yards and a score.

So, what now? USC sits at 4-3 overall and 2-2 in Pac-12 play, good for fourth in the Pac-12 South. But the Trojans hold tiebreakers over Utah and Arizona State, and UCLA waits ahead on the schedule. Utah owns control of the Pac-12 South despite the loss, but the team that took the field Saturday night has at least one more loss ahead on the schedule.

The USC team that took the field Saturday night is absolutely capable of winning out, winning the Pac-12 South and avenging its loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 title game. The USC team that lost to Washington is capable of losing any of its final five games. Which version of these Trojans will win out? Only time will tell.

Upset brewing? USC leads No. 3 Utah at the half

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In what would either be a complete shock or a complete chalk, favored but unranked USC is halfway home to a win over No. 3 Utah at the L.A. Coliseum. The Trojans used a ferocious second quarter to grab a 28-17 halftime lead over the Utes.

USC opened the scoring by moving a swift 88 yards in nine plays, capped by a nine-yard Justin Davis scoring run, to give the Trojans a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

Utah struck back after that, namely on the back of wide receiver Britain Covey. He snagged a 30-yard touchdown pass to tie the game with 3:53 to go in the first quarter, then set his Utes up with a first-and-goal at the two after a corkscrewing 40-yard punt return. Bubba Poole punched in a two-yard touchdown one play later to give the Utes a 14-7 lead.

The USC defense owned the second quarter, forcing a three-and-out on Utah’s next possession and then intercepting Travis Wilson on the next. Trojans linebacker Cameron Smith snagged the pass and returned it 41 yards to the Utah four-yard line, and Soma Vainuku leaped in on fourth-and-goal at the one to tie the game with 9:47 remaining before the break.

USC forced another punt and promptly moved 78 yards in 10 snaps, punctuated by an 18-yard touchdown run by freshman Ronald Jones II, to give USC a 21-14 lead with 3:40 remaining. The Utes moved to the USC 45 with just over a minute remaining and electing to throw on 4th-and-2. Smith again intercepted Wilson and this time raced 54 yards for a touchdown.

Andy Phillips added a 53-yard field goal with five seconds to play to bring Utah within 28-17.

For the half, Wilson completed 14-of-22 passes for 117 yards with a touchdown and those two costly interceptions. Devontae Booker rushed 10 times for 52 yards.

Cody Kessler connected on 10-of-15 throws for 133 yards, and the combination of Jones and Davis have rushed 14 times for 85 yards and two scores.

Overall, USC out-gained Utah 204-177 in the half.

The Trojans will receive to open the second half.