Trojan QB Caleb Williams is somber as he leaves the field after the loss to the Utes.
(Credit: Jevone Moore)

The No. 18 Trojans began the day with one thing in mind: beating the Utah Utes after a heartbreaking loss to Notre Dame. The Trojans and their legions of fans would leave the Coliseum disappointed after losing again to the Utes. As most sports fans would say, the Utes have the Trojans’ number; they spoiled it for the Trojans once again.

No. 14 Utah has won the last two Pac-12 championships, defeating Oregon in 2021 and the Trojans in 2022. Suffice it to say, this game had plenty of meaning for the Trojans as the Utes always play the Trojans tough. The Utes, playing without their starting quarterback, showed up in the esteemed Coliseum and refused to lose. The Trojans are now 4-1 in Pac-12 play and most likely out of national playoff contention.

Zachariah Branch #1 would return a spectacular 61-yard punt return.
(Credit: Jevone Moore)

The game had beautiful moments; Williams would complete a beautiful pass to Tahj Washington in the first quarter, and MarShawn Lloyd would have a 53-yard run for a touchdown. Denis Lynch would kick a 44-yard field goal. Calen Bullock would have a crucial pick-six to keep the Trojans in the game. Zachariah Branch would have an electric 61-yard punt return that Williams turned into a touchdown with two minutes left to play. The Trojans led 32-31 with 16 seconds left on the clock. So, what happened?

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The quick answers revolve around coaching decisions to go for two-point conversions twice, and both would fail. It’s a shaking-your-head moment because they have Lynch, the kicker who is money 95% of the time. They gave away points desperately needed in the end. And many are questioning why the Trojans would kick two field goals in the fourth quarter, settling for three points each time rather than six. Why not extend those drives? Especially the second failed two-point conversion that gave Utah the ball with minutes on the clock and the reality of a possible Utes field goal to win the game. And Bear Alexander, a University of Georgia transfer, was ejected for targeting in the game’s final minutes.

MarShawn Lloyd would have a 53-yard TD run for the Trojans
(Credit: Jevone Moore)

Trojans head coach Lincoln Riley explained the loss:

“Two tough losses in a row and obviously not how any of us scripted this, but you can’t script it. It’s college football,” Riley said. “It comes down to little things here and there, and we haven’t quite played clean enough here in the last couple of weeks to take advantage of it.”

Williams would finish with 24 of 34 passes for 256 yards without a passing touchdown for the first time in his USC career. Williams would score on an 11-yard rushing touchdown. Utah backup quarterback Bryson Barnes would have the best night of his collegiate career, 235 yards on three touchdowns, completing 14 of 23 passes. And with 0:05 left in the game, Barnes would put the Utes in field goal range for the game-winning kick.

Tahj Washington, a bright spot in the loss to the Utes
(Credit: Jevone Moore)

The Trojans left the field in shock while the Utes celebrated on a beautiful night in the City of Angels, known for making dreams come true.

The Trojans have one conference loss, and tough conference teams are on the remainder of their schedule. While Riley did not make any team members available to the media, he reiterated that the Trojans are not without hope.

“I still know that there’s a lot out there for this team, even though some people will count us out,” Riley said. “That’s OK. There’s a lot left for this team.”