The USC Trojans handed the Utah Utes its first loss of the season and they have freshmen linebacker Cameron Smith to thank for it. Smith, a true freshman, intercepted three passes from Utah quarterback Travis Wilson, returning one for a Trojan touchdown. Smith’s interceptions accounted for 17 of the 42 Trojan points. “Any time a big play happens, the whole team feels it,” Smith said. “We piggyback on each other and make more big plays.”
The Trojans played smarter and faster on Saturday night, rushing for 115 yards and four touchdowns. Although USC entered the game as a 3-point favorite, a cardinal and gold win was not guaranteed. The Utes began the game with the best Pac-12 defense against the run. But on this night, the Trojans didn’t care about any of that. Running back Justin Davis scored first with a nine-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Utah answered with a 30-yard pass to Britain Covey, tying the game, 7-7. The Utes would take the lead on a two-yard touchdown run by star running back Devontae Booker, 14-7.
But then something very special began to happen. USC linebacker Cameron Smith returned an interception 41 yards to set up Soma Vainuku’s one-yard rush for a Trojan touchdown, tying the game 14-14. USC tailback Ronald Jones rushed 18 yards for a touchdown with 3:40 left in the second quarter. The Trojans lead 21-14. With 1:07 left in the first half, Smith picks Utes quarterback Wilson again and returns it 54 yards for a touchdown that sets the Coliseum on fire. USC leads 28-14. The Utes would kick a 53-yard field goal; the first half ends with USC leading 28-17. The Trojans exit the field to thunderous applause.
For the remainder of the game, the Trojans would never look back. USC quarterback Cody Kessler would take it into the end zone on a one-yard sneak for a Trojan lead, 35-17. Kessler would find receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 25-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, raising the score to 42-17 Trojan lead.
Utah receiver Brian Covey scores again on a 66-yard pass from Wilson, 42-24. However, the night belonged to the Trojans with quarterback Kessler finishing the game with 264 yards passing and a touchdown. JuJu Smith-Schuster had eight catches for 143 yards and one touchdown. “It’s been tough, and these guys have been pushed to the limit, but (Coach Helton) has kept everything together,” Kessler said. “He has kept us family. It was a great win, but that’s what we expect.”
The Trojans held the Utes running back Devontae Booker to 14 carriers, 62 yards and no touchdowns. Utes quarterback Travis Wilson completed 24 of 36 passes for 254 yards, two touchdowns, and four interceptions. “That was a good football team we played at their stadium. I don’t know how they’re 3-3 going in, but they’re really good.” “They could easily win out, that’s how talented they are,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham.
This USC win means that the Pac-12 South division race remains open. The Utes still control their destiny as they remain in first place with a one-game lead. USC, UCLA, and Arizona State remain behind the Utes with one loss each. The good news is two-fold: (1) UCLA still has to play both Utah and USC and (2) the Trojans have two of the three tiebreakers with wins against the Sun Devils and the Utes. If the Trojans win all of its remaining games and Utah loses again, well, the Trojans may find themselves in the Rose Bowl. The bad news is that a two-loss team will most likely get shut out of the national championship race.
The Trojans (4-3) take on the California Bears (5-2), Saturday, October 31 at Kabam Field, Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, CA, 12PM on the FOX network.