The setup: With Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott in attendance, USC hosted Utah in the first ever Pac-12 conference football game. The Utes began their transition from the Mountain West, and their fans showed up in droves to the Coliseum. Former USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow, now Utah’s offensive coordinator, made his return to the Coliseum, where he experienced so much success. In addition, redshirt senior tailback Marc Tyler returned to the USC lineup after an indefinite suspension in the offseason.
The story: USC had several chances to take a commanding lead, but turnovers and penalties negated some of their most promising drives. Utah hung tough, and the game came down to the wire. The ending could not have been any more bizarre.
With 6:20 remaining, John White ran it one yard to give the Utes a touchdown and make the score 17-14. Still down by three, Utah regained possession with 1:01 to play. On fourth and ten, Wynn found DeVonte Christopher for a gain of ten, and it was originally ruled a turnover on downs after a measurement.
Upon further review, officials re-spotted the ball and gave life to Utah by awarding a first down. Pass-interference was later called on Tony Burnett, putting the ball well within field-goal range. With no timeouts left, Utah quickly rushed their field-goal unit out and attempted to tie the game. Offensive lineman Matt Kalil then blocked the kick with his forearm, and Torin Harris scooped it up and ran it in for a touchdown.
However, the referees initially said that because the USC bench stormed on to the field before the game ended, an unsportsmanlike conduct was called and nullified the touchdown from Harris, ending the game at 17-14. Roughly two hours after the game, the Pac-12 office awarded the touchdown to USC, thus changing the final score to 23-14.
“It did kind of seem like forever” coach Lane Kiffin told reporters after the game. “We’re playing really well in all phases of the game. We’re just not putting people away”.
Getting defensive: Other than the crazy ending, the story of this game was USC’s defensive effort. The Trojans gave up just 319 yards and collected a couple of sacks on the day. Despite the offense putting them in bad positions, the defense was able to maintain its composure, especially down the stretch.
Getting offensive: Although the running game got back on track with Marc Tyler’s 100+ yards, the offense still looked out of sync. Quarterback Matt Barkley is still struggling to find options outside of Robert Woods, although Marqise Lee and Xavier Grimble showed some bright flashes.
USC has only scored 36 points in its first two contests, compared with 66 a year ago. Barkley threw for 264 yards, a touchdown and an interception on the day. The running game improved from last week , and Marc Tyler knew that he had to put the weight on his shoulders.
“This is something I’ve dreamed about doing since I got in trouble, just coming back and being a big impact to the fans and my teammates,” Tyler said after the game. Tyler’s return, however, meant far less snaps for the other tailbacks. Curtis McNeal only had two carries, and D.J. Morgan had eight. Baxter chipped in with one carry of his own. While the tailback situation seems to have been cleared up a bit, the offensive efficiency and ability to put up points remains an issue.
Freshman delivers: Andre Heidari made all of his kicks on the day, including a 47-yard field goal and two extra points.
Next up: The Trojans play host for the third weekend in a row as Syracuse visits the L.A. Coliseum on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 5 p.m.at the Coliseum.