Senior running back Marc Tyler made his season debut Saturday as the Trojans defeated Utah 23-14, carrying the ball 24 times for 113 yards and a touchdown. But the workload came within the flow of the game, according to the coaching staff.
“I thought it would probably be a Marc Tyler-type of game,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said. “I knew he wouldn’t start, but I thought by the end of it he’d have more carries.”
Tyler, who received 69 percent of the carries Saturday, was USC’s most effective back averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Redshirt freshman running back D.J. Morgan started the game, but after fumbling in the second quarter, Morgan did not receive another touch the rest of the game.
Instead, Kiffin went with Tyler for the majority of the game, with sophomore Dillon Baxter and redshirt junior Curtis McNeal spelling him throughout.
“Two things happened: It was that type of game … and with D.J. putting the ball on the ground, that obviously made it easy at that time that we were going to go with Marc and Dillon,” Kiffin said.
USC’s next game is Saturday, against Syracuse. No starting running back has been announced for next week’s game.
Special teams coordinator John Baxter’s unit gave USC a lift once again.
After freshman kicker Andre Heidari only saw one extra point attempt in the season opener against Minnesota, Heidari kicked two extra points and his first field goal attempt — a 47-yarder — which he made.
Though he struggled later in the game, freshman punter Kyle Negrete’s punts never resulted in a scoring drive for the Utes.
The biggest moment occurred on the last play of scrimmage. After a review of the ball’s spot, Utah drew a defensive passing interference that put it in range for a 41-yard field goal at USC’s 24-yard line.
On the kick, redshirt junior offensive tackle Matt Kalil stuck his arm up and blocked the kick with his forearm. Redshirt sophomore cornerback Torin Harris recovered the ball and returned it 69 yards for a touchdown as time expired.
Originally the points did not count because of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty committed by USC as the team on the sideline rushed the field when Harris returned the ball. The Pac-12, however, reversed the call after the game.
Coming off a record-breaking performance, sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods finished with eight receptions for 102 yards, but no touchdowns.
As with Woods, junior quarterback Matt Barkley completed 20 passes on 32 attempts for 264 yards, one touchdown and an interception.
The USC defense constantly harassed junior Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn throughout the game. Wynn only completed 50 percent of his throws on 46 attempts, was sacked twice and hurried multiple times by Trojan defenders.
The Trojan defense turned in another solid performance, as it allowed 319 yards but only 81 yards on 25 attempts — just 3.2 yards per carry — and 14 points.