Teams that take risks usually end up one of two ways: embarrassed after a failed play or ecstatic the gamble paid off. For Utah, it was the latter on a 4th-and-one with under 30 seconds to go in the first half at USC’s 37 yard line.
Instead of taking the field goal, Utes Head Coach Kyle Whittingham took a risk. He dialed up a flea-flicker play that resulted in a 37-yard touchdown throw just before halftime. Trojans fans stood shocked as their team trotted into the locker room behind 21-10.
Like USC’s two losses earlier this season, things didn’t get any better in the second half. The game ended 42-26 in favor of Utah, the most the Utes have ever scored against the Trojans. This marked the third Pac-12 loss for the Trojans this season and the first time in 105 years USC lost to Utah at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
“The guys fought today, but that’s not good enough at all,” interim Head Coach Donte Williams said. “Especially for USC … They capitalized on us.”
Junior wide receiver Drake London was once again dominant for USC even with the loss. His career-high 16 receptions were tied for the second most in a single game by a Trojan receiver ever — the record of 17 is still held by Rams receiver Robert Woods. London went for 162 yards with 1 touchdown, a 20-yard reception where he hurdled a defender to find the endzone.
“He’s the best receiver in the country,” junior quarterback Kedon Slovis said. “We try to dial stuff up for him. That means moving him around, and if they overplay [him], that gets the other guys more open.”
It took both teams a while to get going; the Trojans got on the scoreboard first with just 3:48 to go in the first quarter. USC stuck around with Utah for the majority of the first half, but the infamous third-quarter slump was just as ugly as past renditions, with Utah outscoring USC 14-0 in that period.
The Trojans once again found themselves playing from behind later in the game, and while the offense produced more yardage than Utah — 493 to Utah’s 486 — the scoring output was nowhere near the Utes.
“You just can’t stay behind the sticks,” Slovis said. “I think every time we got stopped, we had a penalty or a sack or something like that to get us behind the sticks.”
USC’s secondary had another tough showing with a mix of blown coverages and penalties fueling Utah’s drives.
“It [was] like [sophomore quarterback Cameron Rising] couldn’t miss,” redshirt senior safety Isaiah Pola-Mao said. “He just made great plays. We just have to win our one-on-one battles.”
The Utes could do no wrong on offense for the most part. Rising was solid, going 22 of 28 for 306 yards with 3 touchdowns. Utah had seven different offensive players aside from Rising with over 20 yards.
“Credit to Utah because they capitalized,” Williams said. “We gotta make sure these things don’t happen. There [were] way too many big plays on that field tonight not in our favor.”
Utah was coming off of the tragic loss of sophomore cornerback Aaron Lowe Sept. 26, who was killed in an accidental shooting. The game was the team’s first win since the incident.