Utah Falls In Season-Opener Against No. 19 USC
SALT LAKE CITY – The University of Utah football team struggled offensively today in its season-opener against No. 19 USC with turnover troubles ultimately leading to the Utes falling 33-17.
The Utes gave up 13 points off turnovers in the first half, finishing the game with five turnovers that included two fumbles and three interceptions. The turnovers made finding an offensive rhythm difficult, but despite the loss, the young Utah defense held USC to four field goals in the game and just two offensive scores.
Utah finished the game with 335 yards of total offense, holding USC to 357 with both teams averaging 5.4 yards per play. Utah's offensive performance included 119 rushing yards and 216 receiving yards with 10 different players catching at least one pass.
The Utes got on the board first with a 36-yard field goal from second-year starter Jadon Redding with 12:13 in the first quarter, but USC would answer with a field goal of their own to tie things up early. A costly fumble to start the second quarter would result in USC's first touchdown of the game, giving them a 10-3 lead with 14:45 on the clock.
Utah's defense answered on USC's next offensive drive after Nephi Sewell picked up a fumble recovery return for a touchdown to tie the score 10-10 but the Trojans would take the lead for good just one drive later on a 75-yard drive to make it 17-10. USC extended its lead to 24-10 late in the second quarter before Utah made it a one-possession game on a Samson Nacua touchdown that cut the lead to 24-17 heading into halftime.
The Utes were able to keep the Trojans out of the end zone in the third and fourth quarters, holding them to three field goals, but unfortunately on the other end, the Utes were also unable to find the red zone with USC finishing with the 33-17 win.
Quarterback Jake Bentley finished the game with 171 passing yards on 16-of-28 passing (2 INT) and one touchdown, adding 24 rushing yards on four attempts. Running back Jordan Wilmore led the Utes on the ground with 10 carries for 38 yards while Bryan Thompson racked up the most yards through the air with 48 (2 catches).
Linebackers Devin Lloyd and Sewell led the Utes in tackles with career-highs at 11 and 10, respectively. Sewell added his first-career fumble recovery return for a touchdown while also grabbing his third career interception later in the game.
TALKING ABOUT THE GAME: Head Coach Kyle Whittingham
"It was a disappointing game. A lot of positives, however, especially on the defense side. Our defense played scrappy. The run defense was solid. We need to clean some things up on the pass game. But, really, we had some pretty good performances from a lot of the guys who hadn't played much football for us, if any.
In both 2020 and 2019, Utah's offense had scored a first-quarter field goal before the defensive touchdown. Utah scored first in the game, on a 36-yard Jadon Redding field goal (9:07, 1st quarter). This marks the second year in a row and eighth time in the last 10 seasons that the Utes have scored their first points of the season before their opponent.
- Junior linebacker Nephi Sewell recorded his first-career fumble recovery for a touchdown with 11:53 remaining in the second quarter, returning it for 23 yards. It was his third career fumble recovery, notching two during his two seasons at Nevada. Sewell also recorded his first interception as a Ute in the second quarter with no return. It was his third career interception (2 at Nevada).
- Sewell tied his career-high in total tackles with his 10 today, tying his career-best that he set against Washington State in 2017 with Nevada.
- Freshman cornerback Clark Phillips III recorded nine total tackles in his collegiate debut, the most by a Utah freshman in a season-opener since Eric Rowe notched nine against Montana State in 2011.
- Junior linebacker Devin Lloyd finished the game with a career-high 11 tackles (7 solo, 4 ast., 2.0 TFL). His previous career-high was 10 against Northern Illinois in 2019.
- Graduate transfer quarterback Jake Bentley played in a football game for the first time since Aug. 31, 2019 when he suffered a season ending injury with South Carolina. Bentley finished the game 16-of-28 passing for 171 yards and a touchdown, his first touchdown pass since Aug. 31, 2019.
The Utes will return to action on Saturday, Nov. 28 when the Utes are scheduled to take on Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz. The game time and TV selection will be announced early this week.