Offensive Explosion Pushes #20 Utah Football Past #7 USC, 43-42
SALT LAKE CITY – In what was an offensive showdown from start to finish, the No. 20 University of Utah Football team took down the No. 7 USC Trojans in front of the largest crowd in Rice-Eccles Stadium history on Saturday night, winning 43-42. Utah improved to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in Pac-12 play.
After trailing by as many as 14 in the first half, Utah's resiliency was stronger than ever, fighting back for every inch and every yard, scoring a touchdown and a two-point conversion with less than a minute to go in the game to win among 53,609 fans.
Utah was outstanding on offense from start to finish, recording 562 yards of offense, which included a season-high 424 yards through the air. The Utes also notched 30 first downs and 138 rushing yards in the game, averaging 7.4 yards per play on offense.
Quarterback Cameron Rising was sensational, finishing the game 30-of-44 for a career-high 415 passing yards and two touchdowns, adding 60 rushing yards and three rushing scores. His 415 passing yards was the most by a Utah quarterback since 2005 (Brian Johnson vs. San Diego State, 417 yds) while his three rushing touchdowns were the most by a Ute QB since 2014 (Travis Wilson vs. Colorado State, 3).
Rising's favorite target of the game was Dalton Kincaid, going a perfect 16-for-16 to the talented tight end with Kincaid recording a career-high 234 receiving yards and one touchdown. It was the most receptions by a Ute since 2005 with his 234 catching yards being the most by a Utah tight end since at least 1996.
On defense, R.J. Hubert racked up a team-high nine tackles along with a forced fumble with Cole Bishop adding eight stops. Karene Reid also contributed seven tackles and a key sack for a loss of eight yards.
FIRST QUARTER BREAKDOWN
USC took an early 14-0 lead, scoring on its first two drives of the game. The Utes held the Trojans to just two yards on their first two plays of the game, but USC's quarterback would break free for a 55-yard rush on third down with the Trojans scoring on a 10-yard rush on the next play.
After the Utes missed a field goal attempt on their first drive, the Trojans would follow it up with an 80-yard drive of their own, scoring on a two-yard rushing play for the 14-0 advantage with 4:53 remaining.
With under five minutes to go in the quarter, Utah drove down field into scoring territory, thanks in large part to a third down conversion by Micah Bernard and a fourth-and-one turned first down by Rising. The Utes would score with 1:08 on the clock as Bernard finished the drive by jumping over and juking past the USC defenders for a 12-yard rushing touchdown, cutting the USC lead to 14-7.
SECOND QUARTER BREAKDOWN
After Utah's late first quarter score, the Trojans would complete a pass for 65 yards to the Utah three-yard line as time ran out, setting them up for their third touchdown of the game to start the second quarter. USC went on to score on another two-yard rushing touchdown, giving them a 21-7 lead with 14:20 to go.
With 5:38 left in the quarter, Devaughn Vele put the Utes in solid field position with a 23-yard punt return to the Utah 40-yard line with the Utah offense stepping onto the field. On a second-and-seven, Rising would connect with Money Parks for a 65-yard pass to the USC two-yard line with Rising punching it in on the next play for a two-yard rushing touchdown to make it 21-14.
The back-and-forth continued with USC finding the end zone on a three-yard passing play with 1:15 on the clock, but Utah would answer once again. Rising would link up with Kincaid for the first three plays of the drive for a combined 54 yards, including a 30-yard pass to the USC 16-yard line with Rising finding Vele just two plays later for a 16-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 28-21.
THIRD QUARTER BREAKDOWN
After being down by as many as 14 twice in the first half of the game, Utah tied the score with 12:02 on the clock in the third quarter. Rising did it all during Utah's drive – rushing, passing and catching – with the quarterback notching his first-career catch (9 yards) on a pass from Vele.
Rising's reception put the Utes on the USC 10-yard line with Rising and Kincaid finding each other again on a four-yard passing score, making it 28-28. It ended a 75-yard drive that took seven plays and 2:58 off the clock, leaving USC with the ball with 11:55 to go.
USC was able to answer just three plays later, scoring quickly with an 11-yard rushing touchdown, regaining the lead by making it 35-28. It would be the final score of the quarter, with the Utes heading into the final quarter down by a touchdown.
FOURTH QUARTER BREAKDOWN
On Utah's first possession of the fourth quarter, the offense put together a gritty 79-yard drive, finding its way to the USC one-yard line. It would once again come down to Rising himself as he busted through the opposing defensive line to the end zone to tie the score 35-35 with 10:48 left in the game.
USC would counter with a 90-yard drive, scoring on a 20-yard passing touchdown with 6:15 to go, taking a 42-35 lead into the final minutes of the game with Utah taking over on its own 25-yard line.
Little by little, yard by yard, Utah made its way down field with key first downs coming from Rising and Kincaid leading the charge. On a third-and-five, Rising found Kincaid for an 11-yard gain to the USC eight-yard line, extending the play once more with time ticking away.
After Bernard fought for a seven-yard gain on the ground to the USC one-yard line, Rising would go on to score his third rushing touchdown of the game. The decision was made to go for the two-point conversion with Rising finding success on the ground once again, scoring on his rushing attempt to put Utah in the lead at 43-42.
It was up to Utah's defense to keep the Trojans out of field goal range. The Utah secondary would finish the game with two key pass breakups, one coming from Zemaiah Vaughn on a second-and-15 with Hubert ending the USC drive as the clock hit zero, sealing the Utah victory.
Utah will head into its bye week this week before taking on the Washington State Cougars on Thursday, Oct. 27. The game will kick off at 8 p.m. MT on FS1.