USC Vs. Utah: Trojans Hang On For The Win
Saturday marked a day of firsts at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. In addition to the first Pac-12 match-up, Saturday’s contest featured Norm Chow’s first trip back to southern California and Marc Tyler’s first game back from suspension.
The latter proved to be the difference maker for the Trojans. Despite just a handful of practices during fall camp, many them with the service team, Tyler quickly Saturday emerged as the Trojans’ go-to running back.
After a few short yardage carries on the opening drive only to turn the ball over on downs, quarterback Matt Barkley gave Tyler the ball on the Trojans’ second effort and got a 19-yard breakout run in return. That drive would lead to Andre Heidari’s 47-yard field goal to put the first USC points on the board.
USC quickly got the ball back after Utah’s leading rusher John White IV fumbled the ball at his team’s 20-yard line on a quick pitch from quarterback Jordan Wynn.
Freshman Marqise Lee’s 11-yard catch took the Trojans to first and goal. On the next play Tyler took the ball into the endzone on a six-yard run. It would be the last time the Trojans were able to score in the first half.
USC’s defensive line pressured Wynn and contained Utah until the final drive of the half. With just under five minutes to go, the Utes rode White’s back down into the red zone. Wynn connected with DeVonte Christopher on a 10-yard touchdown pass, and the half finished with USC up 10-7.
Utah quickly gave the ball up on downs after a sloppy drive that included two consecutive false start penalties. But Utah’s star linebacker Brian Blechen immediately forced a Grimble fumble that was recovered by Conroy Black.
Utes’ sophomore Reggie Dunn took off for a 51-yard rush to USC’s 1-yard line. On the very next play, White IV dove into the end zone to make the score 17-14.
The remainder of the game proved to be a defensive battle.
Neither team controlled the ball for more than two-and-a-half minutes in the 4th quarter, and neither team was able to convert a third down.
On Utah’s first drive of the quarter, Wynn was quickly sacked by DE Nick Perry for a 13-yard loss. Utah’s Matt Martinez returned the favor on the next drive, sacking Matt Barkley for a loss of five.
The wild final minute saw Wynn complete a 10-yard pass to Christopher on 4th down. A 15-yard pass interference penalty set the Utes up for a game-tying 51-yard field goal attempt. Utah’s Colem Petersen lined up and kicked the ball straight into the arm of 6-foot-7 OT Matt Kalil. Before the Utes knew what hit them, CB Torin Harris picked up the deflected ball and ran it downfield for a touchdown, with no time left on the clock.
Kiffin, who early in fall camp said Tyler might never return, also expressed happiness over his player’s successful homecoming.
“It was pretty neat to walk down the tunnel with him and tell him how proud of him I was,”the coach said. “There’s a lot of stuff people don’t know. To have him come back and handle a game like this is a pretty good story.”
Tyler said he didn’t know going in to the night just how much he would play, but was extremely happy with the results.
“This is something that I dreamed about doing,” he said. “To come back in and be an impact to the team…it just feels really good.”
Tyler’s 117 rushing yards nearly matched the 119-yard combined yards put up by Utah rushers. Barkley finished 20 of 32, with 264 passing yards, one touchdown and an interception.
In a rush-heavy contest, last week’s Pac-12 receiver of the week Robert Woods put up 102 yards, and Grimble posted a total of 66.
The game ended in an unusual way. When the Trojans went back to the locker room after the clock ran down, the winning score was 17-14--officials had ruled that Harris' touchdown didn't count due to a penalty for usportsmanlike conduct. Hours later, however, Pac-12 Officiating Consultant Mike Pereira released a statement declaring that the touchdown did in fact count, because the game was over and the penalty could not be enforced on a dead ball.
"The new Unsportsmanlike Conduct rule is Rule 9, Section 2, Article 1. It states that Unsportsmanlike Conduct fouls by players are administered as either live ball or dead ball fouls depending on when they occur. The rule does not apply to subtitutes. All Unsportsmanlike Conduct fouls by substitutes are enforced as dead ball fouls. Since the game was over, the penalty could not be enforced and the referee state it was declined by rule. The officials did rule it a touchdown making the final score 23-14," Pereira said in an official statement.
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