Utah Football Stuns USC in All-Time Thriller


Jonathan Wang

(Photo by Jonathan Wang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Sports Editor


Utah’s defense didn’t offer much resistance at all on USC’s first three drives of the night. The Trojans gashed Utah up the middle of the field for multiple big chunk plays leading to three touchdowns before the Utes could even blink.

After many years of the defense being this program’s strength, it’s been a liability in all of Utah’s losses this year. The run defense has been poor, the defensive line can’t get much pressure on the quarterback and Clark Phillips III can only do so much to anchor the secondary. A potent USC offensive attack gashed the Utes right off the bat and set the tone for the rest of the night.

It didn’t look good in the early going, and you could sense that a lot of Ute fans were getting queasy. Utah looked like an overmatched team against a great opponent who jumped out to a hot start. But, football is a strange game, and things can change quickly. A big sack from Gabe Reid to snuff out a Trojan drive, followed by a long Money Parks catch to set up the Cameron Rising touchdown made things 21-14 with four minutes left in the first half. Utah knew they’d get the ball out of the halftime locker room with a chance to try and tie the game up.

But, USC converted on 3rd-and-15 and then 3rd-and-8 to march down the field again and score a touchdown. Quarterback Caleb Williams was very impressive making those long conversions and then throwing a dart for the score. Utah had the momentum, but the Trojans snatched it right back with a backbreaking drive.

Again, the offense answered. Big catches by Dalton Kincaid and a touchdown to Devaughn Vele made the score 28-21, and the Utes stopped the Trojans one more time before the half expired. Utah found their footing late in the first half, and kept the game very much in play heading into the locker room. 

Utah continued clawing back with an absolutely beautiful touchdown drive to open the 3rd quarter. Kincaid somehow hauled in the catch of the night for a 30-yard gain, and then caught the touchdown moments later. However, USC answered right back, looking more like their 1st quarter selves, marching right down the field for another score.

Rising and Kincaid again brought the Utes right down the field, but a Micah Bernard fumble inside the 5-yard line killed the drive — an unfortunate turnover at a bad time.

Utah came up with a huge stop at a good time, sacking Williams twice in three plays as the defensive line finally started to get some pressure. Needing a touchdown to tie the game, the offense took the field.

A long, flag-filled drive ensued. The game got sloppy and both sides committed penalties that slowed the game to a crawl. Still, the Utes fought through it and methodically moved the ball downfield. Flags upon flags flew, culminating in a Rising rushing touchdown from inside the 1-yard line. Tie game.

USC executed another picture-perfect drive to go down the field and take the lead yet again. By this point in the game, you could tell both defenses were gassed and even less effective than they were usually. The Trojans scored another touchdown, leaving it up to Rising, Kincaid and the Utah offense to go back and tie the game.

The Utes went back to what had been working all night: Rising to Kincaid. A touchdown run from Rising was followed by Kyle Whittingham again calling Rising’s number on a 2-point conversion try. He ran it in to put Utah up 1. With under a minute to go, the defense stopped the Trojans one last time, and time ran out, giving the Utes an improbable, come-from-behind victory.

“We had a tough time getting stops on defense, especially early in the game, but we got the one we needed at the end,” Whittingham said.

“If you look at the numbers, I’m sure it’s not pretty,” said Karene Reid on the defense. “But it shows that we played to the end.”

The team had dedicated this game to Aaron Lowe and Ty Jordan, and wore helmets with their fallen teammates’ hand painted on.

“Just knowing what the game meant to us … coming out with the win was the biggest thing,” Kincaid said. 

“They all count as one, but this seems like a pretty big win,” Whittingham said.

The Utes have a bye week coming up before facing Washington State on the road on Oct. 27, a Thursday night.


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