The Trojans Are Undefeated No More

The Trojans lost their first game of the season in a barnburner. A look at what and who delivered USC its first loss.

Phil Robinson
USC Trojans Quarterback Caleb Williams Photo Credit: John McGillen | USC Athletics
USC Trojans Quarterback Caleb Williams Photo Credit: John McGillen | USC Athletics

The USC Trojans fell to the Utah Utes, 43-42, in a game marred by controversy. But penalties be damned, the defense was let down by a lack of adjustments made by their coach. The Trojans win as a team and lose as one, as well. A disappointing end to a thrilling game.

Dalton Kincaid is probably still running around uncovered

In the second half, the Utes attacked the soft spaces in the zone schemed by defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. At some point in a 3-3-5, or a glorified dime look, the coach has got to come up with a scheme that is capable of covering the flats and the seams. Instead, both areas continued to be safe havens for the Utes offense.

It should be unfathomable that a tight end could catch all 15 targets in a football game. However, Dalton Kincaid was able to do just that, accumulating 217 receiving yards and a touchdown. A reliable bailout option for whenever Utah quarterback Cameron Rising needed a safety blanket, it became one of many key instruments in the Trojans’ demise.

Gut check time for the Trojans defense

Throughout the year, turnovers and sacks have reigned supreme in all conversations concerning the defense. Leading the nation in both categories has covered up some crucial chinks in the proverbial armor. Setting weak edges in the run game has been something plaguing the Trojans all season. For far too long, the Trojans have succumbed to powers, sweeps, and stretch runs.

Surprisingly, given the power-rushing attack of the Utes, the running backs were not what killed the Trojans’ defense. It was Rising, the Ventura, Ca. native, whose three rushing touchdowns and a 2-point conversion were major influencers of the difference. Last week, in the loss to UCLA, Rising made key turnovers down the stretch; this week he did not.

Penalties

In close games, good teams do not beat themselves. The Trojans, on the other hand, did exactly that. Committing 12 penalties for 93 yards and overturns not one, but two defensive turnovers. Ultimately, it gave Utah second and third chances to score and keep pace during critical stretches of the game. The crowd led to a few false starts, but for the first time all season, they were struck with poor discipline.

Playing the Utes was a bad time for the defense to start having lapses and committing penalties. The end result was the offense losing its first race to 40+ points.

Where do they go from here?

The good news is that Alabama lost as well. USC dropped to 12 in the AP Top 25, but they still have plenty of time to work their way back into the top 10. In terms of the Pac-12, they can still punch their own ticket to the Rose Bowl by running the table and defeating the UCLA Bruins at the end of the season. Finishing with double-digit wins and a trip to the Rose Bowl would be a huge feat for the rebuilding efforts of the program.

USC Trojans Quarterback Caleb Williams Photo Credit: John McGillen | USC Athletics
USC Trojans Quarterback Caleb Williams Photo Credit: John McGillen | USC Athletics