Trojans Beat Up and Knocked Out By Utah Utes

The Trojans were undone by defense. The Utes defense clamped down and USC's defense couldn't contain. A breakdown of what happened.

The USC Trojans Victorious At Home Photo Credit: John McGillen | USC Athletics
The USC Trojans Victorious At Home Photo Credit: John McGillen | USC Athletics

The USC Trojans fell short in their Pac-12 title aspirations with a 47-24 drubbing by the Utah Utes. With it goes any hope of making the NCAA College Football Playoffs and challenging for a national championship.

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Trojans vs. Utes

Utah’s Defense Won the Pac-12 Championship

After the first quarter, the Utes defense proved to be too much for the Trojans and Heisman hopeful Caleb Williams to handle. When the clock hit double zeros, the Utes had held the Trojans to just one third-down conversion on 12 tries. They produced an astounding seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Withstanding the initial onslaught of an invigorated Trojan offense the Utes proved once again, the offense fills seats but defense wins championships.

The Trojans got off to a hot start scoring on the first three straight positions. The third score, a 20-yard field goal, came after the Utes defense finally got their legs underneath it and produced a goal-line stand. Robbing the Trojans of an opportunity to go up 21-3 and put the game in a stranglehold.

After the ensuing kickoff, the Trojans defense forced a fumble and gave the ball back to their offense on Utah’s 39-yard line. Head coach, Lincoln Riley, made a choice to go for it on 4th and 8. The result forever shifted the momentum of the game. With 12:08 left in the second quarter, Utah completely took over the game and proceeded to finish the game on a 44-7 run. Putting away the Trojans, and winning back-to-back Pac-12 Conference Championships.

Utah Offense Steals Alex Grinch’s Christmas

The Utah offensive line really took it to Grinch’s defense all game long. Aided by a superior numbers advantage at the point of attack, Utah proceeded to impose its will, doing any and everything it wanted to do. They ran all over the Trojans to the tune of 35 rushes 223 yards and 3 touchdowns, at the last count. Three runners finished averaging over seven yards per carry. Allowed only a single sack all game long and just a measly four quarterback hurries. Consequently, Utah quarterback, Cameron Rising, successfully outplayed Williams for the second time this season.

The Trojan defense had problems containing the Utes passing game. Rising was able to throw for 310 yards and three touchdowns on 22-34 attempts. They were able to keep Rising from being more effective with his legs allowing only 18 scramble yards on 8 attempts. But, there was an incredible hit on Rising. It sent his helmet completely flying off of his head. Immediately after touching the ground, Rising rose; without a helmet, without pain, and without being intimidated.

Physicality to the Max

Stats just don’t tell the story of how physical a game this really was. Williams, in his postgame presser, announced his hamstring had “popped” after his 59-yard run which set up the Trojans second score with 6:04 left in the first quarter. Starting center Brett Neilon was injured late in the game and was carted off the field, a fitting precursor to the end of the road.

The Utes dominated the Trojans physically, to the point where one would need to take a look at the defensive game plan and question Grinch. Question why he continued to deploy three and four-down linemen and only six in the box when the Utes were constantly keeping 7/8 men in tight on the line of scrimmage. Consistently attacking the light box with unbalanced lines and extra tight ends. Power and zone run, play action, jet sweeps, and stretch plays.

On defense, the Utes didn’t even bother attempting to hide the blitz. What you saw nearly every play was the defensive coordinator doing simple math and bringing more guys than the Trojans could block. Whether it was four down and three showing blitzes, five down and a corner coming in late, or the vaunted 6-1 defense. They were like sharks they smelled blood in the water. Once they knew Williams was down to one good leg feeding frenzy began

The USC Trojans Victorious At Home Photo Credit: John McGillen | USC Athletics
The USC Trojans Victorious At Home Photo Credit: John McGillen | USC Athletics