The USC Trojans traveled to Salt Lake City to take on the long-time rival, Utah Utes. The game was promoted to be a shootout and it did not disappoint. From the beginning, Caleb Williams and the Trojan offense came out swinging as soon as the whistles were blown. The Trojans jumped out to a 21-7 lead early in this game, however, Cameron Rising and the Utah offense wouldn’t go out that easy, eventually tying it up in the third quarter.
Lincoln Riley’s offense came out of halftime even more ferocious answering back with a quick drive of their own to take the lead. One of Utah’s stars on offense is Tight End Dalton Kincaid absolutely torched this Trojan defense. No adjustments were made and Utah continued to move the ball and converted the 2-point conversion putting the game at 42-43. Williams and Riley would get the last word but led a rather lackluster drive, unable to get into field goal position.
USC By The Numbers: Two Hundred Thirty-Four
This Trojan defense came into this game with obvious holes on defense but primarily struggled with run defense. It was assumed by most that Utah would try to exploit that weakness. They have been a team who hands the ball off 25+ times per game. But that was surprisingly very far from a reality. USC actually played the run game really well, only holding the Utes leading rusher to just 60 yards. By the quarterback go figure.
Due to the efficiency of USC’s offense, the Utes were forced to throw the ball to keep up with the Trojans. Utah doesn’t have an elite wide receiver room, however, what they do have is apparently the greatest tight end in the nation. Dalton Kincaid, who took over for Brant Kuithe, had 234 yards receiving on 16 receptions.
USC’s soft zone coverage allowed Utah’s offense to scheme Kincaid open over and over again. Nobody on the Trojans defense regardless of position was able to stay with him. It’s one thing to get beat through the air, however, to allow ONE player to gain over 200 yards is inexcusable. Not to mention Kincaid is usually used in a blocking role in previous seasons. Good offense or not, you can’t allow one player to have that kind of effect on the game.
USC By The Numbers: Five Hundred Fifty-Six
With all that being said about the defense, let’s talk about the much more positive outcome of this offensive unit. Caleb Williams threw for 386 yards, ran for 57 yards, and had five touchdowns passing to go along with it. This loss has absolutely nothing to do with this side of the ball. 556 yards of total offense shows that they had very little to no issues moving the ball and converting when they needed to. Williams dealt the ball around all night eventually totaling 9 different players with at least one reception.
The deadly duo of Mario Williams and Jordan Addison had over 250 yards receiving. With Addison leaving the game the offense definitely missed his presence but Williams showed up big time with 145 yards receiving. Addison, Tight end Josh Falo, and Michael Jackson III all found the end zone. Unlikely performance by Falo but he scored twice with both receptions, as well as Jackson III, who caught one and ran for 20 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. All in all this offense looks as lethal as ever as if that was in question.
USC By The Numbers: Thirty
My apologies to continue to harp on this defense, but, as you know it’s a fairly important part of football. I’m going to remain as positive as possible while still maintaining my integrity as a college football writer. As effective as the Trojans moved the ball, believe it or not, the Utes had even more total yards with 562. So you can imagine, as well as the Trojan offense played it was certainly clouded by how much the defense allowed themselves. With similar total yardage, the 30 first downs and a slight edge in time of possession kept the ball away from Lincoln Riley just enough.
As you probably know from my previous articles I kept stressing the defense’s ability to get off the field on third down. It seemed like every play the Trojans made on defense Rising would either scramble for a first or coverage would eventually break down. Lastly, the only other aspect of this game, in particular, is the number of penalties USC had. The Trojans had a season-high 12 penalties for 93 yards. I hate to say it, but in a game as close as this, those lost yards were a big reason the Trojans lost this one.
Alex Grinch and this defensive unit need to be able to adjust much earlier in the game to take away a team’s most dangerous player. Nonetheless, USC has to win out the rest of the season to have a shot at playing in meaningful games late in December.