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USC Trojans Football 2016: Trojans blow a two-touchdown lead to Utah

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Another loss for the Trojans

NCAA Football: Southern California at Utah Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The opening drive to start the Sam Darnold era for USC ended with a Justin Davis fumble. Darnold did, however, show some bright spots by avoiding a sack and getting the ball thrown away while also converting a 3rd and 7 by hitting Juju-Smith Schuster. The spark Clay Helton was looking for when he switched quarterbacks. Utah, however, recovered the Justin Davis fumble and ran the ball right down the field for a touchdown. Every single play on the opening drive for Utah was a run play and it resulted in the Utes taking an early 7-0 lead.

The Utes made a critical mistake, however, and on the ensuing kickoff the ball got into the hands of Adoree’ Jackson who took it to the house to tie the game at 7. Adoree’ Jackson then continued to put his stamp on this camp by recovering a fumble and sending the USC offense back to work. After a couple of more nice plays on offense the drive once again ended in a fumble, this time by Sam Darnold. A sloppy start for both teams all around. The first quarter ended tied at 7.

Much of the second quarter was plagued by more fumbles by the Trojans as USC coughed up the football on each of the first 3 possessions to start the game. The Utes however were not able to open up a decisive lead. Then with just under 5 minutes left in the first half Justin Davis gave USC their first lead in the game with a touchdown. The Trojans went up 14-10.

The Trojans defense responded with a great run stop to get the Utah offense off the field. When the Trojans offense came back out and ran an impressive three minute offense featuring some crisp throws by Darnold. USC tacked on another field goal to give the Trojans a 17-10 lead at half time. The Utes dominated the time of possession in the first half and were winning the turnover battle but big plays allowed the Trojans to take a lead into the locker room.

The USC defense started the second half exactly where they left off playing stout and picking up a quick stop. The Trojans offense would press the advantage with a big run from Justin Davis followed by a deep pass to Juju Smith-Schuster who finally made an impact on a game after struggling against Alabama and Stanford. Darnold was able to cap the drive off with a touchdown run giving the Trojans a 24-10 lead. After fumbling on each of their first three possessions the offense then turned around and scored on three straight possessions.

The Trojans, however, made a curious decision on defense playing soft coverage. Perhaps it was the rain or perhaps it was the Utah offense predominantly running the ball all game but the Trojans dared the Utes to throw the ball and throw they did. Utah marched the ball right down the field with relative ease and closed the gap 24-17 with 4:51 left in the third quarter.

Matt Boermeester opened up the fourth quarter with a field goal to give the Trojans a 10 point lead. Utah, however, took to the air capitalizing on the soft coverage once again and scored another touchdown again with relative ease and the Utes were within 3 points with roughly ten minutes left to go in the game.

Helton made another questionable decision with just under 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Trojans had 4th down and 3 from Utah’s 40. The Trojan offense had been moving the ball quite well since the first 3 possesions of the game. The USC defense conversely had been shredded the previous two drives. Helton opted to punt instead of going for it.

The Utes were pinned back at their own 7 after the punt and faced a 3rd and ten but pass interference on biggie Marshall extended the drive and the Utes were on the move. Soft coverage from the USC defense once again allowed plenty of space underneath for Utah to move the ball easily while burning clock. The Trojans were able to force Utah into a 3rd and 15 outside of field goal range but the Utes were able to get it to 4th and short before converting and keeping the drive alive. The Trojans forced another 4th down and the Utes again converted. With under 30 seconds left in the game Utah was easily in field goal range and had 2 time outs. Utah took a shot at the end zone, Adoree’ Jackson was in coverage and slipped down on the slick field allowing for the easy touchdown catch giving the Utes the 31-27 lead with 16 seconds left.

Clay Helton’s decision to punt once again was a poor one and the Trojans lose their 3rd game of the season. Utah wins 31-27.

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