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USC Football 2017: Trojans survive Utah in sloppy victory

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Well that was ugly for the Trojans

Utah v USC Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

It was already a week of upsets and craziness before the USC Trojans and Utah Utes would kick off in prime time. The second ranked Clemson Tigers would lose Friday night to an unranked opponent. Immediately afterwards the number 8 Washington State Cougars were thumped by Cal. On Saturday #10 Auburn would lose to LSU, a team that lost to Troy. Five ranked teams including 3 in the top ten had already lost to unranked opponents.

It was an impressive showing for the underdogs and a physical, gritty football team with a knack for finding ways to grind out wins was a 13-point underdog taking on a USC Trojans team with penchant for under performing, turnovers, and sloppiness this season. It was a great recipe for an upset

The Trojans took the ball first. Sam Darnold and Ronald Jones II had nice runs and Michael Pittman Jr. had a 17-yard reception. Darnold then killed an otherwise promising drive with a fumble recovered by Utah. The USC defense held firm with a 3 and out. USC would again drive into Utah territory before the drive stalled. The Trojans would punt pinning the Utes back at their own 5.

Backed up deep in their own territory the Utes had to be careful against a USC ready to pounce. Utah QB Troy Williams would dig them out of the hole and march his team down the field. After advancing to the USC 12 yard line on 3rd and four the drive came to a screeching hault when Cameron Smith intercepted the pass for a big momentum swing, it would not last long though.

Darnold Fumbles again:

On the very next play after a great interception, Sam Darnold once again fumbled the football. This time around the fumble bounced perfectly for Marquise Blair to pick it up on the run who took it in for a Utah touchdown. For two teams plagued by turnovers and penalties it was fitting that a turnover caused the first score of the game. Utah would lead 7-0.

The other Sam Darnold appears:

After the horrid fumble for a touchdown Darnold came right back out and looked like he did last season. Darnold would lead a rapid strike 4-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Deontay Burnett had a nice 21-yard reception. Offensive coordinator Tee Martin actually broke tendencies and slipped Tyler Petite out on a route. The Utah defense missed him and Petite was wide open for an easy 52-yard touchdown pass. the game was tied a 7.

Utah begins to grind down the USC defense:

The quick strike touchdown was great but coupled with a couple of turnovers and Utah’s offensive style and already the time of possession was beginning to get lopsided. Utah’s aggressive physical rushing attack would pound the USC defensive front and deep passes over the top would wear out the defensive backs. After a seven play, 83 yard drive, Utah immediately went back out on a 10-play drive for 60 yards. The USC defense was able to force a field goal that was missed.

The game was still tied but Utah seemed to be repeatedly knocking on the door and if the Trojans offense could not help them out with a little bit of rest the dam seemed like it would soon break. It was a big drive for Darnold and the offense. Three incomplete passes in 22 seconds ended the drive immediately putting the USC defense again right back on the field.

The Utes needed just four plays to go 55 yards for a touchdown and take the lead slicing right through a USC defense that spend entirely way too much time on the field. Utah was up 14-7.

Oh Look, another fumble:

The Trojans once again trailing, put together another solid drive into the red zone to the Utah 18. Darnold then fumbled the ball again. For his third fumble in six possessions. Another wasted opportunity for the Trojans.

The Utes recovered, took the ball and continued to pound with the run over and over and then throw the ball deep. Jack Jones was up to the task but on more than a few occassions Iman Marshall seemed as though he was not. The USC front seven was in an absolute battle though. 5 plays and 79 yards later Utah scored another touchdown. This time on a 33-yard pass to Demari Simpkins who beat Ajene Harris for plenty of separation.

Utah would take a 21-7 lead into halftime with the Trojans losing in basically every single statistical category save for total passing yards. If the Trojans did not come up with solutions and fast the Trojans would be the next ranked team to go down this weekend.

Second Half:

After the rest the USC defense was able to get a stop and the offense was able to put together a scoring drive. The drive went for 16 plays chewing up almost 6 minutes of clock. There were still inconsistencies and a 4th and long conversion by Tyler Vaughns. The Trojans were able to get into scoring range, however, and actually finish the drive. Darnold would hit Petite for a 17-yard touchdown pass bringing the score to 21-14. A well rested Trojans defense against would keep the Utes from scoring.

In typical USC and Utah fashion the teams would head to the fourth quarter in a one score game. Despite all of the mistakes and missed opportunities the Trojans were well within striking distance with a chance to find a way to win. Utah, however, was also pretty good at grinding out close wins in the fourth quarter as well.

4th quarter:

The Trojans would strike first in the early minutes of the final frame when Darnold connected with Josh Falo to tie the game at 21. The USC defense was stout in the 3rd quarter giving up 98 yards on 13 plays and zero points, now it was time to finish.

Utah went on another stalled drive. The Trojans defense held firm. Another punt and USC had the ball back.

Darnold would lead the Trojans on an 11 play 93 yard drive for the touchdown capped of by a Rojo touchdown. For as sloppy as the Trojans had looked in the first half with the plethora of missed opportunities and turnovers in the second half they looked sharp. There was still plenty of time though for a breakdown.

Even with scoring 21 straight points there was still a slim margin of error after sloppy play spotted the Utes a 14-point lead.

Similar to last season the Utes would have the ball with roughly 5 minutes left. Also like last season the Utes used up almost all of the remaining time to score a touchdown.

It was 28-27 tapping in an easy extra point sends it to overtime. Problem is the Utes had not shown much of a pulse the entire half until this final drive and playing on the road in overtime is always a dicey proposition. Utah went for the win. The two-point conversion failed, so did the onside kick.

The Trojans would survive a disastrous first half and avoid overtime to pick up another victory and control of the Pac-12 South.

Next Up: Notre Dame