No. 20 Utah shocked No. 7 USC 43-42 to pull off one of the biggest upsets of the season and take control of the Pac-12 race. Utah quarterback Cameron Rising threw for 415 yards and added five total touchdowns as he out-dueled USC quarterback Caleb Williams.
Utah lost star tight end Dalton Kincaid on its final drive of the game after 16 catches for 234 yards and a touchdown. Regardless, running back Micah Bernard managed to string together a handful of rushes to set up a 1-yard run from Rising for the touchdown. Rather than play for overtime, Utes coach Kyle Whittingham dialed up a 2-point conversion which Rising also ran in for the game-winning score.
USC had one last drive to kick a game-winning field goal and was gifted a first down, as well as a few extra seconds, after a strange bit of officiating. Utah managed to pressure Williams on the final plays, however, to emerge from Salt Lake City, Utah, with a 3-1 Pac-12 record and critical conference title game tiebreaker against USC.
Williams threw for 381 yards and five touchdowns in a losing effort. Wide receivers Mario Williams and Jordan Addison each turned in 100-yard performances; however, Addison went out in the third quarter with an apparent lower-body injury. Sophomore Michael Jackson III caught a late touchdown but the Trojans offense struggled to find consistency as they suffered the first loss of the Lincoln Riley era on Saturday.
When the clock hit zero, players from both teams were overcome with emotion. For Utah, finding a way to win the game after going down 21-7 in the first half was a nice change after struggling in losses to Florida and UCLA. But more importantly, the win came while wearingcelebrating fallen teammates Aaron Lowe and Ty Jordan, something that Kincaid found himself emotional about after the game.
On USC’s sideline, Williams tried to cover his tears with his helmet but it was clear how much the loss weighed on him. He was nearly perfect with more than 400 total yards and five touchdowns on just 50 total touches. But as one of the most scrutinized players in college football after transferring from Oklahoma with Riley, his failure to score on the final drive will be the only thing on his mind for another week.
The final score might not reflect it, but Utah stuck an anchor to the game to prevent things from getting out of hand. The Trojans received just four drives in the second half as the Utes held onto the ball for more than 18 minutes and 43 plays to keep USC’s high-powered offense on the sideline.
The Trojans scored touchdowns on two of their first three drives of the half. After the Utes scored a 2-point conversion, USC punted once. That’s all it took for Utah to take a lead it would not surrender. The best plan for teams to limit USC’s high-powered offense is simply to keep it on the sideline.
USC was quietly pushing its way into the College Football Playoff discussion, and might have even jumped towards the top four with a convincing win. However, the loss means Utah gains a key tiebreaker advantage over USC while fighting for a Pac-12 Championship Game berth.
While Utah has two losses, one came during nonconference play against Florida. The other came against UCLA, a team the Trojans haven’t played yet. Oregon also remains undefeated in conference play, though the Ducks host the Bruins next week. Earning a tiebreaker could make all the difference in the Pac-12 title race as the league moves to a division-less setup for deciding a champion.