October 19, 2017

By Lauren A. Jones

Contributing Writer

 

The fate of USC’s season rested on a two-point conversion attempt by Utah in the final moments of USC’s Saturday night (Oct. 14) win against the Utes, 28-27. A loss against the Utes would have meant the Trojans playoff hopes were left in shambles. Instead, with this win the Trojans improve to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in Pac-12 play, boasting another second half comeback performance.

The Trojans first half turnover-laden display was marked by three fumbles. The first being a turnover during the opening drive at Utah’s 30-yard line as USC quarterback Sam Darnold fumbled a handoff to running back Ronald Jones. The next by Darnold led to a scoop and score for Utah’s defensive back Marquise Blair, which gave Utah a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

“I really didn’t get a rhythm going in the first half,” Darnold said.

By the half, the Trojans were down two scores 21-7. As the team headed into the locker room, Trojan fans shouted boos of frustration. In front of a Coliseum crowd of 72, 382 fans, the Trojans walked out of the tunnel at halftime looking like a completely different team.

“Our players made a decision to define our football team in the second half,” said USC head coach Clay Helton.

The Trojans did not commit a single turnover in the second half. Darnold led the Trojan offense to 21 unanswered points, three touchdowns on four total drives. Drives that went for 98, 88 and 93 yards to give the Trojans a 28-21 lead. The last of which came from an airborne Ronald Jones who catapulted and flipped into the end zone on an 11-yard run for the touchdown.

Jones wore down the Utah defense putting together a highlight reel second half performance. He tallied 111 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown notching a score in each of the last 13 games he has played.  

“He’s an extremely special player,” Helton remarked. “To walk off the field and average 6.1 per carry I thought was a credit to the runners at the end of the game.”

Even with Jones’s touchdown, the Trojans were unable to completely shutout the Utes in the second half. Utah senior quarterback Troy Williams orchestrated a 75-yard drive where he landed in the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown with less than a minute left.

Heading into this game, the Utes were a 13-point underdog and it came down to the final moments. Utah head coach, Kyle Whittingham, elected to go for the win instead of the tie, failing to convert a two-point attempt.

“I’m never surprised by Kyle,” said Helton. “He’s a very gutsy coach.”

Darnold finished with 358 yards passing, three touchdowns and 15 yards rushing. “If I can just contain the ball, I think we can compete against anyone in the country.”

While the Trojans were able to hold on to beat the Utes, the team will face a 5-1 Notre Dame team coming off a bye week. If they hope to keep their playoff hopes alive, the team will have to cut down on their margin of errors as they face No. 16 Notre Dame next week in South Bend.

Category: Sports


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