Utah 31, USC 27. What are the 5 things that matter about the Utes’ big Pac-12 South win?
Utah 31, USC 27: 5 Things That Matter
By the way, Utah won
The storyline over the next several days will be all about Clay Helton and the hot seat he’s on at USC, but in case you didn’t notice, Utah is 4-0 and won a very, very big game.
It wasn’t the best of performances overall, the Utes got mostly outplayed, and losing star DT Lowell Lotulelei to an injury might be a big problem going forward, but unlike last season, Utah beat USC this time around and in just one game, took a giant step forward in the strange Pac-12 South.
It was a thrilling, gutty, powerful win that showed the team’s mettle and toughness, however, the storyline could’ve easily have been about …
Kyle Whittingham going for on fourth down after fourth down
There are two ways to look at it. On the one side, Utah plowing ahead on four key fourth down tries – especially on the final drive – showed the confidence in his line and his backfield to execute the plays correctly. But on the other side, if Utah got stopped just once instead of going for the field goal, Whittingham would be getting hammered.
It takes a confident head coach secure in his job and his players to keep doing what Whittingham did to keep the offense moving, but he has one of the best kickers in the country and he could’ve done the safe thing – and, actually, the correct thing – and tied it up with a field goal.
Utah won, and Whittingham now looks brilliant.
Sam Darnold was fantastic
Silver lining time – USC has its starting quarterback for the next few years.
Darnold might have had a few problems hanging on to the ball, but he completed 18-of-26 passes for 253 yards and ran nine times for 41 yards and a score. He showed poise under pressure, maturity in a tough situation, and the mobility to go along with the pro-style passing skills.
The Trojans settled down, but …
Normally, if USC finished the game with three lost fumbles and a -2 turnover margin, and it Utah held the ball for well over 37 minutes, you’d just assume it would be an easy win for the Utes.
Starting out with three turnovers on the first three drives kept USC from establishing itself early and taking the Utes out of their comfort zone right away. Troy Williams ended up throwing well – especially when he needed to come through in the fourth quarter – but Utah would’ve had to abandon the ground game a bit if USC had converted a couple of those early drives for points.
What Does This All REALLY Mean?
Let the USC head coaching search begin – maybe.
You can’t start out 1-3 at USC, and now the pressure is really on if it can’t beat Arizona State and Colorado at home over the next few weeks.
Fortunately, the schedule lightens up for a little while with the Sun Devils, Buffaloes and Arizona to follow, but Cal and Oregon won’t be easy and road games to Washington and UCLA and the finale at Notre Dame will make it tough to run the table.
Can the Utes keep the great start going? Beat Cal on the road next week – get the running game going, and things might be fine – and all of a sudden they could go on a huge run with Arizona and at Oregon State to follow.
There’s still plenty of work to do, but this was a giant piece of the puzzle.