The Utes caught 300 yards of passing the game from Cam Rising, and a great second half defensive effort.
The noise around #4 USC, and how Friday night at Allegiant Stadium was just a stepping stone toward inclusion in the College Football Playoff. Hype about Caleb Williams, and how the Trojans’ star sophomore quarterback is a tight favorite for the Heisman Trophy.
Kyle Whittingham heard it all.
“We got the message loud and clear that a lot of people were underestimating us, not giving us many chances in this match,” Whittingham said. “That’s the wrong group of guys to do that. We’ve historically been a program that kind of has a chip on our shoulder. It gets harder and harder the more you achieve success, but it’s been in our DNA since way back when, as little as we felt disrespectful and people weren’t giving us our right.
“I shook a little bit out of a hornet’s nest when that happened.”
Whittingham’s 11th ranked Utes, down two scores early for the Trojans, categorically against realization. Game MVP Cam Rising threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns Ja’Quinden Jackson ran for 105 yards and two touchdowns The defense sacked Williams seven times as Utah defended its Pac-12 title with a 47-24 win over USC in front of 61,195, a Pac-12 championship game record for a neutral site .
The win sends the Utes (10-3) back to the Rose Bowl on January 2, while USC is now out of the CFP mix, but will likely head to a different bowl for the New Year’s Six. Rose Bowl foe Utah State will become clearer after the rest of the conference championship games on Saturday. Assuming Michigan beats Purdue in the Big Ten championship game, it looks like Penn State will be the conference Rose Bowl representative.
“I thought we took it a little personally and saw it all as disrespectful,” said Rising, who finished 22-for-34 passing and now has three passing games for 300 yards in four career starts versus USC. “We just wanted to go out and prove our point.”
USC (11-2) and Utah touchdown passes early in the fourth quarter, the latter coming on a 60-yard touchdown run from Rising to tight end Thomas Yassmin, who broke up one tackle on the left side, ran up a forward, then dragged another prospect into the area. The Utes eventually extended it back to a 10-point lead, 34-24, with 10:08 remaining.
The Trojans moved to the edge of the red zone, but on second and 13-of-23, senior safety RJ Hubert Williams intercepted the ball, returning the ball to the Utah 39.
Three plays later, Jackson’s 53-yard run, with two broken up tackles and dragging a defender into the end zone, hit the door, putting Utah ahead, 40-24, with 5:29 left.
“We already knew what we needed to do,” Jackson said. “It was just a normal game for us. We knew we had to play physically, we knew we had to stick together as one. It was just a normal game for us.”
Play the first half on friday night like the first half of Utah’s 43-42 win over USC on Oct. 15
Fueled by Williams’ play, with some help from the often porous Utah secondary, the Trojans rallied with two touchdowns early in the second quarter, then were unable to take advantage of multiple early knockout opportunities.
Down 17–3, Utah got the ball back thanks to a fourth down pass by freshman safety Sione Vaki after USC, who had been doing anything they wanted on offense, went for it on fourth-and-eight from Utah’s 37-yard line.
The ensuing Utes drive went 11 plays and 66 yards via 6:33, capped by Jackson’s 8-yard touchdown run and a quarterback run on third-and-4 to cut the lead to 17–10. Within those 11 plays, Utah converted on fourth-and-two on the 18th via a 4-yard guard from Rising.
By this point, after giving up scores on USC’s first three drives, the Utah defense had settled down. He got another stop, this time forcing a punt before Rising engineered another long drive to close the inning.
The Utes beat off two punts along the way to drive 81 yards on a 14-play drive and just 1:38 down when a 4-yard touchdown pass from Rising to Jaylen Dixon with 2 seconds left in the half tied the score at 17.
The rally was sharp in the first half, sharper than it had been in weeks as he dealt with a left knee injury, throwing for 157 yards and Dixon’s touchdown on 14-for-24 passing through the first two quarters.
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