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USC upsets No. 10 Utah with a backup quarterback

  

Los Angeles, CA – USC held a four-point lead in the third quarter when Michael Pittman Jr. snatched the pass out of the air, stiff-armed a defender and raced into the end zone for a 77-yard touchdown.

The six-foot-four senior wide receiver finished with 10 receptions for a career-high 232 and USC upset previously unbeaten No. 10 Utah, 30-23, Friday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

“Glory to God and a bunch of great teammates that are the definition of Fight On and who don’t know how to quit,” USC head coach Clay Helton said. “I’m so proud of this team. I thought it was a team effort all the way around. Some guys made big plays, and some guys garnered some opportunities, and we needed every play to beat a good Utah team.”

  SEPTEMBER 20: USC Trojans running back Markese Stepp (30) runs for a touchdown during a college football game between the Utah Utes and The USC Trojans on September 20, 2019, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA 

USC starting quarterback Kedon Slovis, who was starting in place of the injured JT Daniels, got hurt on the Trojans opening drive. On the second play of the game, Utah defensive lineman Leki Fotu hit Slovis as he released the pass and landed on top of him. Slovis tried to get up but fell back down to the turf.

Slovis was helped off the field and taken to the locker room for an examination. He was being evaluated for a head injury according to the FS1 broadcast. In the post-game press conference, Helton said Slovis was not medically cleared to come back and was dinged according to the medical staff.

Third-string quarterback Matt Fink, who moved up to the back up role after Daniels’ injury, almost left USC in April after entering the transfer portal but decided to stay. Fink said he had some unofficial visits and an official visit with Illinois. He met some great coaches and great players and built some good relationships.

LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 20: Utah Utes running back Devonta’e Henry-Cole (7) runs the ball for a gain during a college football game between the Utah Utes and The USC Trojans on September 20, 2019, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA 

“Like Coach Clay said, I did some research, I went to some schools,” Fink said. “But this team is stacked. You have the best players in the nation here. I’m saying that SC is on the rise. We have guys that are going to push us to the top here.”

The redshirt junior replaced Slovis and led the Trojans on an impressive drive, completing 4-of-5 for 64 yards and a 29-yard touchdown to Taylor Vaughns for a 7-0 lead. Utah came right back to tie it with a 5-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 17-yard touchdown run by backup running back Devonta’e Henry-Cole.

USC responded with a 31-yard touchdown pass from Fink to Amon-Ra St. Brown for a 14-7 lead. Utah’s linebacker came free on a blitz up the middle but Fink evaded the sack and hit St. Brown on the run for the score. St. Brown made a touch catch between two defenders.

LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 20: USC Trojans running back Markese Stepp (30) runs for a touchdown and gives former USC running back Reggie Bush the ball during a college football game between the Utah Utes and The USC Trojans on September 20, 2019, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA 

Utah added a field goal in the second quarter but USC held a 14-10 lead heading into halftime. The Trojans extended the lead in the third quarter on Fink’s 77-yard touchdown pass to Pittman Jr. Utah cut the USC lead to three points on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Huntley to tight end Cole Fotheringham.

The Utes opened the fourth quarter with a 10-play, 62-yard drive but were held to a field goal after Isaiah Pola Mao sacked Huntley on third-and-goal at the 1-yard line. After USC was forced to punt, Drake Jackson hit Huntley as he got rid of the ball to avoid the sack in the end zone. Huntley was called for intentional grounding, giving USC a safety and a 23-20 lead in the fourth quarter.

LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 20: USC Trojans wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (6) catches a pass during a college football game between the Utah Utes and The USC Trojans on September 20, 2019, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA

Pittman Jr. hauled in a 42-yard catch which set up Markese Stepp’s 4-yard touchdown run with 6:58 remaining in the game. Fink finished with 351 yards and three touchdowns.

“I don’t think that this moment was too big for me,” Fink said. “I’ve been in the era of Sam Darnold and I’ve seen things that were much crazier. But I think getting in today and showing what I can do was what I really wanted to do by staying here.”

Five fast facts – Oklahoma vs UCLA

  

 

Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Jalen Hurts #1 during the Oklahoma vs UCLA game on September 14, 2019 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. 

Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Jalen Hurts #1during the Oklahoma vs UCLA game on September 14, 2019 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA

Pasadena, CA – On the Sooners first drive, Jalen Hurts dropped back to pass from the Bruins 40 yard line. Suddenly, his offensive line opened the middle like Moses parted the Red Sea. Licking his chops, he runs right through the middle, untouched for every yard into the endzone.

It became just about that kind of late afternoon for Bruins football. It wasn’t until the third quarter when UCLA finally got a stop after six straight scoring drives. With the Bruins falling in a 48-14 blowout, the score is no surprise, but there were instances in which this game could have been a lot closer than the final score showed. Now sitting at 0-3, here are five key takeaways from the game that Bruins fans should certainly wonder about.

Oklahoma Sooners cornerback Tre Brown #6 during the Oklahoma vs UCLA game on September 14, 2019 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.

  1. The Bruins’ defense can only keep UCLA in games for so long

At one point the Bruins were down 20-7 after giving up already over 330 yards on both avenues of Oklahoma’s offense. They only managed in the first four drives to give up two touchdowns and two field goals, so at the very least there could be some spark. It all withered away when UCLA ends up going 3-and-out after giving up a field goal. Jalen Hurts’s deep pass to Charelston Rambo practically put the game away. The Bruins then just could not hang after that, watching their offensive and defensive line collapse throughout each play.

“We are playing inconsistent,” Bruins head coach Chip Kelly said. “There were spurts, but the big thing about the game tonight is we are playing very inconsistent. We had a good second half but we get tired. Inconsistency just cannot happen.”

  1. Let Dorian Thompson-Robinson run the ball more often

It is truly amazing that Kelly believes the west coast offense with Robinson in the pocket will work. Robinson is still not at all that accurate. There have been times, however, where with the line opening up, he manages to take off and at the very least set up the offense a bit more. That would develop his confidence a lot more as Pac-12 play nears. This would also mix up play calling for Kelly and keep the opposing defense on its toes.

“I am taking what the defense gives me,” Thompson-Robinson said. “Kelly does mention to take what the defense gives me. When I have the chance, I want to make the best play possible.”

UCLA Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson #1during the Oklahoma vs UCLA game on September 14, 2019 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. 

  1. The defensive line needs to get better…

…much better. Just before the end of the first quarter the Bruins nearly allowed 200 yards on the ground. They slowed the tempo a bit, but that allowed Hurts to gun his throws all around the field. The Bruins hardly gave Hurts any kind of pressure, which then surmounted to a big lead and the game nearly unreachable.

  1. Extend drives on both sides of the ball

At this point, Kelly has drawn away from the no-huddle offense. It does allow for the Bruins to rest on the sidelines whether on offense or defense. In the first half, on each of the drives where the Bruins had more than six plays, the Sooners were forced to a field goal. It allowed for this game to be close. A number of three or four play drives later coming up empty handed, and it was all she wrote.

UCLA Bruins wide receiver Kyle Philips #2 celebrate a touchdown during the Oklahoma vs UCLA game on September 14, 2019 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. 

  1. The fans need to be involved more…

..but it is also tough when the Rose Bowl is half empty, and half of those fans in attendance were Sooners fans. It didn’t help with the weather being so hot, but the game last week against San Diego State practically gave Bruins fans a sense that it could be a long season. The Bruins are the only team under .500, let alone the only team without a win. This could bode a major problem if things aren’t fixed in a hurry. A trip to Washington State may not bode well, but things can differ if they can restructure.

UCLA Josh Woods sacking OU Jalen Hurts at the Oklahoma vs UCLA game on September 14, 2019 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.

“We are a young football team,” Kelly said. “No matter what we will continue to fight. Oklahoma is a very good team. Our guys fought and competed in the second half. It is something we can take when we start conference play Saturday.”

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