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USC Sports

USC-Utah game features two top running backs

Devontae Booker, Tyrequek Zimmerman
Utah running back Devontae Booker, right, finds room to run in front of Oregon State safety Tyrequek Zimmerman during the Utes’ victory on Oct. 16.
(Steve Dykes / Getty Images)

USC’s Javorius Allen won’t be the only high-performance running back on the field when the No. 20 Trojans play No. 19 Utah on Saturday night at Salt Lake City.

Utah’s Devontae Booker is averaging 123.7 yards rushing per game, second behind Allen in the Pac-12 Conference and 14th nationally.

Allen is averaging 129.9 yards a game and ranks 11th nationally.

Booker rushed for 229 yards and three touchdowns in the Utes’ 29-23 double-overtime victory at Oregon State last week. His physical running style impressed USC Coach Steve Sarkisian.

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“He runs angry,” Sarkisian said Wednesday. “He almost appears to get stronger as the game goes on.”

Booker is listed at 5 feet 11 and 203 pounds, but Utah Coach Kyle Whittingham said the junior from Sacramento “runs much bigger than that.”

Booker rushed for 178 yards and touchdown in a 28-27 loss against Washington State, 156 yards and touchdown in a 30-28 victory over UCLA.

Agholor rising

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USC receiver Nelson Agholor twice caught two touchdown passes in a game before he hauled in a career-best three against Colorado.

“It just shows things are going well in practice and effort is paying off,” Agholor said.

Agholor’s touchdown receptions against Colorado — covering 16, 18 and 75 yards — increased his total to seven this season, 15 in his career.

Freshman JuJu Smith and redshirt freshman Steven Mitchell scored their first touchdowns against Colorado, an achievement Agholor said would be ingrained in the young players’ memories.

“You never forget that,” he said.

Agholor can recount in detail his first USC touchdown. It came against Oregon in 2012, when Agholor said he ran a “skinny post” and fought for a pass thrown by Matt Barkley.

“I thought the safety was going to take my lid off,” he said, “but I caught the ball and it just made me realize the game is just fun.... You always remember that one, because that’s the one that gets your mind the right way.

“You’re hungry for more.”

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Jackson in action

Freshman cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, who aggravated a hip-flexor injury against Colorado, is expected to play against Utah. Jackson was re-injured on the opening kickoff against the Buffaloes after he tried to leap over a defender.

“He came down fast,” Jackson said. “To be honest, I wasn’t expecting anyone to be down there in the 5-yard, 10-yard line range as he did.

“It was just a mishap with my steps. When I saw him, either he was going to take my legs out or I had to jump. So it was just a decision by me to save my knee and get up over him. I thought I cleared him, but he hit the tip of my shoe, and when he did I just flipped.”

Jackson said he was injured by a secondary hit on the play. He played eight defensive snaps before he was sidelined.

Jackson has one interception and has broken up two passes. He rated his performance through seven games as “average.”

“I want to try to get some turnovers and be there for my defensive guys and be an overall teammate,” he said. “And make the hustle plays that come from effort.”

Quick hits

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Fullback Soma Vainuku and wide receiver Ajene Harris remain limited by hamstring injuries… Linebacker Hayes Pullard (knee) returned to practice.


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