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USC Sports

USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster played through leg pain against Utah

JuJu Smith-Schuster

USC receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster makes a leaping fourth quarter touchdown reception against Utah.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

USC receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster did not feel completely sound during the Trojans’ victory over previously unbeaten Utah.

The sophomore had been nursing a leg injury that bothered him during practices. Not, apparently, in games.

“Once you get going,” Smith-Schuster said afterward, “you don’t notice the pain. You just play through it.”

Smith-Schuster caught eight passes for 134 yards and a touchdown in USC’s 42-24 victory, and moved back among the national leaders in several statistical categories.

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Smith-Schuster has 47 receptions for 901 yards and eight touchdowns.

He has averaged 128.7 yards receiving per game, which ranks fifth nationally. His 901 yards rank sixth and he is tied for 20th with 6.7 receptions per game.

Smith-Schuster has to be looking forward to Saturday, when the Trojans play a California team that ranks 10th in the Pac-12 Conference in pass defense.

Smith honored

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Freshman Cameron Smith, who had three interceptions against Utah, was selected as the Pac-12 Conference defensive player of the week.

Smith-Schuster said after the game that offensive players were sparked by the linebacker’s game-turning plays, which included a 54-yard return for a touchdown.

Bill Plaschke, Gary Klein and Lindsey Thiry discuss USC’s 42-24 victory over No. 3 Utah and what it means for the program going forward. 

“We were going crazy,” Smith-Schuster said. “We were like going nuts. Cam Smith is so smart…. He’s a baller.”

Smith-Schuster played against Smith in high school, when Smith’s Granite Bay team defeated Long Beach Poly, 21-20, in the 2014 Division I state bowl game.

“Every day I see him we talk about it,” Smith-Schuster said. “Like, ‘Yeah, we beat Poly. We beat Poly.’ Oh man, the boy’s a playmaker so I don’t blame him.”

Smith-Schuster was surprised by Smith’s interception return for a touchdown.

“I didn’t know he had the juice in him to take it back to the house,” Smith-Schuster said. “But it was awesome. He almost took two back to the house.”

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Momentum shift

Cal has not defeated USC since 2003, when it won in triple overtime at Berkeley.

But when Cal got off to a 5-0 start this season, and USC fell to 3-2 and then fired Steve Sarkisian, the Golden Bears appeared primed to end their losing ways against the Trojans.

Now the momentum has shifted. Cal lost its last two games, against Utah and UCLA.

USC rebounded from a loss at Notre Dame to defeat Utah with what interim Coach Clay Helton described as the Trojans’ “most consistent” performance of the season.

Cal is led by quarterback Jared Goff, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound junior who is considered a top pro prospect.

Goff is completing 66% of his passes, 20 for touchdowns, with nine interceptions. Five of the interceptions came against Utah.

Goff completed 32 of 53 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns in the Golden Bears’ 40-24 loss against UCLA.

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Goff’s favorite targets have been receivers Kenny Lawler, Stephen Anderson, Darius Powe and Bryce Treggs.

“Probably the best receiver corps that we may face all year,” Helton said, “with a very talented quarterback.”

Late start

USC’s Nov. 7 game against Arizona at the Coliseum will kick off at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN or ESPN 2.

gary.klein@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimesklein

Correspondent Lindsey Thiry contributed to this report.


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