USC’s first loss in the Lincoln Riley era comes at the hands of a relentless Cam Rising
Six weeks of making the extraordinary seem all but cavalier had brought Caleb Williams to this climactic crescendo, with a sea of black roaring from enemy stands and any high hopes for USC’s season hanging impossibly in the balance.
All night — and all season, really — he’d successfully side-stepped danger at every turn, powering USC to a spotless, 6-0 start through a sequence of stunning escapes and dazzling downfield passes you’d need to see to believe. In the process, he’d done everything possible to help USC escape.
But never had he quite been cornered like this, with under a minute remaining, the entire field in front of him and USC trailing 43-42, the first deficit this season it wouldn’t escape, as Utah pulled off a stunner.
This time, it was the Utes who managed to deliver the most devastating of blows at the worst possible time, driving through thick and thin when it mattered the most, navigating three third downs and an even fourth at the goal line, before quarterback Cam Rising broke the plane and broke the game open. A do-or-die, two-point conversion would give Utah its first lead of the game with just 48 seconds left.
USC needed a miracle. For once, it was too much to ask of its quarterback.
To that moment, he’d certainly done his damnedest. Williams completed 25 of 42 passes for 381 yards and five touchdowns in what proved to be one of the most dynamic performances of his college career to date.
He’d kept USC alive to that point in spite of a defense that was steamrolled for a season-high 43 points and 562 yards by Utah and its own dynamic quarterback, Cam Rising. Not since Nov. 2017 had USC allowed over 400 yards through the air, but Rising managed 415.
The Los Angeles native ultimately made mince meat of USC’s defense, scoring five touchdowns, including three on the ground.
USC defeated by Utah in a high-scoring game dominated by quarterbacks
Utah crushed USC’s dream of an undefeated season in coach Lincoln Riley’s first season with a relentless offense behind quarterback Cam Rising on Saturday at Utah.
The Utes sustained their offensive momentum throughout the second half even as the Trojans began to sputter, and pulled off a 43-42 victory in front of a delirious crowd.
Rising, a Newbury Park High product, passed for 415 yards and two touchdowns on 30 of 44 passing. He also rushed for three touchdowns and the decisive two-point conversion.
“He’s a warrior, he’s a special guy,” said Utah receiver Dalton Kincaid, who had 16 catches for 234 yards and a touchdown.
“[The feeling] is indescribable.”
USC quarterback Caleb Williams completed 25 of 42 passes for 381 yards and five touchdowns. However, penalties hampered the last few Trojans drives.
Utah quarterback Cam Rising unstoppable in final minutes
Cam Rising capped a Utah drive with a touchdown run to pull Utah within one point of USC, then ran for a two-point conversion to put the Utes ahead 43-42 with less than a minute to play.
USC beats the blitz to retake lead
Utah was showing blitz and USC knew exactly what to do.
With the entire Utah defense bearing down, Caleb Williams threw a short screen pass to Michael Jackson III, who dashed for a 20-yard touchdown to put USC up 42-35 with 6:15 remaining.
Williams has five touchdown passes to four different receivers and 366 passing yards.
Penalty party helps Utah even the score with a one-yard touchdown
Five penalties later, Utah scored the tying touchdown with 10:55 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Cameron Rising scored on a one-yard touchdown run to even the score 35-35 after USC was called for four penalties on the 10-play drive.
After Stanley Ta’ufo’ou’s roughing the passer penalty led to a Utah touchdown in the first half, Nick Figueroa was called for roughing on third-and-six, negating an incomplete pass from Rising. The teams committed three penalties in four consecutive plays, with Utah getting flagged for an illegal receiver down field. USC was called for pass interference twice on the drive, including on the play right before Rising’s touchdown run, and had a holding call declined.
Middle linebacker Eric Gentry injured his left ankle during the drive, staying down on the field after a tackle. He was previously seen limping into the injury tent and returned with extra tape around his ankle and cleat.
During the injury timeout, Gentry hopped back onto the field on one leg, shouting at his teammates facing a critical third-and-eight from the USC 16-yard line. He hopped back to the sideline with trainers by his side before the cameras cut back to the action. Even with Gentry’s encouragement, USC gave up a 13-yard pass on the next play and the Utes scored four plays later.
The injuries are mounting for the Trojans as receiver Jordan Addison, who suffered an injury late in the third quarter, was taken back to the locker room.
USC holds 35-28 lead going into fourth quarter
USC couldn’t cash in on the fumble recovery and remains ahead 35-28 going into the fourth quarter.
Caleb Williams was sacked on back-to-back plays, forcing a punt from Aadyn Sleep-Dalton. The Utes have four sacks tonight compared to zero from USC, who entered the game as the nation’s leader in sacks with 24.
Williams still has positive rushing yards (57 on eight carries) despite the 40 yards lost on sacks. He has 302 passing yards and four touchdowns on 19-for-32 passing.
The teams are nearly identical in yardage with USC gaining 446 yards to Utah’s 444 in the first three quarters. Utah is averaging 8.5 yards per play compared to USC’s 8.3.
Jordan Addison injured late in third quarter
USC’s top receiver Jordan Addison was shaken up on a play near the sideline and limped gingerly into the injury tent after attention from trainers.
Addison rushed for 10 yards on second-and-10, but was forced out of bounds on the USC bench and landed awkwardly. Offensive linemen stood nearby to help Addison to the sideline, but he shrugged his teammates off and walked under his own power.
Addison has a team-high seven receptions and 106 yards with one touchdown as USC leads 35-28 with 2:50 remaining in the third quarter.
Eric Gentry ends Utah’s drive with forced fumble
We’ve finally got some defense.
With Utah threatening to tie the score, gEric Gentry recorded the night’s first takeaway by forcing a fumble, which USC recovered at its own three-yard line.
Bernard caught a 25-yard pass from Cameron Rising on the 10th play of the Utes’ most impressive drive of the night. Gentry lowered his helmet and popped the ball free and Stanley Ta’ufo’ou jumped on it for USC.
USC leads 35-28 with 3:13 remaining in the third quarter.
Josh Falo’s second touchdown puts USC back in front
These are supposed to the stingiest defenses in the Pac-12, but there is no defensive showdown tonight.
USC answered Utah’s touchdown with a score of its own as Caleb Williams found Josh Falo for the tight end’s second touchdown catch of the night to put USC up 35-28 with 11:02 remaining in the third quarter.
With the 11-yard touchdown catch, Falo has 14 yards on two catches and two touchdowns after he hadn’t notched a single reception all year.
USC entered the game allowing 18.7 points per game, which led the Pac-12. Utah was not far behind at 19 points allowed per game.
Utah touchdown ties score early in third quarter
USC is not the only team that can make halftime adjustments.
The Utes scored on their first possession of the second half to tie the score 28-28 with 12:02 to go in the third after a four-yard touchdown pass from Cameron Rising to Dalton Kincaid.
Before his first touchdown of the night, Kincaid made the play of the drive with a twisting, over-the-shoulder catch near the sideline that was initially called out of bounds. But replay quickly reversed the call to reward the tight end with a 30-yard catch and an athletic one-foot toe tap that put the Utes at USC’s 19-yard line.
This is just the second touchdown USC has allowed in a third quarter this year.
Rising has 254 passing yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-23 passing. He even caught a pass on the drive on a trick play with Devaughn Vele throwing the ball to the quarterback in the red zone. Kincaid has 119 receiving yards on eight catches.
Utah starts second half on offense
Utah has a huge opportunity right out of the locker room in a one-possession game. Down 28-21 to USC, the Utes can tie or take the lead on the opening possession of the second half despite recording just 51 rushing yards in the first half.
The third quarter has been key for the Trojans this year, as they are outscoring opponents 62-7 in the third quarter.
USC leads 28-21 at halftime following an exhausting final few minutes
It’s halftime. Finally.
Between referee reviews, an illegal substitution penalty and an aggressive USC offense, the final two minutes of the first half lasted closer to 10 minutes of real time. But after all the delays, USC leads 28-21 at the break.
Even with less than 30 seconds on the clock after a Utah touchdown, USC came out firing with a downfield pass from Caleb Williams to Mario Williams. While Mario appeared to haul in the 34-yard pass initially, the call was reversed on review. Caleb Williams went for another long completion on the next pass, but he missed Jordan Addison down the left sideline.
USC had to burn the last four seconds of the half on fourth down inside the Trojans’ 10-yard line, and Caleb Williams danced around then threw a high pass out of bounds that hit the ground as the clock hit zero.
Caleb Williams is 16-for-27 passing for 249 yards and three touchdowns. He also leads USC in rushing with 53 yards on four carries. He’s been sacked once, a 20-yard loss.
Mario Williams has 119 receiving yards on three catches.
Utah’s Cameron Rising is 14-for-21 passing for 220 yards and one touchdown and a team-high 18 rushing yards. Utah has only 51 rushing yards.
USC is outgaining Utah 364-271. Utah’s defense has averaged 315.8 yards allowed per game this season, which leads the Pac-12.
Utah scores before halftime
USC defenders were caught tackling the wrong players as Mekhi Blackmon and Max Williams ran into each other and allowed Davaughn Vele to catch a wide-open 16-yard touchdown pass.
Utah’s score with 30 seconds left before halftime kept it a one-possession game. The Trojans lead 28-21.
Referees threw a wrench in Utah’s latest drive with an extended stoppage to first review a completed pass and potential targeting on Calen Bullock, then, after an animated protest from Kyle Whittingham, to review the clock and a 10-second runoff. Cameron Rising wasn’t deterred by the delay as he followed it with a 30-yard dart to Dalton Kincaid, followed two plays later by his first touchdown pass of the game.
Caleb Williams, Josh Falo extend USC’s lead
Josh Falo’s full extension touchdown catch has USC up 28-14 with 1:15 remaining in the second quarter.
Falo’s first touchdown catch of the season capped a spectacular drive for Caleb Williams, who delivered two electric third-down completions.
Williams’ 30-yard pass to Jordan Addison on third-and-15 was almost the play of the drive until Williams one-upped himself with a 36-yard pass to Mario Williams on third-and-eight from the Utah 41-yard line.
An untouched blitzer was barreling toward Williams from the left side, but the quarterback calmly rolled out to his right and lofted a pass downfield. It looked like a throwaway attempt, but Mario Williams ran under the ball and hauled it in over his head near the sideline.
Caleb Williams is 16-for-24 for 249 yards and three touchdowns.
Utes are Rising to the occasion behind quarterback Cam
Get you a quarterback who can do both.
One play after lofting a 51-yard pass to Money Parks, Utah’s Cameron Rising kept the ball himself for a two-yard rushing touchdown to bring Utah within one score late in the second quarter.
USC leads 21-14 with 4:07 left until halftime after a four-play touchdown drive from the Utes.
Rising, an all-conference first-teamer who led the Utes to their first Pac-12 championship last year, is getting a chance at pay back against his hometown school. The Ventura native went to Newbury Park High, where he was a two-time first-team All-CIF player.
Rising is 10-for-16 passing for 150 yards and has 18 rushing yards and one touchdown on three carries.
Utah defense delivers fourth-down stop
The first consecutive incomplete passes of the game led to a fourth-down stop by the Utah defense.
Zemaiah Vaugh broke up a pass intended for USC’s Brenden Rice on third-and-five from the Utah 38-yard line and USC didn’t hesitate to go for it on fourth down. Williams had to scramble to his right and threw long downfield, but overthrew Jordan Addison, giving Utah the ball.
Williams is nine for 14 for 147 yards and one touchdown. Addison has been targeted five times but has just three catches and none since his one touchdown reception.
USC opens second quarter with quick touchdown, extends lead to 21-7
A two-yard touchdown pass from Caleb Williams to Kyron Hudson put USC ahead 21-7 with 14:20 remaining in the second quarter.
Running back Travis Dye delivered a key block in the backfield to give Wiliams enough time to find Hudson in the back of the end zone for the receiver’s second touchdown of the year.
USC in red zone as first quarter ends
USC is trying to answer quickly after Utah’s score as a 65-yard pass from Caleb Williams to Mario Williams has the Trojans at the Utah three-yard line at the end of the first quarter.
The Trojans are leading 14-7 and outgained Utah 219-121 of an explosive first quarter. USC is averaging 13.7 yards per play against Utah’s defense that leads the Pac-12 in yards allowed per game (315.8).
Williams is seven of 10 passing for 128 yards and one touchdown with 56 rushing yards in two carries. Travis Dye, who is coming off a season-high 149 rushing yards last week, has 18 yards and one touchdown in three carries.
Utah’s Cameron Rising is six for nine for 83 yards.
Questionable USC penalty leads to Utah touchdown
Calen Bullock started celebrating an interception in the Utah end zone until his teammates saw the yellow flag on the field.
A questionable roughing the passer penalty by USC’s Stanley Ta’ufo’ou negated Bullock’s interception and instead of USC getting the ball back, Utah scored one play later with a 12-yard touchdown run from Micah Bernard.
USC leads 14-7 with 1:08 remaining in the first quarter.
The Utes, having just converted on fourth-and-one, called a flea flicker on the USC 25-yard line. But Cameron Rising floated a pass into double coverage in the end zone, where Bullock easily caught the ball.
USC offense clicking early
The Trojans scored almost seamlessly on their second drive to take a 14-0 lead with 4:53 to go in the first quarter.
USC is averaging 10.9 yards per play and had gains of 17, 18 and 18 yards in their first four plays of the latest drive. The Trojans, sensing an advantage on the edge, threw short passes into the flat and let playmakers Jordan Addison and Mario Williams run in space.
Addison scored the touchdown on a two-yard catch for his seventh receiving touchdown of the season.
USC got help on third-and-goal from the four-yard line with a defensive holding call, giving the Trojans a first down from the two-yard line.
Caleb Williams is six for-nine passing for 63 yards and one touchdown and 55 rushing yards. Addison has a team-high three catches for 10 yards.
Utah field goal sails wide left
Utah moved the ball down the field with ease, but still came up empty on its first drive after Jordan Noyes’ 34-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left. The Trojans still lead 7-0 with 8:57 remaining in the first quarter.
Quarterback Cameron Rising connected on his first five passes, but threw a ball into triple coverage in the end zone on third-and-seven from the USC 16-yard line, bringing on the field goal unit. Rising is five-for-six passing for 63 yards.
Caleb Williams, Travis Dye lead opening touchdown march
Caleb Williams may not want to run, but he sure is good at it.
The USC quarterback scrambled for 55 yards to set up an eight-yard touchdown run from Travis Dye on USC’s opening possession.
The Trojans lead 7-0 with 13:16 remaining in the first quarter.
Dye and Williams combined for 78 rushing yards in three carries on the opening drive.
USC starts on offense in Utah
Hello from Salt Lake City. This is Thuc Nhi Nguyen. I’m joined by Ryan Kartje and J. Brady McCollough in the press box here at Rice-Eccles Stadium for USC’s game against No. 20 Utah.
The No. 7 Trojans are trying to improve to 7-0 for the first time since 2005. And with No. 3 Alabama’s loss to No. 6 Tennessee opening the door, a win could solidify USC’s spot as a legitimate College Football Playoff contender. USC won the toss and elected to receive.
Meanwhile, the Utes (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12 Conference) are trying to playing to keep their conference championship hopes alive after losing to UCLA last week.
USC’s surprisingly strong pass rush to be tested by Utah’s elusive Cam Rising
Months after wondering whether USC might have enough pass rushers to even survive the spring, Alex Grinch took approximately two seconds Wednesday to bask in the fact that his defense now leads all college football in sacks through six weeks.
“That’s interesting,” the USC defensive coordinator said before challenging his unit to make every one of those nation-leading 24 sacks again in the second half of the season.
“That’s got to continue,” he said.
That won’t be easy, even with dominant defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu leading the way. Only three other teams in the past decade of college football have managed a higher rate of sacks per game than USC this season.
It has done so with an unexpected cast of sack artists. While Tuipulotu has been largely unstoppable — leading the nation with seven sacks of his own — 10 other Trojans have also taken down opposing quarterbacks at least once.
USC quarterback Caleb Williams vows to improve after ‘all right’ start to debut season
Three weeks into his debut season at USC, Caleb Williams seemed well on his way to soaring past even the highest of expectations set upon his high-profile arrival. The sophomore quarterback was completing better than 74% of his passes and averaging better than 10 yards per attempt. He dominated down the field and stunned with his escapability, looking every bit the part of a preseason Heisman favorite.
Three weeks later, at the midway point of USC’s season, the reviews aren’t quite as glowing. The most critical came this week from the quarterback himself.
“I’ve played all right,” Williams said when asked to assess his performance through six games. “I feel like I could play a lot better. I don’t feel like I’ve unlocked everything that I can do and my ability. Trying to get to that point because this team needs my best throughout this last stretch of the season.”
USC vs. Utah: Betting odds, lines, picks and predictions
Las Vegas sportsbooks have the USC Trojans as 3.5-point favorites when they visit Utah at 5 p.m. Saturday for a crucial Pac-12 game.
The Trojans, ranked No. 7 in the country, are 6-0 and atop the Pac-12 at 4-0 with No. 11 UCLA and No. 12 Oregon the only other undefeated teams in conference play at 3-0 (the conference did away with divisions this season and the two teams with the best Pac-12 record will meet in the conference championship game in Las Vegas).
Oddsmakers had Utah power-rated higher than USC before the season and opened the Utes as high as -4 for this game, but early support at DraftKings has come in on the Trojans with 78% of the bets and 63% of the money on USC as the line has dropped to 3.5 at just about every sportsbook from coast to coast. For the most up-to-date betting trends, see VSiN’s CFB betting splits page.
‘I love what he stands for.’ Fiery USC leader Travis Dye was molded by his brothers
The last time Mark Dye lost a game of ping-pong, he proudly proclaims, was back in 1987, years before his sons were born and his prowess became a point of family contention. Each of the Dye boys, all five of who would go on to play college football, eventually got their swings at the king, spending hour after hour testing each other at their house in Norco.
The competition intensified as the boys grew older. Paddles were thrown. Fights broke out. Still, none of the five boys — not Tony, Jordan, Thierry, Troy nor Travis — nor their younger sister, Jamie, ever managed to beat their dad, he claims.
“They all tried to knock me off of my ping-pong perch,” Mark says, with a laugh.
But Mark never had any intention of handing over the crown. In the Dye household, there were no handouts. That tone was set with Mark’s sons and daughter early on. If you wanted something, you earned it. Competition was not just encouraged, but rather a way of life. Scores were always kept. Trash was always talked.
For Travis, the youngest of the five Dye boys, that meant learning from an early age how to endure. There was no babying of their baby brother — and no extra protection from parents, either. If anything, Travis took the brunt of the brotherly abuse.
All, of course, out of love, his oldest brother assures.
“Poor Travis, he definitely got the worst of it,” says Tony, 32.
As Mark sees it, though, “it made him the fighter he is today.”
Under those pretenses one of the Pac-12’s most prolific running backs was born, forged by the competitive fire within his family. At USC, Travis has emerged in his first season as one of the unquestioned leaders of a dynamic Trojans offense, capable not only of carrying the load in the rushing attack but leading the way in the locker room.
College football roundtable: Which team is more impressive — UCLA or USC?
Los Angeles Times college football writers Ben Bolch, Ryan Kartje, J. Brady McCollough and Thuc Nhi Nguyen answer key questions about the teams.
Which is the more impressive 6-0 team?
Bolch: There are no more ties in college football, but this might qualify. Each team nearly stumbled — UCLA should send South Alabama coach Kane Wommack a thank-you card for that silly fake field-goal attempt — but the Bruins notched the two best victories with their triumphs over Washington and Utah. Both have entertaining offenses and defenses that get the job done. There’s not much separating these teams in terms of quality; it’s pretty much a push.
Kartje: The margin between these two rivals through six weeks feels razor thin. UCLA boasts the best marquee victory after last week’s win over Utah, but the reality is without that botched fake field-goal attempt, we’re not even having this conversation. USC came dangerously close to stumbling in Corvallis, but that near-loss was at least on the road against a feisty conference opponent. In its other five games, USC has won by an average of 25 points. We’ve yet to see a complete, four-quarter performance from Lincoln Riley’s Trojans. USC is still very much learning how to win, and while UCLA may be nearing its ceiling, its crosstown rival doesn’t feel close to that point just yet. We’ll have a much better idea of what USC is capable of at this point next week.
McCollough: UCLA has the best win by far (Utah). But the Bruins also have the worst performance (South Alabama, which we know could have been a loss to a Sun Belt team). UCLA has only played one road game, which was against a terrible Colorado squad that was about to fire its coach. It’s very hard to choose, but I’ll give the edge to UCLA by a very slim margin. We’ll know a lot more about both teams in the next two weeks when USC plays at Utah and UCLA plays at Oregon.
Nguyen: While UCLA is a bad coaching decision away from being 5-1, the Bruins have the stronger wins. Not only did they beat Washington and Utah, but they did so convincingly despite the relatively close final scores. The Trojans probably leave a better impression because they’re the new (kind of old) fun thing in town with a new coach and quarterback blowing every team out except for Oregon State, but UCLA has quietly taken care of business in a way that fits Chip Kelly’s no-frills personality.