LOS ANGELES — Cole Becker made a 38-yard field goal as time expired, and No. 14 Utah blew an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter before rallying for a thrilling 34-32 victory over No. 18 Southern California on Saturday night.
After Caleb Williams ran for an 11-yard touchdown with 1:46 left for the Trojans (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12), Bryson Barnes punctuated Utah’s winning drive with a spectacular 26-yard scramble to get the Utes (6-1, 3-1) well into range for Becker’s winner.
Two-way sensation Sione Vaki caught two touchdown passes and accounted for 217 total yards while the Utes sent Williams and Lincoln Riley to their first-ever loss at the Coliseum.
After Zachariah Branch’s 61-yard punt return set up Williams’ go-ahead TD run to put the Trojans in front 32-31, Utah mounted a drive that included Ja’Quinden Jackson’s fourth-and-1 conversion run to the USC 40 with 19 seconds left.
Barnes passed for a career-high 235 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another score for Utes, who have beaten the Trojans in all three meetings during Riley’s two seasons at USC.
Williams passed for 256 yards and no TDs in a second straight difficult game for the Heisman Trophy winner and his Trojans, whose national title hopes are all but dead after back-to-back losses to Notre Dame and Utah.
No. 18 USC Trojans vs. No. 11 Utah Utes Highlights | CFB on FOX
After falling behind 28-14 in the third quarter, USC kick-started a comeback when safety Calen Bullock returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth.
USC kicked a field goal with 3:03 to play, and its maligned defense stopped Utah at midfield. Branch, the Trojans’ electrifying freshman, returned the ensuing punt to the Utah 11 for Williams’ scramble on the next play, but the Trojans’ 2-point conversion attempt failed.
After Utah quickly got to midfield with a personal foul and targeting penalty on USC lineman Bear Alexander, Barnes darted through the USC defense on his rambling run.
Vaki, Utah’s starting strong safety, put on another jaw-dropping display of two-way prowess in his third game on offense for the Utes. One week after he rushed for 158 yards and three touchdowns against Utah, Vaki caught five passes for 149 yards — the first 100-yard game by a Utes receiver all season — and rushed nine times for 68 yards.
Vaki caught a 53-yard touchdown pass on the Utes’ third play from scrimmage, roaring away from USC’s defense in space. He scored again late in the third quarter, making an exceptional cutback after a short catch and motoring for a 15-yard TD.
Barnes delivered a resourceful performance in his latest outing in place of injured Cameron Rising. Utah’s offense was 122nd in the FBS in yards per play this season before getting much better against the Trojans’ porous defense, racking up 483 total yards.
Landen King caught a TD pass for the Utes, who also annoyed the Trojans and their fans with repeated defensive line substitutions that slowed down USC’s offense.
Utah: Few West Coast programs can measure up to the Utes’ tenacity and consistency over the past two decades, and coach Kyle Whittingham’s dominance of Riley’s rebuilding project underlines these programs’ current states. Utah does more with less than just about any elite program, and a third straight Pac-12 title is still in play.
USC: The Trojans’ season has fallen apart with back-to-back losses, but hints of their downfall were obvious in poor defensive performances earlier in the year. The late comeback aside, USC’s inability to stop a well-coached Utah team with a third-string quarterback and a safety playing tailback says all that needs to be said about the quality of coordinator Alex Grinch’s defense.
‘Trusting in your teammates and letting it rip’ – Utah QB Bryson Barnes talks about the fight it took to win over USC
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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