USC and Utah met in Rice-Eccles Stadium in a game that saw the Trojans favored to win, but in a wild and crazy half, the Utes have given plenty reasons to call that prediction into question. In the first quarter they capitalized on costly back-to-back fumbles to go up 14-0 on USC in the first two minutes. USC responded though, playing with an extremely short memory, and moved the ball 75 yards on eight plays for a Silas Redd touchdown.
Redd has been a workhorse for USC tonight, rushing for 61 yards on 14 carries. Barkley, though he looked frazzled and not at all composed early in this game (and in the past two, for that matter), responded to the pressure well, completing 12 of 15 passes for 141 yards (average of 9.4) and two touchdown passes. We even got to see a USC tight end spotting, with Randall Telfer making a Dominique Byrd-esque catch in the endzone for USC’s second TD of the night. Robert Woods and Marqise Lee have started to slowly shred Utah’s offense, combining for 95 yards and a touchdown.
It hasn’t been easy though. USC and Utah went back and forth at each other for most of the half, with the defenses really slugging at the offenses. The Trojan D has held the Utes to 181 yards (while the Utes have held SC to just 186 as well) on offense and even forced a turnover of their own (recovered by USC’s defensive hero, Morgan Breslin) in the second quarter. Like Utah, USC made something of the fumble. Barkley hit Woods over the middle for a huge 41-yard gain, and then Barkley hit him again at the end of the drive for a six-yard touchdown. With that, the Trojans took the lead for the first time in the game, 24-21.
The first half has also been plagued by penalties, with flags flying all over the place seemingly every play. USC has committed eight for 45 yards and the Utes, seven for 72, and both teams have committed a few on occasion at really inopportune times.
To Utah’s credit–and likely to the surprise of USC fans–John Hays has played a solid half, completing 12 of 20 passes for 126 yards. At the end of the half, Utah almost took the lead on an incredible trick play, but it was called back due to an ineligible receiver penalty. Things got a little testy after that, with Utah’s offense and USC’s defense exchanging shoves and pushes.
Jawanza Starling almost made Christmas come early for USC shortly after that when he picked off Hays, but he was out of bounds. Utah then lined up for a field goal to tie it going into the half, but TE Telfer tipped it to keep it in USC’s favor.
The Trojans lead 24-21 after a shaky start, but both teams definitely smell blood in the water after this thrilling first half.