After a first quarter of stumbles and sputters, the Trojan offense is making moves and the defense forcing turnovers against the Utah Utes, giving the Trojans a 16-3 lead going into the half.
The Trojans were unable to reach the endzone with their fumble recovery they earned at the end of the first quarter, but a made 35-yard field goal from Andre Heidari put the Trojans up up 10-3.
Wilson and the Utes offense got the ball back and started to build their next drive. On 4th and 1 from just outside the Trojan 10-yard line, Hayes Pullard dropped Travis Wilson for no gain, and the Trojans would take over on downs.
The Trojans’ redzone defense has been stiff so far throughout this game, keeping the Utes out of the endzone on each drive that they threatened to score.
Deep in his own endzone, Cody Kessler stepped up in the pocket to hit Nelson Agholor for an 11-yard first down. Then Tre Madden took the handoff and ground out 12 more yards for the Trojans, who seemed to be finally building some momentum for themselves. Kessler dropped back again and hit De’Von Flournoy for a 14-yard gain, and the third consecutive first down for USC.
Now across the 50-yard line, Madden shed a number of tackles for an 8-yard gain. He took the hand off again and got the first down and six yards to boot.
Kessler then found Darreus Rogers on the sideline for what looked like a catch, but the Pac-12 officials ruled it incomplete. After an official review, it was determined that Rogers’ left foot was right on the out-of-bounds line, and the incompletion would stand.
On 3rd and 10, Kessler got dropped behind the line of scrimmage for the sack, which also took the Trojans out of field goal range.
So far, the Trojans have faced third-down conversion attempts of 9, 10, 8, 7 and 10 yards, and have failed to convert any of them.
Utah took over on downs, but the Trojans found good fortune when true freshman Leon McQuay–in his first career start–picked off Wilson near the sidelines.
USC took over on downs near midfield, but a false start play back them up a bit. Kessler then got absolutely drilled on second down, as the Trojan offensive line has started to show sines of weakening.
The Trojans sideline erupted in cheers when Kessler threw a dart to De’Von Flournoy, who shed tacklers for 31-yards and the first down, in the biggest play of his USC career.
Silas Redd took the subsequent handoff for just two yards, then walk-on Chris Willson caught a pass on the sidelines. In doing so, be became the first walk-on since 1994 to catch a pass for the Trojans.
The Trojans settled for another field goal, this time a 38-yard attempt for Heidari, to extend their lead 13-3 in the final 30 seconds of the half.
In another exciting turn of events for the Trojans, true freshman safety Su’a Cravens picked off Wilson and almost had a pick-six. He ran it all the way back to the 10-yard line before getting tripped up, leaving the Trojans five seconds to get on the board again. While it was a big play for the Trojans, Cravens had to be carted off the field after the play, in more devastating injury news.
Heidari nailed the ensuing 28-yard attempt, and the Trojans take a 16-3 lead into the half.
USC goes into the half with all the good mojo, and will come out of the half with the ball.
Cody Kessler is 11-for-16 in the fist half, for 160 yards and one touchdown. Nelson Agholor leads the passing game with two receptions for 47 yards, while De’Von Flournoy has two catches for 45 yards as well. On the ground, Tre Madden leads the Trojans with four rushes for 27 yards. For Utah, Travis Wilson is 5 of 10 for 51 yards, and has 41 rushing yards of his own.
Although the Trojans have build a nice lead, they are 0-6 on third downs. Thanks to the defense forcing four turnovers, USC has a strong footing in this game.