USC vs. Utah score, summary: Trojans comeback and hang on to win

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 14: Quarterback Sam Darnold
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 14: Quarterback Sam Darnold /

Saturday’s first half USC vs. Utah score had to have sent shockwaves through the Pac-12 world. But the Trojans overcame a 14-point deficit to win, 28-27.

The lowdown: USC turned in their worst first-half performance in a long, long time against the Utes, scoring just seven points and needlessly fumbling the ball away three times. Two unforced Sam Darnold fumbles and a Ronald Jones II drop on a backwards pass completely derailed drives.

Utah picked up the second Darnold fumble and returned it for a score, before quarterback Troy Williams led the Utes on a nine-play, 79-yard drive to take a commanding 21-7 lead before the half.

But the 14-point deficit was familiar territory. It matched the deficit USC overcame to Penn State in the 2017 Rose Bowl. Saturday night at the Coliseum, Darnold and company would do it again.

Seemingly everything went right for USC in the second half. The Trojans went on hard-earned drives of 98, 88 and 93 yards to take over.

Darnold’s dazzled at times on his way to a 358-yard, three-touchdown performance as a passer, with all three scores coming to USC tight ends. It was an 11-yard Ronald Jones scamper and flip into the end zone with just under five minutes left that gave the Trojans the lead, at 28-21.

Troy Williams would still have some Troy Williams in him though. The Utes quarterback led a spirited final drive to score with just 42 seconds left, making it 28-27.

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham had seen enough and took his shot for a go-ahead two-point conversion, but Williams would be stopped short of the goal line by Ajene Harris as the quarterback hastily scrambled towards the pylon.

USC recovered the onside kick to win 28-27.

The takeaway: Finally. USC finally made halftime adjustments. They were thoroughly outplayed in the first half, only to come out and take it to the Utes after the break.

The defense, who had been gashed by Zack Moss’s 113 first-half rushing yards and a Troy Williams resurgence, responded.

The offense, who had committed three unforced turnovers and dug themselves a huge hole in the first half, responded.

It wasn’t pretty as a collective 60 minutes. But for a team seemingly always sticking to what’s not working, USC answering the bell when down was a much-needed change of plans. That’s what good teams do.

But picking themselves up off the mat mid-game is only one challenge. The Trojans still need to do this for a solid 60 minutes. And now their toughest foe of the year —the 5-1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish— stands in their way of the ultimate redemption for last month’s loss to Washington State.

Stat of the game: Utah’s third touchdown of the game —a 33-yard pass from Troy Williams to Demari Simpkins—was the first touchdown allowed by the USC defense after a turnover this season. The Trojans had held teams to just three points on the previous 12 defensive drives following a turnover.

Next on tap: Now the Trojans will take a break from Pac-12 play to head east to South Bend, where they’ll face a 5-1 Notre Dame team fresh off a bye week. USC hasn’t won there since 2011.