USC football vs. Utah final score: Trojans stay undefeated with improved performance

USC football welcomed Utah to the 2020 season with a straight-forward victory

For the first time since 2012, USC football won a game at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The Trojans took care of business on Saturday night, dispatching Utah without the late drama they needed against ASU and Arizona.

Here’s how it went down…

USC football 33, Utah 17

The lowdown: Even though Utah got on the board first with a field goal, USC had the better of the Utes in the first half. After USC tied the game with a kick of their own, the Trojan defense wreaked havoc with an interception from Drake Jackson and a forced fumble by Marlon Tuipulotu to set up a Vavae Malepeai touchdown run.

Utah used their defense to find the endzone and stay in the game. A Kedon Slovis fumble was picked up and returned for a score.

USC’s next three drives showed the highs and lows of Slovis. He hit Tyler Vaughns on a slant for a touchdown, then tossed an inexplicable interception in the red zone, then rebounded with another touchdown down the middle to Erik Krommenhoek.

The Utes didn’t like the idea of going into halftime trailing by 14 points. They drove down the field and scored to cut USC’s lead to 24-17.

The third quarter featured a Talanoa Hufanga interception, but USC had to settle for two field goals as their only takeaways from a couple of red zone trips.

Utah had a promising drive in the fourth quarter. Though they threatened in the red zone, the Trojan defense came up big when they blew up a screen on a fourth-down play near the goal line. The turnover on downs gave USC’s offense back the ball and allowed the Trojans to bleed the clock.

The takeaway: It was USC’s best performance of the season. That’s not saying too much since the first two weeks were rather questionable. However, there was a clear improvement from the Trojans in most facets of the game.

The defense took a big step up with a dominant showing by the defensive line. Critically, the linebackers Ralen Goforth and Kana’i Mauga were at the center of the action.

On offense, concerns over Slovis’ arm will dominate discussions. On the plus side, the offensive line was significantly more effective and running backs Vavae Malepeai and Kenan Christon made the most of their opportunities.

Utah looked like a team playing their first game in a pandemic. USC now has reason to claim they’ve shaken off the rust and turned the corner.

Player of the game: Goforth and Mauga. The linebacker duo combined for 23 tackles, two tackles for loss and two pass breakups. They were the single biggest difference in terms of defensive performance overall.

Stat of the game: USC held a lead going into the fourth quarter for the first time this season.

Next on tap: It’ll be a battle of the undefeated against Colorado with Pac-12 South control on the line.