No. 11 Utah ends No. 4 USC’s playoff hopes with Pac-12 title win
Cameron Rising passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns as No. 11 Utah routed No. 4 Southern California 47-24 on Friday in the Pac-12 championship game at Las Vegas, ending the Trojans’ College Football Playoff aspirations.
Utah (10-3), which handed USC its only other loss of the season on Oct. 15 in Salt Lake City, claimed its second straight Pac-12 title thanks to a second-quarter rally and an overwhelming defensive performance over the game’s final three quarters.
USC (11-2) jumped ahead 17-3 less than three minutes into the second period and appeared headed to a lopsided win. Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback Caleb Williams threw touchdowns of 2 yards to Tahj Washington and 3 yards to Raleek Brown in the first quarter, completing a pair of drives that the Trojans extended with fourth-down conversions.
However, those possessions foreshadowed difficulties to come for the usually prolific Trojans offense.
Utah held USC to 1-for-12 on third-down attempts, conceding the only successfully third-down conversion early in the fourth quarter. The Utah defense got to Williams for seven sacks, led by Mohamoud Diabate and Gabe Reid with two each.
The Utes also made 11 tackles for loss, part of Utah stymying USC to the tune of just 56 rushing yards.
Utah’s Ja’Quinden Jackson and Micah Bernard both gained more rushing yards individually than USC accrued as a team, with Jackson going for 105 and Bernard finishing with 88.
Jackson scored Utah’s first touchdown of the game, and the first of his two on the night, late in the second quarter. A stop on the other side set the stage for Rising to lead the Utes on a 14-play, 81-yard drive in just 1:38 that culminated with the Utah quarterback finding Jaylen Dixon for a game-tying, 4-yard touchdown pass just before halftime.
That possession flipped the tone of the game, as Utah took a lead it never relinquished coming out of the locker room when Rising connected with Money Parks for a 57-yard touchdown.
Caleb Williams — who passed for 363 yards — threw the last of his three touchdowns to Mario Williams early in the fourth quarter to pull USC to within 27-24. It was all Utah from there.
Thomas Yassmin broke a series of tackles on the way to a 60-yard touchdown reception, Jackson rushed 53 yards for his second score, and Bernard put on the exclamation point with a 23-yard run.
Utah outgained USC 533 yards to 419 and won the turnover battle 2-1. USC came into Friday’s championship plus-23 on turnovers for the season.
–Field Level Media