SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – USC may not be the power it once was. The Trojans are 1-2 on the season, and have made a change at quarterback.
USC head coach announced on Tuesday that freshman Sam Darnold will make his first career start in place of Max Browne, who struggled in losses to Alabama and Stanford.
“Darnold has a really strong arm,” said Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham. “He’s got a really good arm, and I don’t know. They’ve got to be searching for ways to get things corrected.”
As for correcting things for the Utes, while Troy Williams has shown improvement and has developed a special chemistry with wide receiver Tim Patrick, but he’s turning the ball over too many times in the red zone.
:Troy is starting to settle in,” Whittingham said. “I think we’re executing just a little bit better each week, but to make us who we want to become offensively, we have got to start finishing drives.”
“Better decision making on my part,” said Williams when asked what he needs to improve the most. “Just finishing, like coach Whitt said. Having that passion, that fire to finish a drive no matter what the play call is. Just go down there with a certain mindset that we have to score.”
In their first game without Joe Williams, who announced his retirement from football, the Utes showed they have a stable of running backs to balance the offense. Zack Moss, Troy McCormick and Armand Shyne combined for 248 yards and three touchdowns against San Jose State.
“Good to see all those running backs contribute,” Whittingham said. “We did have the one fumble with the running back. But to have Shyne and Moss come alive and contribute like they did, that was good to see.”
Meantime, the Utes defensive front is living up to the hype. They recorded ten sacks against the Spartans, the second highest total in school history. The Utes are second in the nation in sacks, and hope to wreak havoc on USC’s freshman quarterback.
“Our D-line, they’re great,” said cornerback Reggie Porter. “Playing behind guys like that, they’re going to pressure the quarterback and put them in bad situations, and that’s what you want as a secondary.”
Asked if is happy he doesn’t have to face his own defensive line in a game, Williams said, “I am very happy, very happy about that. I say that to myself everyday.”
The USC game will be extra special for Williams, who grew up a few miles from the Coliseum, but was not recruited by the Trojans.
“Growing up a kid in L.A., we’re all SC fans,” Williams said. “The Reggie Bush era, Matt Leinart, all those guys, Mike Williams, so we’re big USC fans growing up. “Of course, everyone wanted to go to SC,but I didn’t have the opportunity, so it adds a little bit of fire. It’s nothing personal or anything like that, but it adds a little bit of fire just knowing that maybe I wasn’t good enough to go there, just try to show them what I can do.”
Despite their record, USC is still the reigning Pac-12 South champions, and the Trojans always have one of the most talented rosters in the country.
“They’re a good football team,” Whittingham said. “They are probably the best 1-2 team in the country. They’re dangerous and we’re fully aware of that. “We don’t pay any attention to the record. We know what their capabilities are, and we’re completely aware of how we need to play in order to have a chance to win this game.”
Utah and USC go at it Friday night at 7:00 p.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium.