SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Coming off a devastating loss at UCLA last weekend, the competition only gets tougher this week, as #7 USC comes to Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday afternoon.
What was especially disheartening about the loss to the Bruins was that UCLA racked up 502 total yards of offense against a suddenly porous Utah defense.
“They ran the ball very effectively, they threw the ball effectively,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “We didn’t do much on defense to deter that. We missed a bunch of tackles. They made a bunch of big plays on us.”
But one loss in the Pac-12 doesn’t eliminate the Utes from getting back to the Pac-12 Championship Game. But a win over the Trojans is now absolutely vital.
“The biggest thing is just understanding that we’re still a team,” said wide receiver DeVaughn Vele. “This is a team sports. We can’t be pointing fingers, and understand that we still have a long season ahead of us.”
But as disappointing as Saturday’s 42-32 loss to the Bruins was, the Utes can’t let the emotions from that game bleed over to Saturday’s massive showdown.
“We’ve got a big game coming up this weekend against USC, so we can’t be spending too much time dwelling on what happened against UCLA,” Vele said. “We just understand what happened, we learn from it, and we just make sure we’re ready for this upcoming week.”
The Trojans are almost an all-star team under first-year head coach Lincoln Riley. With quarterback Caleb Williams coming over from Oklahoma, wide receiver Jordan Addison from Pittsburgh, and running back Travis Dye from Oregon, USC has one of the most lethal offense in the country.
“They’re the big dogs right now,” wide receiver Money Parks said. “We’re the underdogs this year, so we need to come out there with a little extra fight and just come out there and prepare like we do every week, and make the plays.”
Utah broke a 100-year drought against the Trojans in Los Angeles last season in what was considered a big upset at the time. Whittingham is hoping to pull off some more magic against USC on Saturday.
“We find ourselves in a very similar situation as we did last year,” Whittingham said. “It’s very similar. We handled it well last year, and we’ll see if we can handle it well this year.”
Utah and USC kick off at 6:00 p.m. Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.