LOS ANGELES (ABC4 Sports) – USC is probably thankful they don’t have to play Utah again when they move to the Big Ten Conference next year.
Cole Becker made a 38-yard field goal as time expired, and after blowing an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter, #14 Utah rallied for a thrilling 34-32 victory over No. 18 USC on Saturday night.
This is the fourth straight time the Utes have beaten USC dating back to 2021.
After Caleb Williams ran for an 11-yard touchdown with 1:46 left for the Trojans (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12), Bryson Barnes punctuated Utah’s winning drive with a spectacular 26-yard scramble to get the Utes (6-1, 3-1) well into range for Becker’s winner.
Two-way sensation Sione Vaki caught two touchdown passes and accounted for 217 total yards while the Utes sent Williams and Lincoln Riley to their first-ever loss at the Coliseum.
After Zachariah Branch’s 61-yard punt return set up Williams’ go-ahead TD run to put the Trojans in front 32-31, Utah mounted a drive that included Ja’Quinden Jackson’s fourth-and-1 conversion run to the USC 40 with 19 seconds left.
Barnes passed for a career-high 235 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another score for Utes, who have beaten the Trojans in all three meetings during Riley’s two seasons at USC.
Williams passed for 256 yards and no TDs in a second straight difficult game for the Heisman Trophy winner and his Trojans, whose national title hopes are all but dead after back-to-back losses to Notre Dame and Utah.
After falling behind 28-14 in the third quarter, USC kick-started a comeback when safety Calen Bullock returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth.
USC kicked a field goal with 3:03 to play, and its maligned defense stopped Utah at midfield. Branch, the Trojans’ electrifying freshman, returned the ensuing punt to the Utah 11 for Williams’ scramble on the next play, but the Trojans’ 2-point conversion attempt failed.
After Utah quickly got to midfield with a personal foul and targeting penalty on USC lineman Bear Alexander, Barnes darted through the USC defense on his rambling run.
Vaki, Utah’s starting strong safety, put on another jaw-dropping display of two-way prowess in his third game on offense for the Utes. One week after he rushed for 158 yards and three touchdowns against Utah, Vaki caught five passes for 149 yards — the first 100-yard game by a Utes receiver all season — and rushed nine times for 68 yards.
Vaki caught a 53-yard touchdown pass on the Utes’ third play from scrimmage, roaring away from USC’s defense in space. He scored again late in the third quarter, making an exceptional cutback after a short catch and motoring for a 15-yard TD.
Barnes delivered a resourceful performance in his latest outing in place of injured Cam Rising. Utah’s offense was 122nd in the FBS in yards per play this season before getting much better against the Trojans’ porous defense, racking up 483 total yards.
Landen King caught a TD pass for the Utes, who also annoyed the Trojans and their fans with repeated defensive line substitutions that slowed down USC’s offense.
Utah next puts its 18-game home winning streak on the line next Saturday against Oregon.