SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – After losing seven of its first ten meetings against USC in the Pac-12, Utah has turned the tide lately.
In 2021, the Utes football team broke a 105-year losing streak to USC in Los Angeles. Then last season, Utah beat the Trojans twice last year, once in a 43-42 thriller at Rice-Eccles, and again and then in the Pac-12 Championship Game in Las Vegas, 47-24.
Utah will try to make it four straight wins over the Trojans at the Coliseum Saturday night.
“It’s been a great back and forth series,” Whittingham said. “Implications typically every year, conference implications, championship implications. So, it’s turned out to be very competitive and very intense.”
“They’re always dogfights,” added wide receiver DeVaughn Vele. “You go back to ’21, even in ’22 as well, it’s never an easy game. We’re always going to get their best shot, and they’re always going to get our best shot.”
#18 USC is coming off a 48-20 thumping at Notre Dame. But before that the Trojans were 6-0, and are still averaging over 47 points per game.
“Their numbers are better than last year,” Whittingham said. “As hard as that is to believe, because their numbers were so good last year. But they are even more productive this year.”
“We talked about it today that we’re going to have to put up points,” said running back Ja’Quinden Jackson, who returned to the field against Cal and rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown. “But we have a lot of trust in our defense as well. You never know how this game might go.”
Utah will have to try and slow down Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Caleb Williams without All-Pac-12 safety Cole Bishop. Bishop will miss the first half of the game after the Utes lost their appeal on a questionable targeting call against Cal.
“I don’t really want to whine about it, but I still don’t see how it was called, and how it got denied,” Whittingham said.”
The Utes unveiled a new weapon on offense against Cal in Sione Vaki. The Utes starting safety also rushed for 158 yards and two touchdowns.
“Mr. Everything,” Vele said with a smile. “That dude does everything, it’s crazy. They called him that in high school. I just found that out today. I mean, it makes sense to me.”
Vaki had to play because of multiple injuries to the running back position, and he came through big time.
“We lost three of our top four running backs,” Whittingham said. “So it was out of necessity that we find a way to supplement the running game, and Sione sure gave us a spark in that game.”
The Utes (5-1) and USC (6-1) will hit the field Saturday at 5:00 p.m.