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Utah football: Utes looking for crucial win at USC

Published October 25, 2013 6:14 pm

College football • After hanging with Trojans for last two seasons, Utah hopes for a payoff.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Los Angeles • Utah's Pac-12 series with USC is much like the Utes' experience in Pac-12 play this season — they've gotten close, they just can't finish.

The Utes hope they can change their luck Saturday when they face the Trojans here at the Coliseum.

Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. MDT with the Pac-12 Networks televising the game.

The Utes are just 3-8 against the Trojans and are only 1-5 in games played in Los Angeles.

That lone win came in 1916.

Hearing how long it has been since the Utes have won in Los Angeles gave Utah coach Kyle Whittingham a good laugh.

"Maybe that's a good thing; the law of averages," Whittingham said.

One would think the Utes are due for something to start working in their favor. Utah's debut Pac-12 game came against the Trojans in Los Angeles in 2011, providing the Utes with of the craziest finishes in their recent history.

With the Trojans up 17-14, Utah attempted a 41-yard field goal on the last play of the game hoping to force overtime. Instead the attempt was blocked and returned for a touchdown.

USC's players stormed the field and were flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, leading the initial ruling that the touchdown wouldn't count, leaving the Utes with their hearts broken and USC with a 17-14 win.

Hours later, the Pac-12 announced since all unsportsmanlike conduct fouls by substitutes are enforced as dead ball fouls, the penalty couldn't be enforced and was declined by rule so the final touchdown would count after all.

Last year, the Utes forced two fumbles in the opening minutes to take a 14-0 lead over the No. 13 Trojans. Unfortunately they couldn't hang on for the upset. USC scored 28 unanswered points and went on to win 38-28.

With the way things have gone, the Utes feel it's about time they come out on the winning end.

"We've been close, but we need to get over the hump with them this year and get this win," Utah defender Trevor Reilly said.

A win would send the Utes into their bye week with a much better feeling than they had this week following their loss at Arizona.

Despite the bowl ramifications and lack of Pac-12 road victories, the Utes didn't show much desire in the opening minutes of the 35-24 loss to the Wildcats, leading to one of the more frustrating losses for the Utes.

Whittingham said the team never went into panic mode in the loss, pointing out the Utes battled back to regain the lead in the third quarter.

But that is hardly much consolation for a team scrapping to be bowl eligible. The Utes seemed dejected on Monday, but Whittingham believes his team will be ready for the Trojans after several good practices this week.

"The attitude has been very positive and it needs to be," Whittingham said.

Just like their recent games with USC, the Utes haven't felt they were totally outplayed by their opponents. They feel like they have a good chance against the Trojans, as long as they have better starts than they have in recent outings.

Their opponents have scored first in the last three games.

"That is uncharacteristic of us and we need to start better defensively for sure," Whittingham said. "We need to find our way out of that first drive."

Offensively, the Utes' biggest concern is quarterback Travis Wilson. Wilson is expected to play after missing the second half of the Arizona loss with an injured hand.

He has practiced this week and may wear a glove in Saturday's game to protect a sprained index finger. Whittingham hopes he'll be close to 100 percent.

Wilson is more concerned with getting a road win than his injury status.

"We didn't put out a good outing last weekend and we have to show up and prove something Saturday," he said. —

Utah at USC

O At the Coliseum (Los Angeles)

Kickoff • Saturday, 2 p.m. MDT

TV • Pac-12 Network. Radio • 700 AM

Records • Utah (4-3, 1-3), USC (4-3, 1-2)

Series history • USC leads 8-3

Last meeting • USC, 38-28 (Oct. 4, 2012)

About the Utes • Utah's most recent win against the Trojans came in the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl. … Utah is tied for first in red zone offense (22 of 24) and ranks 14th nationally. … The Utes have won 49 consecutive games when leading at halftime. … Utah has 33 players with California ties.

About the Trojans • Coming off a 14-10 loss to Notre Dame. … Receiver Marqise Lee is listed as questionable due to a lingering knee injury. … Leads the league in rushing defense giving up just 110.3 yards per game. … Coached by Ed Orgeron, who is serving as the interim coach after Lane Kiffin was fired.