Utah stuns USC with game-winning field goal

No. 14 Utah 34, No. 18 USC 32 • After the Trojans rally for the lead in the final minutes, a Bryson Barnes scramble sets up a Cole Becker field goal in a wild game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

(Mark J. Terrill | AP) Utah place kicker Cole Becker, second from left, celebrates his game-wining field goal with teammates during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Southern California Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles • Bryson Barnes was almost the goat. Then he became the hero.

After throwing a horrible pick-six that gave USC life, then missing a pass that gave the Trojans the ball and contributed to their go-ahead score, the Utah quarterback came up with the play of the game.

He scrambled for a 26-yard gain to the USC 19-yard line with 5 seconds left. After running one more play to center the ball, then calling timeout, kicker Cole Becker calmly drilled a 38-yard field goal to give the Utes a wild 34-32 victory in a back-and-forth epic at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

It was a fitting end to the teams’ final Pac-12 Conference meeting, given their recent history of close, competitive finishes.

Dating back to 1966, this was the 26th game Utah has won with go-ahead score in the final minute (they did it earlier this season at Baylor). It was also the sixth field goal Utah has kicked to win game as time expired. The last one was in 2008 vs. Oregon State.

Utah players and coaches rushed the field after the victory, which helped the team improve to 6-1 overall and 3-1 in Pac-12 play.

Sione Vaki was again a revelation for the Utes on offense, finishing with 217 combined yards and two touchdowns on 14 touches.

Barnes accounted for four touchdowns, three passing and one rushing. He had 235 passing yards and 57 rushing.

And Ja’Quinden Jackson rushed for 117 yards.

Defensively, Utah totaled five sacks, including FBS leader Jonah Elliss’s 10th of the season. Van Fillinger had a sack and a forced fumble.

Utah now returns home to face powerhouse Oregon at Rice-Eccles Satdium next Saturday.

Barnes’ pick-six gives Trojans life

Every week, Kyle Whittingham praises Bryson Barnes for not making a horrible mistake and turning the ball over.

Barnes just made a horrible mistake and turned the ball over.

Under pressure from the USC pass rush, Barnes panicked and tried to force the ball to Devaughn Vele. But USC corner Calen Bullock jumped the route and took it 30 yards into the end zone.

The Trojans went for a two-point conversion to try and get within a field goal, but no one was open, and the pass fell incomplete, making it a 28-23 Utah lead.

Utes lead 28-17 after three quarters

It took nearly two full quarters, but USC finally got more points on the board.

The Trojans kicked a 44-yard field goal on the final play of the third quarter to cut Utah’s lead to 28-17.

USC looked to be in good shape after Caleb Williams and Tahj Washington connected on a 40-yard pass, but the drive stalled.

The Trojans momentarily appeared to have a touchdown, but it was called back on account of offensive pass interference (which negated Utah going offsides). A subsequent false start penalty ultimately made USC settle for the field goal.

Utes expand their lead to two touchdowns

Playmakers making plays.

It took Utah half a season to figure it out, but it’s all coming together at the Coliseum.

After Van Fillinger forced a fumble and Cole Bishop recovered it, the Utes offense went to work.

Utah’s running game began to exploit the middle if the Trojans’ defense, first on an 11-yard keeper by quarterback Bryson Barnes to move the chains, then on a gigantic 26-yard rush by Ja’Quinden Jackson up to the 15.

Then it was Sione Vaki time.

He took a short pass from Barnes while running right, engaged the hand brake to shake his defender, reversed field to the left, and outran everyone else to the end zone.

And just like that, Utah was in control, 28-14.

Utes regain the lead in third quarter

Utah’s offense is once again asserting itself.

After the defense forced a three-and-out by USC topen the half, the Utes responded with a nine-play, 59-yard scoring drive.

They found ways to get the ball into the hands of many of their best playmakers — short passes to Money Parks in space, direct snaps to Sione Vaki, handoffs to Ja’Quinden Jackson …

And finally, Bryson Barnes bought some time on second and goal by rolling out away from the coverage, then finding tight end Landen King coming free in the end zone toward the right sideline.

And with that, Utah was back on top, 21-14.

Utes, Trojans tied at halftime

The fireworks finally slowed.

As has been the case for Utah vs. USC lately, the defense struggled mightily early, then settled in as the game went along.

So it was that after four first quarter touchdowns Saturday, there were zero points scored in the second quarter, leading to a 14-14 tie.

The Utes had a prime scoring chance late in the half, steadily moving the ball down the field and inside the Trojans’ 30-yard line.

That’s when the drive imploded.

First came a false start penalty. Then quarterback Bryson Barnes got decked on second-and-1, and fumbled the ball. Utah recovered, but a personal foul penalty was called on right guard Michael Mokofisi. And suddenly, it was third-and-23, and Utah was back on its own half of the field.

A subsequent draw play went nowhere, Utah punted, and that was that.

Utes, Trojans tied at end of first quarter

Maybe the Utes do have enough big-play juice finally to compete in an offensively-explosive game.

First, Mikey Matthews set the team up in USC territory by returning a kickoff past midfield. Then, Sione Vaki, split out wide, caught a huge fourth-down pass to keep the drive alive.

Ja’Quinden Jackson ran through the Trojans’ defense for a big gain. Then quarterback Bryson Barnes took a shotgun snap, waited patiently for a hole to open, and went untouched up the middle for the tying score.

Utah has 133 yards of offense in the opening quarter.

The defense followed up by getting its first stop of the game, holding Caleb Williams to a 1-yard gain on a third-and-2 keeper. USC will punt on the first play of the second quarter.

Trojans’ offense rolling, as they take 14-7 lead

It was figured that Utah’s defense might give USC’s big-play offense some trouble.

So far, they’ve had their hands full.

The Trojans have had two drives and scored two long touchdowns.

This one was set up thanks to a 52-yard pass from Caleb Williams to Tahj Washington, who’d beaten Miles Battle easily, but had to lay out to make a spectacular catch of a slightly overthrown ball.

A couple plays later, USC utilized a great misdirection play — faking a handoff one way, pitching it the other — and Zachariah Branch was all by his lonesome as he jogged into the endzone.

The ensuing PAT made it 14-7 USC.

Trojans respond with a quick TD of their own

Could this game be a shootout?

Looks like it might be a shootout.

The Utes needed less than 2 minutes to score, and USC responded in kind, going 75 yards in 5 plays in just 1:55.

MarShawn Lloyd broke a few tackles and made a few other Ute defenders miss before breaking out into the open.

And just like that, the game is tied at 7-7 with less than 4 minutes elapsed.

53-yard TD pass gives Utes a quick 7-0 lead

Sione Vaki remains the spark the Utah offense needed.

On just the third offensive play of the game Saturday vs. USC, the safety-turned-running back ran a wheel route, beat the covering linebacker, hauled in a pass from Bryson Barnes, and raced up the left sideline for a 53-yard touchdown.

Three plays, 75 yards, 1:16 off the clock, and the Utes with an impressive 7-0 lead.