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No. 20 Utah beats No. 7 USC 43-42 after late two-point conversion

No. 20 Utah handed No. 7 USC its first loss of the season on Saturday night.

Cameron Rising scored on a fourth-down keeper with 48 seconds left and then ran in the game-winning two-point conversion in a 43-42 win for the Utes. USC had a chance to get in range for a field goal after Rising’s conversion but a kickoff return to midfield was brought back because of a hold and USC’s only first down on the drive came via penalty with eight seconds left after an interception off a deflection was nullified due to pass interference.

Rising threw for 415 yards and had five total touchdowns. He threw for two TDs and was Utah’s leading rusher with 60 yards and three scores on the ground. Sixteen of his 30 completions went to TE Dalton Kincaid as USC struggled to cover Kincaid all evening. Kincaid had 234 yards receiving and a TD as no other Utah player had more than five receptions.

USC QB Caleb Williams was 25-of-41 passing for 381 yards and five touchdowns and also had a 55-yard run early in the game. Williams looked a lot like the Heisman Trophy favorite he’s been throughout the season so far, but the USC defense just simply couldn’t stop Utah’s offense.

The Utah defense had a hard time stopping the USC offense too. Both teams had over 550 total yards and combined for 1,116 yards of offense. Utah had 31 first downs to USC’s 28 and the teams converted more than half of their third downs. Twelve of the game’s 19 drives ended in touchdowns.

USC (6-1) was hurt by penalties, especially late in the game. The Trojans had 12 penalties for 93 yards and there was a stretch of penalties on four consecutive plays early in the fourth quarter when Utah was driving to tie the game at 35-35.

Utah (5-2) entered the game as a favorite thanks to its home-field advantage, though it found itself trailing by 14 points at three different points in the first half. The Utes got the deficit to 28-21 with 30 seconds to go before the half and tied the game 28-28 less than three minutes into the second half.

Saturday’s game was also a tribute game for former Utah players Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe. The former Utes died in shootings over the course of 2021 and every Utah player wore a hand-painted helmet with Lowe and Jordan on them.

UCLA is the last unbeaten in the Pac-12

USC’s loss means UCLA stands alone as the only remaining team without a loss in the Pac-12. The Bruins were off in Week 7 after beating Utah in Week 6.

The Utes, meanwhile, are still in the thick of a Pac-12 title race that could come down to the final week of the season. The Pac-12 eschewed divisions in 2022 and that decision is paying off. UCLA, USC, Utah and Oregon all look like serious contenders to play in the title game while Washington, Washington State and others look to play spoiler.

The loss is also a sign that it was a bit premature if you wanted to declare USC a national title contender through the first six weeks of the season. The Trojans are certainly one of the country’s most explosive teams — they showed that on Saturday night. But the defense had been forcing nearly three turnovers a game. USC forced just one on Saturday night and that came as Utah was heading for a second-half TD. With a score there, Utah may not have needed Rising to go for two.

The Trojans could also be facing some games without star wide receiver Jordan Addison. The Pitt transfer and 2021 Biletnikoff winner landed awkwardly while getting tackled during the second half and was treated for an apparent right knee injury. He never came back into the game after that play and returned to the sideline in the second half on crutches. Addison entered the game with 32 catches for 479 yards and six touchdowns and had seven catches for 106 yards and a score before his injury.

Utah wide receiver Jaylen Dixon (25) carries the ball past USC defensive back Jaylin Smith (19) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Utah wide receiver Jaylen Dixon (25) carries the ball past USC defensive back Jaylin Smith (19) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)