After the tragedy of Aaron Lowe’s death on Sept. 26th, the Utah football program rightfully mourned the loss of their friend and teammate. Amongst all the tragedy that had stuck this team over the last year, like the death of Lowe’s close friend and teammate Ty Jordan, it seemed like they couldn’t catch a break.
Kyle Whittingham and his team even considered not playing against USC this Saturday, until Lowe’s mother gave her blessing to the team.
That blessing, it turns out, must’ve been pretty powerful. The Utes routed the Trojans, delivering a 42-26 beatdown, earning the programs first victory in the Colosseum since 1916.
I wouldn’t be the only one to say that this game felt different than other Utah games this year. So far, this season had only yielded sloppy wins and disappointing losses, with a dash of quarterback controversy for good measure.
This game, however, gave Utah fans hope for a brighter future. It seemed like the team was playing on a different level, taking it up a notch, driving on a higher gear, and all other sorts of cliched sports phraseology.
Clark Phillips III, who may have had the hardest job on the field (trying to stop Drake London), explained just how important the game was to him and the team. He said of the victory, “It’s super special. I feel like the guys played with a lot of passion, you know, with the recent events that took place and it was just good to get a victory, man. It was special to us and I’m just glad we came out of here victorious.”
A Dominant Offense
Cam Rising, who took over the quarterback position during the San Diego State double-overtime game, played out of his mind. He set a career-high in completions (22), completion percentage (79%), total yards (306), and tied his career-high for touchdowns (3). He even rushed for a 17-yard touchdown where he spun out of a tackle, lowered his shoulder, and powered into the end-zone.
Kyle Wittingham must’ve read my pregame article because he followed my advice and let Cam cook the USC secondary. That being said, it’s easier to cook a secondary when your ground game is hitting hard, rushing to the tune of 5.1 yards a carry.
The Utes were able to score a total of six touchdowns, three through the air, three through the ground. Rising connected with Devaughn Vele, Money Parks, and Dalton Kinkaid through the air, while Tavion Thomas and Brant Kuithe ran for touchdowns.
At a glance, you may think Utah’s defense got lucky not to give up more points, as QB Kedon Slovis threw for over 400 yards and WR Drake London had 160 yards receiving and one touchdown, but you’d be wrong.
The Ute defense prioritized the limitation of explosive plays, giving up instead shorter throws and some rushing plays. The secondary played conservative, which explains why London could have so many yards, Slovis could play reasonably well, RB Keontay Ingram could have five yards a carry, and yet, USC could only put together 26 points.
Now 26 points are usually quite a bit for a Utah defense, but 16 of those points came in the fourth quarter, when the game had already been sealed away. In the first half, Utah had outscored USC 21-10 and tacked on another 14 unanswered points in the third quarter.
To use an old adage, the Utah defense bent, but it didn’t break.
It is my hope, and the hope of every Utah fan, that the Utes take this victory and add to it. The Utes are currently undefeated in PAC-12 play, which is a huge advantage. Utah will move on to play fellow PAC-12 South team Arizona State, who are currently ranked No. 18 in the nation. If the Utes can beat them, they’ll be in amazing shape to snap a PAC-12 championship berth.
The biggest question I have moving forward is if Cameron Rising can stay consistent. Not to take away anything from how he played, but USC isn’t great at defending the pass. Arizona State may not be so kind as the Trojans were to the Utah passing game.
I’ll be delivering a more in-depth analysis during the upcoming week for the Arizona State game, but Utah fans should feel hopeful. The team played well and Wittingham had a great game plan, and I truly believe that they can do both of those things again.