Road games against conference opponents Washington State and Colorado have provided something of a respite for USC, but the Trojans will return home to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday to see if they can finally play a quality home game against a quality opponent.
The Coliseum has provided unhappy Pac-12 scenes so far this season for USC, but it has been far worse for visiting Utah, which has never won at the venerable stadium in eight tries since it opened in 1923.
USC (3-2, 2-2 Pac-12) is coming off a 37-14 win at Colorado and interim coach Donte’ Williams will be looking for his team to build on that performance.
The Trojans’ 42-28 homefield drubbing at the hands of Stanford on Sept. 11 led to the firing of coach Clay Helton, and after winning on the road at Washington State in Williams’ debut, USC laid another egg at home in a 45-27 loss to Oregon State.
Williams and the USC staff made some changes last week at Colorado, including integrating more of running back Darwin Barlow into the offense. He carried 10 times for 61 yards to complement Keaontay Ingram’s 124 yards rushing.
Williams attributed Barlow’s increased role to the improved health of the transfer from TCU.
“We already knew he had this in him,” Williams said Sunday.
An improved run game could be critical for USC to reverse its fortunes at home, where its only victory in three games was a struggle against San Jose State when the Trojans needed 17 fourth-quarter points to pull away.
Against Oregon State, the Trojans gained just 76 net rushing yards, and falling behind by more than three touchdowns forced quarterback Kedon Slovis to pass 49 times. He was intercepted three times, fueling Oregon State’s dominance as the Beavers won at the Coliseum for the first time since 1960.
Now Utah (2-2, 1-0) looks to end another long drought for a visitor in the building. The Utes last won at USC in 1916 when the Trojans played at Fiesta Park.
“The Coliseum … has been a brutal place for us to play,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Monday.
Utah’s last three visits have been especially painful.
In 2015, Utah came in ranked No. 3 before losing a 42-24 decision. That result began an undefeated home winning streak of almost three years for the Trojans.
In 2017, the Utes lost by one point (28-27) on a denied two-point conversion attempt.
And in 2019, 10th-ranked Utah gave up a series of long pass plays to backup quarterback Matt Fink in a 30-23 USC win. It was Utah’s only loss of the regular season.
Cam Rising has taken over as Utah’s starting quarterback. Rising replaced Charlie Brewer during Utah’s Sept. 18 loss at San Diego State.
Brewer had been a four-year starter at Baylor but struggled through a 2-7 season and transferred to Utah. After earning the starting job in camp, Brewer started the first three games, completing 60.8 percent of his passes at 6.1 yards per attempt with three touchdowns and three interceptions in the 1-2 start.
Saturday marks Utah’s first contest since the murder of safety Aaron Lowe in the early-morning hours of Sept. 26, shortly after the Utes’ 24-13, conference-opening win over Washington State.
Lowe changed his jersey number to 22 before the season in honor of running back Ty Jordan, who died in an accidental shooting in Texas in December.
“It takes everything you got to overcome it,” Whittingham said of keeping focus during the grieving process.
–Field Level Media