LOS ANGELES — First let’s get real about this 103-year losing streak that we’ve been hearing about all week, how the University of Utah hasn’t beaten USC in Los Angeles in over a century.
It’s true enough that the last Utah victory over USC in L.A. came in 1916 when it took a 27-12 victory in front of a couple of thousand fans at a place called Fiesta Park.
But saying the Utes have a 103-year road losing streak against USC is kind of like saying America hasn’t beaten England in a war in 236 years, going back to 1783.
The fact is, the Utes have only played eight times in L.A. since that victory during World War I, with four of those games coming in the last eight years. For a 63-year stretch, the Utes never even played USC in Los Angeles. So rather than a 103-year losing streak, let’s talk about an eight-game losing streak.
The Utes have been reminded all week about the USC-in-L.A. losing streak and for the most part have tried to brush it off.
Coach Kyle Whittingham quipped, “I guess everyone entitled to a bad decade or a bad century,” but made it clear his team is not focused on the past.
“This game ... has nothing to do with the last 100-plus years,” he said. “History hasn’t been good to us in that place, but we don’t feel it has any bearing on this year.”
After the 1916 victory, the Utes didn’t come close to winning the next four games in L.A., losing 20-7 in 1919, 28-2 in 1925, 35-0 in 1932 and 27-0 in 1948.
After that it was another 63 years before the Utes and Trojans played in Los Angeles in 2011 after Utah joined the Pac-12 Conference. Those four games have been much more competitive than the previous four with only one, the 41-24 loss in 2015 when the Utes were ranked No. 3 in the nation, being close to a blowout.
In 2011, the Utes could have tied the game with a last-second, 41-yard field goal that was blocked, and in 2017, an unsuccessful two-point conversion try at the end left them a point short. The 2013 game was close most of the way as the Utes held the Trojans to four field goals and a touchdown, but could only manage a first-quarter field goal of their own.
Whittingham praised USC, saying the Trojans are just as talented as ever with three top-notch wide receivers, two good running backs and a talented offensive line, but feels this year’s Ute team is better than his past teams that competed in the Coliseum.
“We’ve made progress — we’re certainly more equipped to compete with them now than we were back in ‘11,” Whittingham said.
He also pointed out that this might be his freshest team that has ever played USC. Last week, the Utes rested three players who’ve had nagging injuries — starting offensive linemen Orlando Umana and Johnny Maea as well as safety Julian Blackmon.
The Utes coach also talked about how his squad has played fewer snaps than any other team in the Pac-12 this season. The fact is, the Utes have played fewer offensive and defensive snaps than any other team in the nation (341) that has played three games.
“That’s one of the benefits of not playing fast, there’s not as much wear and tear on the players,” he said. “With that in mind we don’t feel a short week is a big deal to us from a physical standpoint. It’s more getting the game plan implemented and the mental part of the game. We feel pretty fresh and the physicality from the first three games will not be a factor in this fourth game and will work in our favor.”
So not only do the Utes have their best team in years, they should be much fresher than a USC team that had to travel to Utah last week and endure a tough overtime loss at BYU.
Perhaps this is the year Utah can put that century-old streak to bed once and for all.