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Highlights, key plays and photos from No. 10 Utah’s 30-23 loss to USC

Southern California wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (8) makes a touchdown catch between Utah defensive backs Javelin Guidry, left, and Julian Blackmon during the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in Los Angeles.
Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP

SALT LAKE CITY — No. 10 Utah’s hopes of repeating as Pac-12 South champions took a hit Friday night, as USC handed the Utes a 30-23 loss at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Utah falls to 3-1 on the year and 0-1 in Pac-12 play, as USC never trailed to improve to 3-1 and 2-0 in league action.

The Trojans, coming off a 30-27 overtime loss to BYU, had a fourth-quarter safety and scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession to put away Utah, after the Utes had cut their deficit to 21-20 early in the final period.

Here’s three key takeaways that defined this game:

Backups take over

Both teams had top offensive players leave the game with injuries. USC quarterback Kedon Slovis took a big hit from Utah defensive tackle Leki Fotu on the second play of the game and Slovis never returned to the game.

Instead, Matt Fink, the Trojans’ third-string quarterback to start the year, stepped in and had a big game. Fink threw two first-quarter touchdowns to help USC take the early lead and completed 21 of 30 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception.

Utah running back Zack Moss, meanwhile, left the game early in the second quarter with what FS1 reported was an injury to the AC joint in his left shoulder. He had 20 rushing yards on six carries before leaving the game.

In his absence, Devin Brumfield rushed for 63 yards on 10 carries, while quarterback Tyler Huntley added 60 yards on the ground to go with 210 passing yards.

Utah struggles to finish drives

Eight of the Utes’ 11 possessions reached at least the USC 30-yard line, but Utah only scored two touchdowns on those drives.

The Utes had a missed field goal, a turnover on downs and a fumble inside the USC 5 during the first half. Early in the fourth quarter, Utah had the chance to take the lead trailing 21-17. The Utes reached the Trojans’ 1-yard line but were kept out of the end zone, as USC forced a field goal.

Undisciplined play also hurt Utah throughout the night, as the Utes had 16 penalties for 120 yards. USC had 11 penalties for 117 yards.

USC’s big plays doom Utes

The Trojans had 381 yards of total offense, compared to 457 for Utah, but USC benefitted from several big plays in the passing game.

Fink’s two first-quarter touchdown passes went for 29 and 31 yards, and he hit Michael Pittman Jr. for a 77-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to give USC its first double-digit lead in the game. Pittman had 10 catches for 232 yards and a touchdown, including a 42-yarder on USC’s fourth-quarter touchdown drive.

USC averaged 7.06 yards per play, compared to 5.78 for Utah.

Scoring summary: USC 30, No. 10 Utah 23

First quarter

USC, Tyler Vaughns 29-yard pass from Matt Fink (12:57), Chase McGrath kick

Utah, Devonta’e Henry-Cole 17-yard run (10:39), Jadon Redding kick

USC, Amon-Ra St. Brown 31-yard pass from Matt Fink (8:11), Chase McGrath kick

Second quarter

Utah, Jadon Redding 38-yard field goal (6:44)

Third quarter

USC, Michael Pittman Jr. 77-yard pass from Matt Fink (9:54), Chase McGrath kick

Utah, Cole Fotheringham 2-yard pass from Tyler Huntley (3:47), Jadon Redding kick

Fourth quarter

Utah, Jadon Redding 24-yard field goal (11:57)

USC, Drake Jackson sacks Tyler Huntley in end zone for safety, Huntley intentional grounding (8:51)

USC, Markese Stepp 4-yard run (6:58), Chase McGrath kick

Utah, Jadon Redding 38-yard field goal (4:01)