LOS ANGELES — Utah’s first game against USC as a member of the Pac-12 Conference was a loss on a blocked field goal.

In its last game against the Trojans as a member of the Pac-12, Utah kicker Cole Becker made a 39-yard field goal to lift the Utes to a 34-32 win on Saturday night.

USC had Caleb Williams, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and projected No. 1 NFL draft pick at quarterback, but on this Los Angeles night, a former walk-on signal caller bested him.

“They’ve got a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, so they’re going to make some things. We got ourselves a pig farmer quarterback, so we’re proud of that guy, too,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.

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Bryson Barnes had the game of his life, going toe-to-toe with Williams. Barnes threw for a career-high 235 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for one more, adding 57 yards on the ground.

After a huge 61-yard punt return by Zachariah Branch set up an 11-yard touchdown run by Williams that gave the Trojans a 32-31 lead (USC missed the two-point conversion), Barnes had 1:46 to drive 56 yards to get Utah in field goal range.

Barnes is no stranger to the big stage — he came in after Cam Rising was injured in both of Utah’s Rose Bowl appearances — and was set up for a Hollywood ending if he could lead the Utes down the field for their fourth straight win against the vaunted Trojans.

The Utes moved the chains for the first time on the drive after a targeting penalty on USC’s Bear Alexander on third-and-9. Later in the drive, running back Ja’Quinden Jackson took the direct snap and picked up a huge first down on fourth-and-1 to keep the Utes alive.

After a Kolinu’u Faaiu false start backed the Utes up to second-and-15 from the USC 45-yard line, Barnes — bruised ribs and all — ran 26 yards to set the Utes up in field goal territory.

“It was a drop back pass and it just wasn’t there. He saw the opening in the pass rush lanes and took it. In fact, he had two big scrambles in that last drive (the other one was a 13-yard gain on first-and-15 from the Utah 44-yard-line), if my memory serves me correctly,” Whittingham said.

“That’s just who he is. Bryson Barnes is a fierce competitor and will do whatever it takes to win. No regard for his body. We saw it slam up in there and it was just him improvising. It was him making a play when there wasn’t one there to be made in the throwing lane.” 

As Utah marched down the field, Becker was on the sidelines, kicking the ball into the net.

“It was a lot of practice kicks. You’ll see me in the net every 30 seconds. It’s kind of normal. I mean, you don’t want to approach it any differently, because then you’re building it up in your mind to be something that it’s not, so really I just take it one practice kick at a time and then go from there.”

Becker trotted onto the field for the biggest kick of his life.

USC called its last timeout to ice him.

After kneeling down to center the ball as well as they could following that Trojan timeout, it was showtime.

One way or another, it was going to be a finish out of a movie script in Tinseltown.

The snap from JT Greep was good, the hold from punter Jack Bouwmeester was down and Becker’s kick arched through the sky at the Coliseum.

The 39-yard kick was right down the middle, setting off a celebration among the team and the thousands of Utah fans that made the trip to Southern California.

“As gut-wrenching a defeat as I can remember in my career,” USC coach Lincoln Riley said.

It was the first game-winning kick as time expired for Utah since Louie Sakoda did it vs. Oregon State in 2008.

“It felt pretty good,” Becker said of the moment the ball came off of his foot. “If you watch the video, the execution is perfect. JT (Greep) and his snap, and every other team member.”

A key moment from Barnes, and Utah’s coaching staff, came in the early fourth quarter after Barnes threw an awful pick-six that cut the Utes’ lead to five.

On the very next play, offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig dialed up another pass, which went for 36 yards to Sione Vaki. Ludwig showed confidence in his quarterback, and Barnes shook off the interception with a great pass.

Before the season, I certainly did not have Vaki, a safety, being the leading receiver against USC, but that’s exactly what happened on Saturday night.

Safety (Vaki had two tackles), running back (68 yards on nine carries) and receiver (game-high 149 yards with two touchdowns on five receptions) — is there anything he can’t do?

“He’s just such an athlete and as I mentioned before, he was the Northern California Player of the Year in some way, shape or form as a slot receiver, so it’s not new to him. You’re gonna see, every week, we may have to start resting him more defensively because he’s so valuable on offense,” Whittingham said.

Vaki caught a 53-yard pass from Barnes to open scoring, and he didn’t stop from there. In the third quarter, he showed off his athleticism, juking a USC defender out of his shoes for another receiving touchdown that put Utah up 28-14.

”We saw some of the moves he makes. He is so quick and accelerates so fast. He changes direction on a dime,” Whittingham said.

Even though they allowed 25 points (the other seven came on the pix-six), the most the Utes have given up all season, it was Utah’s best defensive performance of the season by far.

The Trojans entered averaging 47.3 points per game. There were a couple of coverage lapses that happened, leading to wide-open Trojan receivers, but all in all, Utah did a good job against the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

After two early Trojan touchdowns, it looked like it USC offense might roll. Running back MarShawn Lloyd had a 45-yard touchdown, escaping safety Nate Ritchie, who started in the first half due to Cole Bishop’s targeting suspension.

On USC’s next drive, Tahj Washington burned Utah deep as Williams connected with him for a 51-yard pass, which set up a nifty play in which Williams faked the handoff, then pitched it to Branch, who walked in for the score.

But after that, Utah settled in, holding the Trojans to zero points on their next six drives, the last of which was a Lloyd fumble forced by Van Fillinger and recovered by Bishop, setting the Utes up in good field position and leading to the 15-yard Vaki touchdown reception that increased Utah’s lead to 14.

“I think it was really our defensive front taking over and getting really good pressure on Caleb, and plus we were covering well in the secondary. We had good coverage back there, and so we just got a little bit of rhythm on defense,” Whittingham said.

The Utes sacked Williams three times and forced him to fumble (Williams recovered), and the secondary showed that it could hang with some of the best receivers in college football.

Missing a host of players with injuries, including two of its top two offensive players in Cam Rising and Brant Kuithe, the Utes gutted out its fourth win in a row over the Trojans.

It was only fitting that perhaps the last meeting for a while between Utah and USC was another classic game in a series full of them.

“It felt really good. Probably the top five (wins) ever,” Whittingham said. “To beat a program that has as much talent as they do four times in a row, I can’t say enough good things about our players in the locker room over there.”