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Highlights, key plays and photos from Utah’s 33-17 loss to No. 20 USC

Utes drop first game of the season as offense sputters.

SHARE Highlights, key plays and photos from Utah’s 33-17 loss to No. 20 USC
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USC Trojans running back Vavae Malepeai (29) runs the ball in for a touchdown during the game against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Utah USC scoring sum

Scoring summary:

USC 33, Utah 17


First quarter

UTA, Jadon Redding 36-yard field goal (9:07)

USC, Parker Lewis 35-yard field goal (5:17)

Second quarter

USC, Vavae Malepeai 2-yard run (14:04), Parker Lewis kick

UTA, Nephi Sewell 23-yard fumble return (11:53), Jadon Redding kick

USC, Tyler Vaughns 8-yard pass from Kedon Slovis (9:28), Parker Lewis kick

USC, Erik Krommenhoek 10-yard pass from Kedon Slovis (5:45), Parker Lewis kick

UTA, Samson Nacua 7-yard pass from Jake Bentley (0:49), Jadon Redding kick

Third quarter

USC, Parker Lewis 24-yard field goal (9:32)

USC, Parker Lewis 43-yard field goal (4:47)

Fourth quarter

USC, Parker Lewis 47-yard field goal (1:03)

Utah’s quarterback play and offensive line play left a lot to be desired as the Utes were dealt a 33-17 loss in their first game of the season against the USC Trojans on Saturday night in Salt Lake City.

The Utes fell to 0-1 on the season, while USC improved to 3-0 and won its first game at Rice-Eccles Stadium since 2012.

3 takeaways

Cam Rising, Jake Bentley’s debuts are duds

Sophomore Cam Rising, a transfer from Texas, made his long-awaited college football debut after being named the starting quarterback. It didn’t go too well.

Rising was 3-for-6 for 45 yards and had two turnovers in his first Utah start. The first turnover, an interception, was a bad decision from Rising, who threw off his back foot — an easy pick for Drake Jackson. The second turnover from Rising came on a fumble on a sack, and Rising may have been injured on the play. One of the few bright spots for Rising came early in the game, when he was flushed out of the pocked and recovered, throwing on the run to Cole Fotheringham for a 15-yard completion.

Jake Bentley entered the game early in the second quarter and didn’t do much better. The graduate transfer from South Carolina went 16-for-28 for 171 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Both of Bentley’s picks were poor decisions. The first, at the start of the third quarter, was thrown into double coverage, and the last, in the waning seconds of the game, Bentley threw an interception on a ball tossed up for grabs.

Bentley did look good on a couple drives, like when he led a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive just before halftime which featured a 33-yard run, but overall, Utah’s quarterback play was not good enough.

Offensive line struggles

Hand in hand with the quarterback problem were the offensive line’s struggles. In the offseason, the offensive line was touted as a strength, but time after time, the Utes’ offensive line allowed too much pressure from the USC defense, which seemed like it was always in the backfield.

The Trojans’ defense capitalized with three interceptions, three sacks and six tackles for loss.

Nephi Sewell shines

One of the few bright spots for the Utes was linebacker Nephi Sewell. The junior was phenomenal, finishing the night with a touchdown, an interception and 10 tackles. Simply put, Sewell was everywhere on defense for Utah.

His shining moment came when he picked up a fumble and returned it 23 yards to the house, accounting for 35% of Utah’s total points. He also had Utah’s only interception of the night when he picked off USC quarterback Kedon Slovis in the second quarter.

Sewell will be a key player to watch going forward.


End of 4th Quarter

USC 33, Utah 17

Utah drops its first game of the season. Jake Bentley throws an interception in the waning seconds, Utah’s fifth turnover of the game, to cap off a terrible offensive night for the Utes.

Here’s a look at the final stats:

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1:03 4th Quarter

USC 33, Utah 17

Utah went for it on 4th-and-4 from USC’s 10-yard line with 9 minutes left but Bentley’s pass was incomplete, virtually ending any hopes of a Utah comeback. With six minutes left, Slovis escaped from what would have been a sack on 3rd down, but he completed a 12-yard pass to Drake London and the Trojans bled another three minutes off the clock.

Utah’s ensuing drive went nowhere and USC tacked on three more points.

End of 3rd Quarter

USC 30, Utah 17

It’s officially Pac-12 After Dark time. A few notes from the third quarter:

  • Utah’s offense continued to struggle, only gaining 64 yards of offense in the third period.
  • USC wasn’t able to capitalize as much as they could have on Utah’s mistakes, scoring just six points in the third quarter

4:47 3rd Quarter

USC 30, Utah 17

Bentley makes a bad decision, throwing into double coverage, resulting in Utah’s fourth turnover of the night. The ensuing Trojan possession ends in another USC field goal as Utah is able to hold in the red zone again. The big play on that Trojan drive was a 47-yard run by Kenan Christon that got USC to the Utah 24-yard line.

9:32 3rd Quarter

USC 27, Utah 17

USC mostly got whatever it wanted against the Utes’ man coverage on that drive, but Utah’s defense prevented a touchdown to open the 3rd quarter after a pass breakup by Sione Fotu on 3rd-and-goal, forcing USC to kick a field goal.

Cam Rising’s night is done. He is on the sidelines without shoulder pads. He may have been injured on the sack and fumble at the start of the second quarter.

Halftime

USC 24, Utah 17

Despite three turnovers and a very shaky offensive start, the Utes are down just seven at halftime. A few first-half notes:

  • Cam Rising went 3-for-6 and had 45 yards of passing in his Utah debut, throwing an interception and fumbling. Jake Bentley, who replaced him, is 4-for-8 for 41 yards and a touchdown.
  • Utah had three turnovers early on, and both quarterbacks and the offensive line did not look good until the last scoring drive.
  • Utah’s defense is the reason why the Utes are as close as they are. Nephi Sewell’s scoop-and-score was huge for Utah. The Utes’ young secondary has been OK so far — Slovis is 10-for-18 for 139 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted by Sewell, who has been the player of the game so far.

0:54 2nd Quarter

USC 24, Utah 17

Utah’s offense shows a little life. Bentley looked a lot better on that drive, scrambling for a 33-yard gain. Bentley completed all of his passes on the drive, including a 18-yard pass to Bryan Thompson and a 7-yard touchdown pass to Samson Nacua.

5:45 2nd Quarter

USC 24, Utah 10

Utah’s offense is having a really rough go of it. Bentley’s passes weren’t close to his receivers on the Utes’ last drive, and the offensive line isn’t giving him much help, as USC is able to get in the backfield with ease. After Utah’s latest 3-and-out, Slovis finds Bru McCoy for a 9-yard touchdown pass to expand USC’s lead to 14.

9:28 2nd Quarter

USC 17, Utah 10

A missed tackle from Utah proves costly as USC picks up 42 yards on a pass from Slovis to Tyler Vaughns on 3rd-and-4. The Trojans retake the lead on a 8-yard pass from Slovis to Isaia Pola-Mao.

11:53 2nd Quarter

Utah 10, USC 10

Utah ties the game on a huge defensive play. Maxs Tupai forces Slovis to fumble, then Nephi Sewell scoops the ball and runs 23 yards to the house.

Jake Bentley is now in at quarterback for the Utes.

14:04 2nd Quarter

USC 10, Utah 3

Cam Rising is having a shaky start, fumbling deep inside Utah territory — his second turnover of the game. The Trojans take advantage with a Vavae Malepeai rushing touchdown to take a 10-3 lead.

Jake Bentley is now warming up for the Utes.

End 1st Quarter

USC 3, Utah 3

Utah will get the ball to start the second quarter after forcing USC to punt. Here are a few notes from the first quarter:

  • Sophomore quarterback Cam Rising is making his first collegiate start as Utah’s starting quarterback. He is 3-for-6 for 45 yards. His first big mistake came at the end of Utah’s last drive, when he threw his first interception.

  • Utah’s defense has done a fairly good job so far, holding the Trojans to 73 yards of total offense. USC QB Kedon Slovis is 3-for-8 with 39 yards so far.
  • Ty Jordan has five rushes for 26 yards and caught a 21-yard reception. The freshman has had a nice debut so far.

5:21 1st Quarter

USC 3, Utah 3

USC ties it up with a 35-yard field goal courtesy of Parker Lewis. USC quarterback Kedon Slovis is 3-for-8 so far and Utah’s defense tightened up near the end of the drive, forcing two straight incompletions and a field goal.

9:12 1st Quarter

Utah 3, USC 0

Utah leads 3-0 courtesy of a 36-yard field goal by Jadon Redding. It caps a 7 play, 42-yard drive. It was highlighted by a nice 15-yard throw from Cam Rising to Cole Fotheringham.

15:00 1st Quarter

Getting set to get underway here at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Utah’s starting quarterback will be sophomore Cam Rising. Utah will get the ball first.

Pre-game

Here are a few links to stories you may want to read prior to or during the game:

Deseret News writers Jeff Call and Joe Coles provide a few pregame notes: