Matt Barkley was under pressure all night but escaped Salt Lake City with a conference win. (US Presswire)
USC WON: Before the season began, when we thought USC was an SEC-beating, top-ranked team, many had circled a Thursday night trip to Salt Lake City to play Utah as a potential trap game. It made sense then, with a defense featuring Star Lotulelei that had played the Trojans to the final few seconds a year prior, and it looked to be true from the first few snaps of the game when the Trojans turned it over twice thanks to center Khaled Holmes snapping issues and quickly found themselves down 14-0. The team remained calm however and outscored Utah 38-14 the rest of the way to turn an upset into a nice win thanks to several big plays. It wasn't the sharpest of performances but it showed that the Trojans have enough talent to win games even if some of them have an off night.
WHY USC WON: The score is not indicative of how well the Trojans defense played for most of the night. Though there were some penalties committed that the coaches will no doubt grumble about, they contained running back John White fairly well all night and forced quarterback Jon Hays to make some throws he would like to take back. The offense, mostly Marqise Lee, stepped up and made plays but the defense helped turn the game around.
WHEN USC WON: Easy to figure this one out. After nobody scored in a sloppy 3rd quarter, the defense forced a 3-and-out to open the 4th. On the first play after taking over, Matt Barkley rolled a little to his right, planted and threw an career-long 83-yard touchdown pass to Marqise Lee which saw the talented sophomore put on more salsa moves than Victor Cruz to get the ball to the end zone. The strike was pretty much the dagger for the Trojans, who had used a solid defense to contain the Utes all night. On the next series Morgan Breslin helped force a bad throw that cornerback Nickell Robey picked off ran back to effectively call it a night for Utah.
WHAT USC WON: The motto coming into the season has been about unfinished business for the Trojans and they took care of it after digging themselves a hole with turnovers. It wasn't close to a perfect game but they'll walk out of a difficult environment with a win. The team still has plenty of ranked teams left on the schedule, starting with familiar foe Washington next week, so there's an outside shot (but still a very, very slim one) of crawling back into the national title race. Bottom line is this is a team that's focused on winning the Pac-12 and they moved one step closer to that after beating Utah.
WHAT UTAH LOST: It has to be a tough loss for the Utes after getting spotted 14 points in five minutes during a game some locals were calling one of the biggest in school history. The offense again looked mediocre and the defense, after Star Lotulelei looked like the No. 1 pick, dropped off the map by allowing big plays later in the game. The loss drops them to 2-3 on the year and with back-to-back road trips to UCLA and Oregon State, there will have to be adjustments on the fly if this team is to get back to a bowl game. There's flashes of Utah looking like a tough out in the Pac-12 in every game but time after time they also show why they're below .500 on the year.