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USC vs. Utah Result, Occupation: Trojans drive QB from third string to key win over No. 10 Utes



What would be Week 4 without a little Pac12AfterDark on Friday to get things started before Saturday's action? No. 10 Utah and USC got into an early-season conference battle with important consequences from the Pac-12 South. It wasn't the best game, but the Trojans were upset with a 30-23 victory.

The big story tonight was the injury to Trojan defender Kedon Slovis. The freshman took a brutal blow at USC's first possession of the game and was taken to the locker room. He did not return to the game, and coach Clay Helton then said only that Slovis was " dead ". He was replaced by backup Matt Fink, who had a big match off the bench.

And what did we learn from Friday night's upset in Los Angeles? Here are four take-offs from the Trojans and Utes.

Matt Fink was uneven, but effective when it mattered

The story of this game would be that Fink came off the bench and led USC to victory, showing the kind of heroics he was archiving everywhere they only hoped to achieve. Is this … something true? It is important to say that Fink played well in the circumstances. He went 21 of 30, passing for 351 yards and three sensors – all bombs. That's good for any quarterback in every game.

However, two of those passes you can see above were ball jumps downloaded from USC's superior receivers. Fink played a ".500" game and his boys got off the cliff. Conversely, Utah's backs were routinely burned. Corners were hit often and the safety game misled all throws. The defensive backdrop sometimes receives unfair criticism regarding pass protection, but not tonight. The rocks were beaten over the top and many balls 50/50.

There is also the issue of USC's overall offensive dispersion. After USC's first two possessions, the Trojans broke twice and ran the ball to close out the first half. After pushing Michael Pitman in the third quarter, Fink threw in a brutal interception and the offense was punished twice more. Only when USC received the short-field ball after safety did he score again. It's not a big blow to Fink considering his sudden entry into the game, but think of the following: 36 percent of USC yards came on those three long passes. For the other 51 plays, USC averaged 4.8 yards per game.

Victory still doesn't release coach Clay Helton

Honestly, nothing makes sense for this game. USC rushed for 13 yards on 22 attempts. Accepting the fall of the knees at the end of the game, most of them, ironically, reached the final instinct when the Trojans had to close the game. Otherwise, for most of the night, USC rushed into the negative yards. On top of that, USC committed 11 penalty kicks for 117 yards and gave up a monstrous 30-yard first run to the Utes, running back from Devin Broomfield in the second quarter on second-and-25. The Trojans also turned the ball over twice.

While these numbers may sound mind-boggling, Trojan fans will tell you it's another week under Helton. You can argue that USC's trademark under Helton has lately been undisciplined football. While people (rightly) will make their shots at Pac-12 officials, not every conversation was bad. USC had to clean for quite some time. Being 3-1 against a decent schedule is good for Helton's workplace safety, especially given the quarterback's blackmail, but it's not like the purest football out there. Utah has found almost every way to lose this game.

If you think USC is undisciplined, wait until you have Utes loaded. Where do you even start? Probably with 16 penalties for 120 yards. Again, not every call was justified, but there were many. It's not the fault of the ref for every time Utah makes a false start or grab a T-shirt. Utah also left points on the field, starting with a missed field goal in the first half, which was technically blocked twice as USC was flagged for offside in its first block. Utah was particularly bad in and just outside the red zone. The Utes were stopped on downsides on the US-29 line and were forced to reconcile for field goals on the 20-yard line (twice) and the 7-yard line (when they were on the 1-yard line). They also crashed once just before halfway through the 2 yard line.

None of this, of course, even mentions Utah surpassing USC and holding the ball for more than 38 minutes. Or that the defense was badly exposed. But shooting yourself in the foot and failing to complete the devices is how you lose conference games.

The loss of Zach Moss is a long-term concern

One thing Utah could not control was the injury to Moss, one of the best offensive weapons. The running back left the game with a clear shoulder injury and did not return. As severe as Slovis' injury to USC was, the injury to Moss was far worse in terms of its impact on the game. Utah generally found a way to adjust in the running game by rushing for 247 yards and 5 yards per clip. Not bad, but Tyler Huntley's quarterback had 60 of those yards in 18 attempts, many of which were scandals. Utah had difficulty getting difficult yards, which hurt them in the red zone (see above). Overall, the Utah offensive line had a tough time containing USC's quick and physical defensive front and there was no Moss there to take the hard-won yards after the contact was ultimately the killer. If he's been out for an extended period, it's a big blow to Utah's grievance.

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