Pac-12: Utes-Trojans-091011

Video: Utah's Tevita Stevens

September, 11, 2011

Ted Miller interviews Utah center Tevita Stevens following the Utes' loss to USC.

Video: Utah QB Jordan Wynn

September, 11, 2011

Ted Miller interviews Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn.

LOS ANGELES -- Losing is misery. Losing a close game is doubly-so. Utah center Tevita Stevens and his teammates trudged off the Coliseum field and into the long, cavernous tunnel that leads to the locker room thinking about all the "what ifs," all the moments that make a game what it is instead of what it might have been.

Misery, yes, but Stevens couldn't help but look up and notice something a bit surprising, particularly in jaded LA. USC fans weren't jeering them. They weren't even ignoring them.

"It kind of impressed me that when we were walking out all of the USC fans were standing up applauding us," he said.

[+] EnlargeUtah's Jordan Wynn
Kirby Lee/US PRESSWIRE"There's no happiness in a loss," Utes quarterback Jordan Wynn said following his game against USC.
That small bit of color observed, Stevens added: "But we're not satisfied with that."

There are no moral victories. Utah didn't come to the Coliseum, didn't join the Pac-12, expecting to be satisfied with being competitive, with not being an easy out.

The Utes expect to win.

"There's no happiness in a loss," Utes quarterback Jordan Wynn said to reporters who were plumbing for some consoling parting gifts in a 23-14 nailbiter that wasn't decided in USC's favor until the final ticks clicked off the game clock.

Said coach Kyle Whittingham after praising his team's fight, "In no way am I trying to paint the picture of a moral victory. There is no such thing in my mind."

USC mostly had control of the line of scrimmage: It rushed for 152 yards and the Utes managed just 81. It outgained Utah 416 yards to 319. But the Trojans also were sloppier: three turnovers to one for Utah, including two deep in Utes territory. And that helped the Utes hang around and be in position to win -- or at least force overtime -- in the end.

Utah took over at its 33-yard with 1:01 left and no time outs, trailing 17-14. Wynn found Dres Anderson for 18 yards to get things going. Then, on fourth-and-10 from the USC 49-yard line, Wynn connected with DeVonte Christopher for just enough for a first down -- it was so close the play required a review and changed spot that added critical inches to the Utes case.

Anderson drew a pass interference penalty on Tony Burnett, and that left Utah on the 24 with 11 seconds remaining.

"I thought we were going to get overtime," Wynn said.

But Coleman Petersen's 41-yard field goal attempt was low and was easily blocked by Matt Kalil. Game over. (Hours after the game, the Pac-12 office ruled that Torin Harris' return of the block counted as a touchdown, so the extra points were added after the fact).

"Honestly, I thought we had it," Stevens said. "It was heartbreaking."

The end-result is the Utah record book won't celebrate the program's first-ever Pac-12 game as a red-letter victory but merely as something that happened. And, yes, that is meaningful.

"To try to belittle it all, like it was just another game would be a lie," Stevens said. "We came in here wanting to prove something, that we can hang in this conference."

That won't be a problem if the defense continues to play this well, particularly in the red zone, and Wynn continues to rediscover his groove.

Wynn's performance is particularly encouraging. After looking tentative and out of sync in the opener against Montana State, he stepped up his game considerably in a hostile venue that just happened to include many family and friends for the Southern California native.

Wynn completed 23-of-46 for 238 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. It wasn't exceptional by any measure, but it was encouraging to see him letting loose after shoulder surgery ended his 2010 season. Wynn appears to have an A-list target in DeVonte Christopher, who caught 11 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown.

Utah can't be too miserable. The schedule doesn't lighten up with a visit to BYU on Saturday, a rivalry game that will feel odd in September instead of at season's end.

But losing on the last play to USC, when victory seemed just over the horizon, is miserable.

A moral victory? Earning respect? Proving it belonged? Whittingham, Stevens and Wynn all indicated that's something fans and media can debate.

Said Stevens, "To all those all those who were watching, it's up to them to decide whether we belong."

Final: USC 17, Utah 14

September, 10, 2011
LOS ANGELES -- The Pac-10 was a conference of high-flying offense and fancypants quarterbacks.

The first conference game in Pac-12 history, however, was a twisted tight defensive struggle, and USC outlasted newcomer Utah, 17-14.

Utah got the ball back with a minute left and no time outs, and it drove to the Trojans 24-yard line, after a challenged spot earned the Utes a first down on a fourth-and-10.

But Coleman Petersen's 41-yard field goal was blocked, and the Trojans survived, improving to 2-0.

One of the stars might be unexpected. USC running back Marc Tyler, who just returned from suspension, rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries.

USC blew numerous scoring opportunities, but did something it often failed to do last year: hold on in the fourth quarter of a tight game.

For Utah, its first Pac-12 game had an unhappy ending. But if there were questions of how well it would compete, those seemed to be answered in the affirmative.

Lots more coming.

Third quarter: USC 17, Utah 14

September, 10, 2011
LOS ANGELES -- USC leads Utah 17-14 after three quarters.

The Utes have to like their chances. Multiple times USC looked poised to assert itself. Multiple times the Utah pushed back by either forcing turnovers or making plays.

The Utes will begin the third with the ball in USC territory. And, as important, momentum and confidence.

USC was not a fourth quarter team in 2010. It survived last week against Minnesota, which lost to New Mexico State today.

Utah is no Minnesota.

Utes strike back

September, 10, 2011
LOS ANGELES -- Utah jumps on teams when they make mistakes. USC keeps making them, and the Utes keep jumping.

USC fumbled near midfield, and a play later Reggie Dunn took a reverse 51 yards to the USC 1-yard line. John White finished it off, and it's now 17-14 Trojans with 4:03 left in the third.

Both Utes' TDs have come after USC turnovers, as if the defense's opportunism fuels the offense.

This game is obviously going to go into the fourth quarter. Will Utah be able to count on USC beating itself?

Because when USC makes mistakes, you know the Utes will pounce.

USC draws first blood (again)

September, 10, 2011
LOS ANGELES -- USC stopped Utah and then (finally) finished a drive.

The Trojans went 88 yards in seven plays to take a 17-7 lead with 9:52 left in the third.

Things got chippy on the drive when receiver Robert Woods took exception to his treatment on a play. The Utes were flagged not only for a pass interference but also a personal foul, which gave USC a first and goal on the nine.

Matt Barkley found Xavier Grimble on the next play -- uncovered -- for the TD.

Grimble has four receptions for 59 yards.

Utah's defense has yet to show it can stop USC consistently -- the Trojans haven't punted -- but it was saved by two red zone turnovers in the first half.

Halftime: USC 10, Utah 7

September, 10, 2011
LOS ANGELES -- USC leads Utah 10-7 at halftime. While the Trojans dominated statistically, Utah scored a late touchdown to close the gap to just three points.

Stat of the half: USC drove into Utah territory four times in the first half and scored just a field goal on those drives. The Trojans lone touchdown came when Utah fumbled on its 20-yard line.

Best player in the half: Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn looks a lot better than he did in the opener, and here's a reason why: He's looking for DeVonte Christopher. While USC's Robert Woods is the most hyped receiver in this game, Christopher leads everyone with seven receptions for 75 yards and a 10-yard touchdown.

What USC needs to do, What Utah needs to do: USC needs to continue what it is doing, only protect the football. The Trojans have mostly played well on both sides of the ball, though the defense has yielded some big third-down conversions. As for the Utes, they only rushed for 19 yards in the first half, but it would be unwise to abandon the run and let USC's DEs start to zero in on Wynn. Wynn, whose 2010 season ended with shoulder surgery, has taken some licks already.

Miscues costing both teams

September, 10, 2011
LOS ANGELES -- Turnovers are as big a story here as USC dominating early play.

USC's only touchdown came after a Utah turnover. And USC has twice turned the ball over deep in Utah territory -- a Matt Barkley interception and a D.J. Morgan fumble.

USC has outgained Utah 223 to 93, but a 10-0 lead certainly feels less than secure.

Will blown scoring opportunities come back to haunt USC?

First quarter: USC 10, Utah 0

September, 10, 2011
LOS ANGELES -- USC didn't make Utah feel very welcome to the Pac-12 in the first quarter.

The Trojans outgained the Utes 123-42 and built an 10-0 lead.

The Utes didn't help themselves when John White fumbled on the Utah 20-yard line, which set up a short touchdown drive for the Trojans.

The early returns are USC is winning both lines of scrimmage. Not a huge surprise with the defense, but pretty surprising with the offense, which has had early success running the football.

Utah has driven into USC territory to end the first quarter, but the best news for the Utes is a couple of sharply thrown balls from quarterback Jordan Wynn.

Wynn looks much more comfortable than he did in the opener against Montana State.

USC scores first Pac-12 points!

September, 10, 2011
LOS ANGELES -- USC kicker Andrew Heidari's 47-yard field gave the Trojans an early 3-0 lead against Utah, and will forever be known as the first points in Pac-12 history.

Promise I won't keep doing a list of "firsts." Not too much.

USC has run 20 plays and Utah just six.

And now the Utes have the first turnover in Pac-12 play. Can USC take advantage of a first down at the Utes 20?

The Trojans have twice driven into Utes territory, but only have three points to show for it. It seems like the Trojans are trying to use an array of audibles but are having trouble getting on the same page.

USC-Utah is about 12 today

September, 10, 2011
LOS ANGELES -- Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott talked to reporters before the Utah-USC game again, but he had no expansion news.

Sorry. Or congrats, whichever way you feel.

The expansion speculation, of course, overshadows this event, which is too bad. Everyone is here because of Scott's leadership: The first-ever Pac-12 football game.

"A lot of work has gone into this day," Scott said.

What I can gather: Utah fans are PUMPED. As they should be. Big day. Scott called it "a sense of discovery," because everyone is curious what Utah will immediately bring in terms of competitiveness.

Scott also has now delivered the same responses to reporters for two weeks. What people seem to be latching onto at present is Scott's stated desire to remain the Pac-12.

At least for now. Scott has said -- over and over -- he believes superconferences are the future, however many teams --16, 18, etc. -- that means.

But today is not about 16, or 18 or 38.

It's about 12.

USC-Utah: Old School versus New School

September, 10, 2011
LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- The first-ever Pac-12 game features the old school and the new school in more ways than one.

USC is one of the nation's most storied programs with a trophy case full of national titles and Heisman Trophies. It's college football royalty, and certainly Pac-10 royalty.

Enter Utah. It's the upstart. Once a "BCS buster" extraordinaire, it's now sitting at the adult table, no longer fighting for scraps. Or, having to hear dissmisive theories that explain away its success when it wins those fights -- see two BCS bowl victories

Or, at least, that's the future.

The present still includes residual fumes of the way things were: Utah and USC are South Division rivals now -- yes -- but USC is still USC and Utah is still Utah, and that's the way it will be in the short-term.

Of course, if the Utes knock the Trojans on their rear ends and then keep doing that on a regular basis through a nine-game conference schedule, it won't be as easy to pat them on the head and call them cute.

(On the other hand, Utah's success this year in the Pac-12 might inspire many across the nation just to dismiss the conference as "overrated," which of course is an odd way to arrive at that conclusion, but it would happen).

In some ways, then, you could set this one up as "old school" Pac-10 (hey, even Pac-8) versus the "new school."

For the new school Utes to prevail two things need to happen. One, quarterback Jordan Wynn, who is coming back from offseason shoulder surgery, needs to play like his old swashbuckling self. You know, the guy who sliced and diced old school California in the Poinsettia Bowl in 2009 as a true freshman.

Then the Utes' defense needs to get pressure on USC quarterback Matt Barkley. The Utah front-seven probably has an advantage against a lackluster USC offensive line. But the Utes' secondary features four new starters. If Barkley gets time, he'll likely pick the Utes apart.

So what will it be: Old School or New School. Your thinking on that likely depends on how long you've been watching conference games.

Video: Utah-USC preview

September, 10, 2011

Ted Miller analyzes today's Pac-12 matchup.