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USC Hosts Notre Dame in Classic Intersectional Rivalry

ABC USC welcomes Notre Dame to the Coliseum on Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend for the 86th rendition of the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football. Both teams, with identical 7-4 records, are looking to bounce back from tough losses last week and get it position for the post-season. It is USC’s 1,200th football game. The Trojans have lost just 3 times in their last 12 meetings with the Irish, but those losses all came in the past 4 seasons, including the last 2 seasons and the last 2 times the game was in Los Angeles. This is only the 12th time that neither team has been ranked going into the game (Notre Dame holds the upper hand in those meetings). For the first time ever, FOX will broadcast the USC-Notre Dame game. USC head coach Steve Sarkisian should be wary: only 2 Trojan coaches have won their debut games against the Irish. The contest is a battle between schools with perhaps the country’s most glorious gridiron heritages. The winner gets year-long possession of the jeweled Shillelagh. Both teams have faced Stanford (close wins) and Arizona State (stunning losses) this year. It is the 50th and 40th anniversaries of USC’s famous comeback victories over Notre Dame in 1964 and 1974 (USC A.D. Pat Haden, who spent 12 years handling color on Irish telecasts, was a Trojan hero in the 1974 game,). It is the final Coliseum game for USC’s seniors, who will run onto the field through a tunnel of former Trojan football players. QB Cody Kessler, a Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award finalist who is among the nation’s leaders in passing efficiency, completion percentage, TD passes, completions and passing yards, continues having the most efficient and accurate season of any Trojan quarterback ever (he has hit nearly 70% of his aerials with 30 TDs and just 4 picks). Doak Walker Award semifinalist TB Javorius Allen, a 1,000-yard runner in 2014 with 8 century yardage outings this season, tops the Pac-12 in all-purpose yards. Dual threat WR Nelson Agholor, a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist with a school-record 4 career scoring punt returns, is in the national Top 20 in receptions, receiving yards and punt returns. Dominant All-American DE Leonard Williams made the semifinalist listings for the Lombardi and Bednarik trophies, ILB Hayes Pullard is Troy’s tackle leader for a third season (he has 366 career stops) and 2013 Freshman All-American S-turned-OLB Su’a Cravens makes plays all over the field (no defensive back in the nation has more tackles for a loss). USC has had to rely on numerous true freshmen because of depth issues (11 have played significantly, including 8 who have posted 45 starts) and several are candidates for Freshman All-American honors: CB-WR-RET Adoree’ Jackson (he has played 3 ways in 6 games this year and is among the nation’s leading kickoff returners), WR JuJu Smith (he has 46 receptions in 2014), OG-now-OT Toa Lobendahn and OG Viane Talamaivao. No more than 57 recruited scholarship Trojans have suited up for any game in 2014 because of NCAA-mandated scholarship limitations. USC has outscored foes by 100 points in the first quarter and has yet to allow an opponent to score on its opening possession this season. Troy’s offense is highly ranked in various passing categories as well as on third down conversions, while its defense is in the national Top 25 in red zone defense, turnover margin and third down conversion defense. Fifth-year Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly’s team, which began 2014 with a 6-0 record, has lost 4 of its last 5 games (including the past 3) following last Saturday’s loss to Louisville at home. Kelly is looking to become the first coach to begin his ND career with 5 consecutive 8-win seasons. The Irish offense is directed by dual-threat QB Everett Golson, who is ranked high nationally in total offense, passing TDs, passing yardage and passing efficiency. His top target, WR Will Fuller, is second in the nation in receiving TDs (14). RB Tarean Folston is ND’s leading rusher. Defensively, the Irish are led by touted LB Jaylon Smith. P-PK Kyle Brindza owns the ND game, season and career records for field goals USC Media Release (pdf)

UCLA Rolls Past USC

ABC Brett Hundley passed for 326 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another score, leading No. 11 UCLA past No. 24 Southern California 38-20 on Saturday night for the Bruins’ third straight victory in the annual crosstown showdown. Devin Lucien, Thomas Duarte and Eldridge Massington caught scoring passes as the Bruins (9-2, 6-2 Pac-12) confirmed their Los Angeles supremacy and closed in on the Pac-12 South title with a one-sided romp over their biggest rivals at a festive Rose Bowl. Paul Perkins rushed for 93 yards and a score for UCLA, which hadn’t won three straight over USC since 1998. After five consecutive wins down the stretch of a slow-starting season, UCLA can advance to the Pac-12 title game with a victory over Stanford on Friday. Cody Kessler passed for 214 yards for the Trojans (7-4, 6-3), who struggled mightily against UCLA’s inspired defense. Not much went well for USC in its first rivalry game under new coach Steve Sarkisian after linebacker Anthony Sarao returned Hundley’s only interception 17 yards for a score on UCLA’s opening drive. The Bruins scored all of their 38 points in less than 30 minutes, and their defense limited the Trojans’ offense to just 200 yards and seven points in the first three quarters. If Hundley heads to the NFL next year as planned, the quarterback who led coach Jim Mora’s revitalization of the program will have a perfect record against USC – one of his stated goals since his freshman year. Mora also has beaten three USC head coaches in three years by a combined 111-62. With Hundley at the controls, UCLA has scored at least 35 points in three straight games against USC for the first time in series history. Hundley punctuated his final scoring drive with a 15-yard TD run straight up the middle midway through the third quarter, flexing both arms in celebration. Hundley also became UCLA’s career leader in total offense during the third quarter, passing the mark established by Cade McNown – who did it in four years to Hundley’s three. Both teams looked sharp in their traditional home jerseys on a crisp night in Arroyo Seco, but the game didn’t look good early for the Bruins. The UCLA defense stopped the Trojans on the game’s opening drive, and Sarao returned Hundley’s terrible throw down the UCLA sideline just 3:07 in. The Trojans forced another punt, but their early momentum evaporated when Nelson Agholor fumbled the return inside the USC 10. Lucien was left wide open on Hundley’s first TD throw. Just 39 seconds later, the quarterback threw down the middle to Duarte, who ran through USC’s stumbling secondary for a 57-yard score. USC evened it on Justin Davis’ 2-yard TD catch, but UCLA’s Eric Kendricks dived to intercept a tipped pass by Kessler moments later. The Bruins moved patiently for Massington’s 13-yard TD catch 14 seconds before halftime, putting them up 24-14. UCLA drove 84 yards for Perkins’ 10-yard TD run right after halftime, and Mora’s defense continued to crush Sarkisian’s offense. USC finally made a 91-yard drive in the final minutes, capped by Buck Allen’s TD run. Josh Shaw made his season debut for USC, playing intermittently on defense and special teams. The senior defensive back and former team captain missed the first 10 games for lying about how he sprained his ankles in a preseason fall. AP Recap | Final Stats | Photo Gallery | Post-Game Presser

USC Goes to UCLA

ABC The 84th renewal of the nation’s most famous crosstown rivalry occurs Saturday when No. 24 USC travels to the Rose Bowl to face No. 11 UCLA for a primetime nationally televised clash on ABC. Troy needs a victory over the Bruins (plus a loss by Arizona State) to win the Pac-12 South Division and advance to the Pac-12 Championship Game (there are no other scenarios that are in Troy’s favor), while UCLA needs to defeat the Trojans and then Stanford to get there (there’s also a way for the Bruins to advance by finishing tied for first at 6-3 with multiple teams). Also at stake are year-long city bragging rights, possession of the Victory Bell and points in the Crosstown Cup standings. UCLA has won the last 2 meetings, but only 3 of the past 15. The Pac-12’s 2 most accurate passers and 2 most productive rushers will be on display. Ranked Bruin teams have had the upper hand over USC in the past. It’s just the 10th night game in the series. The Rose Bowl has been USC’s home away from home. Both teams will don their home jerseys. The matchup features numerous players, coaches and athletic department staff with connections to the “other” school. In fact, both USC head coach Steve Sarkisian and UCLA head coach Jim Mora have relatives with degrees from the rival school. Both teams are well-rested, as USC had a few extra days off after its home win last Thursday over California, while UCLA is coming off a bye following its road win at Washington. USC features a number of players in the running for post-season awards. QB Cody Kessler, a Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award finalist who is among the nation’s leaders in passing efficiency, completion percentage, TD passes, completions and passing yards, is having the most efficient and accurate season of any Trojan quarterback ever (he has hit 70% of his aerials with 29 TDs and just 3 picks). Doak Walker Award candidate TB Javorius Allen, a 1,000-yard runner in 2014 with 8 century yardage outings this season, continues to top the Pac-12 in rushing and all-purpose yards (he’s on pace to be the first Trojan to lead the conference in rushing since 1989). Dual threat WR Nelson Agholor, with a school-record 4 career scoring punt returns and coming off a 16-catch performance versus California as well as a school-record pair of 200-yard receiving games, is in the national Top 20 in receptions, receiving yards, punt returns and all-purpose yards. Dominant All-American DE Leonard Williams is a 2014 Lombardi and Bednarik semifinalist, ILB Hayes Pullard is Troy’s tackle leader for a third season (he has 350-plus career stops) and 2013 Freshman All-American S-turned-OLB Su’a Cravens makes plays all over the field (he tops the Trojans in interceptions and tackles for a loss). USC has had to rely on numerous true freshmen because of depth issues (11 have played significantly, including 8 who have posted 40 starts) and several are candidates for Freshman All-American honors: CB-WR-RET Adoree’ Jackson (he has played 3 ways in 5 games this year and is among the nation’s leading kickoff returners), WR JuJu Smith (he has 42 receptions in 2014 all before his 18th birthday, which he celebrates on Saturday), OG-OT Toa Lobendahn and OG Viane Talamaivao. No more than 57 recruited scholarship Trojans have suited up for any game in 2014 because of NCAA-mandated scholarship limitations. USC hopes for another fast start this week (it has outscored foes by 107 points in the first quarter), as well as a stronger finish (it has lost twice this year in the final seconds). USC’s offense is highly ranked in various passing categories as well as on third and fourth down conversions, while its defense is in the national Top 25 in red zone defense, turnover margin and third down conversion defense (the Trojans have yet to allow an opponent to score on its opening possession this season). UCLA, riding a 4-game winning streak, has a balanced offense that is 17th in the nation in total offense. QB Brett Hundley, equally effective throwing (71 career TD passes) and running, leads the country in completion percentage (72.1%) and is also in the Top 20 in passing efficiency and total offense. RB Paul Perkins has run for 1,000-plus yards to rank 16th nationally in that category. WRs Jordan Payton and Devin Fuller are UCLA’s primary pass catchers, with a combined 103 catches this year. LBs Eric Kendricks, the nation’s No. 5 tackler who is having his third 100-tackle season, and Myles Jack, who doubles as a running back, anchor the Bruin defense. DB Ishmael Adams has 2 TDs on interceptions and 1 on a kickoff return in 2014. USC Media Release (pdf)

Agholor, Kessler Propel USC Past Cal

ABC Nelson Agholor caught a career-high 16 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns, and Cody Kessler passed for 371 yards and four scores in Southern California’s 38-30 victory over California on Thursday night. George Farmer and Randall Telfer also caught TD passes for the Trojans (7-3, 6-2 Pac-12), who beat their upstate rivals for the 11th straight time. Agholor and Kessler shredded Cal’s porous pass defense while USC jumped to an early 31-2 lead before holding on to its fourth win in five games. Jared Goff passed for 279 yards and three touchdowns for the Golden Bears (5-5, 3-5), whose fourth loss in five games prevented them from clinching bowl eligibility. Cal hasn’t won at the Coliseum since 2000, and the Bears couldn’t overcome their huge early deficit. Stephen Anderson caught a 29-yard TD pass from Goff with 1:36 to play, but Darreus Rogers easily recovered the onside kick. Agholor had another spectacular night under the Coliseum lights, becoming the first receiver in USC’s storied history to post back-to-back 200-yard games. “It just means I have a great offensive coordinator, head coach and quarterback to put me in that position,” Agholor said. “(Kessler) did an amazing job controlling the game, picking and choosing where to go with the ball.” The Trojans’ lower-key successor to Robert Woods and Marqise Lee had nine catches for 139 yards after the first snap of the second quarter. Agholor had just three catches after halftime, falling one catch short of Woods’ school-record 17 receptions. Justin Davis rushed for an early score as USC tuned up for its season-ending showdowns with UCLA and Notre Dame. Javorius Allen rushed for 60 yards, missing his seventh straight 100-yard game on the ground, but getting more than 100 total yards from scrimmage for the 13th straight game. USC also had three touchdowns and a fumble recovery wiped out by penalties on another busy night for Pac-12 officials. This crew threw 25 flags for a combined 276 yards in penalties against both teams, but the Trojans persevered. Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs caught TD passes for the Bears, and Daniel Lasco rushed for a score. Cal still hasn’t beaten a team that currently has a winning record this season. The Coliseum was about half-full at kickoff for a rare weekday game in downtown Los Angeles. The tradition-bound portion of USC’s alumni base isn’t overly fond of television-friendly weekday games, but the venerable arena filled in while the Trojans dismantled Cal in the first half. Kessler capped USC’s opening drive with a pinpoint 10-yard TD throw to Agholor. Farmer dived to catch a 32-yard play-action TD pass moments later. Cal then tackled Davis for a safety after Goff quick-punted down to the USC 1, but Agholor made another big catch setting up Davis’ TD run. A holding penalty wiped out Kessler’s 42-yard TD pass to Adoree Jackson early in the second quarter, but Agholor made his second TD catch anyway. Cal finally got Harper’s TD catch 9 seconds before halftime, reducing USC’s lead to 31-9. Agholor had a brilliant 78-yard catch-and-run TD wiped out by a holding penalty in the third quarter. USC lost another TD catch to a penalty before Kessler rolled out and hit Telfer for a 15-yard score early in the fourth. AP Recap | Final Stats | Photo Gallery | Post-Game Presser

USC Hosts Cal in Thursday Night Game

ABC Coming off a dominant win at Washington State and then a much-needed bye, USC now plays just its second-ever non-Thanksgiving/non-bowl Thursday game in the Coliseum when it hosts long-time foe California on Trojan Family Weekend. The game will air live in primetime on ESPN. The Trojans have won 70% of their Thursday games. Because the game is on a school day, on-campus tailgating and parking will not be allowed, but there are many alternatives available for fans (see USCTrojans.com/Thursday). This is USC’s 101st meeting with California, the team it has played more than any opponent. Troy has not lost to the Golden Bears since 2003 (and not at home since 2000). USC’s offense features a number of skill position players who are having outstanding seasons. QB Cody Kessler, among the nation’s leaders in passing efficiency, completion percentage, TD passes and passing yards, is having the most efficient season of any Trojan quarterback ever (25 TDs and just 2 picks). Doak Walker Award candidate TB Javorius Allen, a 1,000-yard runner in 2014 who is sitting on a streak of 6 consecutive 100-yard rushing outings, continues to top the Pac-12 in rushing and all-purpose yards (he’s on pace to be the first Trojan to lead the conference in rushing since 1989). Dual threat WR Nelson Agholor, with a school-record 4 career scoring punt returns, is in the national Top 20 in receptions, receiving yards and punt returns. USC has equally talented players on defense, including All-American DE Leonard Williams, who is a 2014 Lombardi and Bednarik semifinalist, plus ILB Hayes Pullard (Troy’s tackle leader for a third season who has 350 career stops) and 2013 Freshman All-American S-turned-OLB Su’a Cravens. USC is in the national Top 25 in red zone defense, turnover margin and third down conversion defense and the Trojans have not allowed an opponent to score on its opening possession this season. Freshman All-American candidates CB Adoree’ Jackson, WR JuJu Smith, OG-OT Toa Lobendahn and OG Viane Talamaivao are among 11 true freshmen who have played key roles this season, including 8 who have posted 36 starts. Depth, though, is an issue for head coach Steve Sarkisian because of NCAA-mandated scholarship limitations (no more than 57 recruited scholarship players have suited up for any game in 2014 and only 48 were on hand the past 2 games). Head coach Sonny Dykes brings in a California team with an explosive offense (averaging more than 500 yards and 40 points an outing), ranking in the national Top 11 in passing, scoring and total offense. The Golden Bears are coming off a bye after beating Oregon State to snap a 3-game season losing skid. QB Jared Goff is at the control of the Cal offense and is can be found in the nation’s Top 15 ranking in passing yards, total offense and passing efficiency. His main targets are WRs Bryce Treggs, Stephen Anderson and Chris Harper, while RB Daniel Lasco is effective both running and catching the football. However, the Golden Bears’ defense has been vulnerable, surrendering 525 yards and 40 points a game. USC’s men’s basketball, women’s volleyball, men’s water polo and men’s and women’s swimming teams compete at home this week, including hosting Cal in women’s volleyball on Friday (Nov. 14) and in men’s water polo on Saturday (Nov. 15). USC Media Release (pdf)

USC Cruises Past Washington State

ABC Cody Kessler threw for 400 yards and five touchdowns and USC beat Washington State 44-17 in rainy, foggy conditions on Saturday. JuJu Smith caught three touchdown passes for USC (6-3, 5-2 Pac-12), which became eligible for postseason play. Nelson Agholor caught eight passes for 220 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns. Washington State (2-7, 1-5) quarterback Connor Halliday, the nation’s passing yardage leader, was knocked out of the game in the first quarter with an unspecified injury and did not return. Freshman Luke Falk replaced Halliday. He threw for 368 yards and two touchdowns, but it was not enough to prevent the Cougars from suffering their second consecutive home loss and fourth in a row. USC, coming off a last-second 24-21 loss at Utah last weekend, had 527 yards of total offense to 442 for Washington State. Kessler completed 21 of 32 passes. Washington State has surrendered 60, 59 and 44 points in its past three home games. Special teams have been a problem for Washington State all season, and they broke down again early for the Cougars, who went three-and-out on their first possession. Agholor took the ensuing punt and ran untouched through the WSU team for a 65-yard touchdown return and a 7-0 lead with 12:13 left in the first quarter. It was Agholor’s fourth kick return for a touchdown, a USC record. Halliday was intercepted on the next series by Hayes Pullard, who ran the ball down to the WSU 19. Kessler hit Smith on a 22-yard touchdown pass to put USC up 14-0 with 10:33 left in the first quarter. Halliday was injured on the next series, when two players appeared to fall onto him after he threw a pass. He was driven off the field in a cart while strapped to a stretcher. Falk, a walk-on, came in for his first extensive action of the season. Andre Heidari booted a 37-yard field goal to give USC a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter. Washington State, with Halliday out, punted on its next four possessions, and then turned the ball over on downs on the fifth. Starting at the WSU 36, Kessler threw 14-yard pass to Agholor and then a 22-yard touchdown pass to Smith, for a 24-0 lead. Washington State finally got on the scoreboard late in the first half when Falk hit Robert Lewis with a 9-yard touchdown pass, capping an 81-yard drive, to cut USC’s lead to 24-7 at halftime. The Cougars scored the first points of the second half when Quentin Breshears kicked a 27-yard field goal to cut USC’s lead to 24-10 with 6:10 left in the third quarter. The kick came after WSU drove to the Trojan 9-yard line. But the Trojans came right back, as Kessler hit a wide open Agholor at midfield and the receiver completed an 87-yard touchdown play for a 31-10 lead. Smith added a 7-yard touchdown reception from Kessler late in the third. Kessler threw a touchdown pass to Steven Mitchell in the fourth. For WSU, Falk threw a late touchdown pass to Isiah Myers. Kessler has thrown for 25 touchdowns against only two interceptions so far this season. Halliday, a senior, holds the NCAA single-game record for yards passing (734), set this year against California, plus a slew of school records. Tailback Javorius Allen of USC, who leads the Pac-12 in rushing, rushed for at least 100 yards for the sixth straight game, totaling 114 on 19 carries. Washington State beat the Trojans 10-7 in Los Angeles last year, but the Trojans lead the series 59-9-4. AP Recap | Final StatsĀ  | Photo Gallery

USC Stays on Road to Play at Washington State

ABC USC, looking to bounce back from its second last-second defeat of 2014, remains on the road this week when it travels to pass-happy Washington State to begin the final month of the regular season. The Trojans have lost only 3 times ever in Pullman, but they haven’t played there since 2010 (it will be Troy’s first visit to the recently-renovated Martin Stadium). USC also has won nearly 85% of the time in the all-time series against the Cougars. Rain is in the long-range forecast. USC has a bye following the Washington State game. This is the first season in Trojan history that USC has dropped a pair of games when foes scored a game-winning touchdown within the final 8 seconds. Troy’s 3 losses in 2014 have been by a total of 13 points. USC sports a balanced offense, led by QB Cody Kessler, whose 70.2% completion mark is above the school season record. He is ninth in the country in passing efficiency (20 TDs to just 2 picks) and already in the USC Top 10 in career completions, passing yards and total offense. TB Javorius Allen, USC’s latest 1,000-yard season rusher, leads the Pac-12 in rushing and all-purpose yardage (no player in the nation has at least 1,000 rushing yards and 300 receiving yards like he does). His current string of 5 straight 100-yard outings is a first at USC since 2005. WR Nelson Agholor, who doubles as a dangerous punt returner (3 career TDs), caught a personal-best 10 passes last week at Utah and now is 15th nationally in receptions. Speaking of dangerous returners, CB Adoree’ Jackson is the nation’s No. 5 kick returner after his 100-yard runback at Utah. The 3-way player (he has played some wideout on offense) is among 11 true freshmen who have played key roles for head coach Steve Sarkisian this season, including 8 who have posted 31 starts. USC’s depth keeps dwindling as injuries take their toll on a roster with NCAA-mandated scholarship limitations (in fact, no more than 57 recruited scholarship players have suited up for any game in 2014 and only 48 were on hand at Utah). Some of USC’s best players are on defense, including All-American DE Leonard Williams, ILB Hayes Pullard (Troy’s tackle leader for a third season who has made 341 career stops) and always-around-the-ball 2013 Freshman All-American S-turned-OLB Su’a Cravens. USC is in the national Top 25 in red zone defense, turnover margin and third down conversion defense; no Trojan foe has scored on its opening possession this season. WSU head coach Mike Leach’s squad is coming off its third straight loss, this time at home to Arizona last Saturday. Leach loves to fill the air with footballs, so it is no surprise that his Cougars top the nation in passing offense (nearly 500 yards a game) and are seventh in total offense. But the Cougs’ running game averages just 45.9 yards, next to last in the country WSU’s offensive star is QB Connor Halliday, who threw for an NCAA record 734 yards against California this year. He leads the nation in total offense, completions, passing TDs, passing yards and points responsible for. He also is WSU’s career record holder for passing yards, TD passes, completions and attempts. WSU wideouts River Cracraft, Vince Mayle and Isiah Myers already each have 50-plus catches and all rank in the national Top 25 in receptions and receiving yardage. CB Daquawn Brown and junior LB Darryl Monroe are Washington State’s top tacklers. The game will air live on Pac-12 Networks. The Women of Troy soccer team plays at Washington State the day after the USC-WSU football game. USC Media Release (pdf)

USC Falls to #19 Utah in Final Minutes

ABC Travis Wilson gave Utah its biggest victory since joining the Pac-12 four years ago – and earned a little job security, too. Wilson threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Kaelin Clay with 8 seconds left to give No. 19 Utah a 24-21 victory over No. 20 Southern California on Saturday night. “It’s so amazing,” Wilson said. “Words can’t really describe how I’m feeling right now.” The 6-foot-7 Wilson lost the starting job to Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson last week before taking over in the second half in a 29-23 double-overtime victory at Oregon State. Wilson put the Utes (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) in position for the winning touchdown when he was flushed from the pocket and scrambled 19 yards, diving as he approached the goal line. The play was initially ruled a touchdown, but was overturned on review – giving Utah the ball a foot from the end zone. “I was actually just headed toward the sideline but I saw a little bit more room and I made an extra effort to get the end zone,” Wilson said. Devontae Booker was stopped just short on the next play before Wilson’s touchdown pass to Clay on a sprint-out to the right side – a catch that also was reviewed before it was confirmed. “I’m so emotional right now,” Clay said. “I grew up cheering for USC and to score the winning touchdown against them is really special.” After Adoree’ Jackson returned the kickoff to the USC 28, the Trojans’ last-gasp effort was snuffed when Cody Kessler was sacked by Nate Orchard and Hunter Dimick on the final play. “That was a gut-check,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, whose team is bowl eligible for the first time in three seasons. “USC is one talented team, probably the best talent man-for-man in the conference but we slugged it out with them for 60 minutes.” Black-clad Utes fans streamed onto the field around some of the Trojans players, who stood motionless, stunned at another last-second loss. “”That’s our season right now,” USC coach Steve Sarkisian said. “We’re living and dying by these moments. It obviously hurts a lot when you lose the way we lost tonight.” Southern California dropped to 5-3 overall and 4-2 in the Pac-12. USC lost to Arizona State on a Hail Mary play and escaped with a victory over Arizona when the Wildcats missed a last-second 36-yard field goal. Wilson was 18-for-32 passing for 194 yards and Booker had his fourth straight 100-yard game with 102 yards. “I’m speechless right now,” Booker said. “We came out here tonight and it started rough, but we came back and fought our butt off to win this game.” Kessler completed 24 of 32 attempts for 264 yards and Javorius Allen ran for 101 yards, but the Trojans couldn’t convert a late fourth down after opting not to kick a field goal with a 21-17 lead. Utah forced the turnover on downs with 2:08 to play when Nelson Agholor stepped out of bounds a yard short of the first-down marker at the Utah 27. After USC gained only 44 yards of total offense in the second and third quarters, Kessler capped a 12-play, 73-yard touchdown drive with a four-yard TD pass to Darreus Rogers to give USC a 21-17 lead with 10:18 left. Utah linebacker Jason Fanaika intercepted a ball after it glanced off Agholor’s hands. Three plays later, Booker finally broke loose and ran 24 yards for a touchdown just before the end of the third quarter for a 17-14 Utah lead. “We wanted to come out here and establish who we are, and let everyone know what Utah is all about,” Fanaika said. The conference and the country are starting to take notice as Utah takes a prime position on the Pac-12 South race. Clay took a punt 51 yards to the 16 after running into one of his own blockers. But three plays later, Jackson pried the ball loose from receiver Tim Patrick just shy of the goal line and recovered in the end zone to deny the Utes for the second time at the 1. After Andy Phillips’ field goal gave Utah a 10-7 lead, Jackson returned a kickoff from deep in his end zone down the right sideline for a touchdown. On the second play from scrimmage, Kessler threw a lateral pass to Rogers, who had it glance off his hands and figured it was a forward pass. The ball bounded around on the field before Davion Orphey alerted picked it up and ran 53 yards past the stunned Trojans offense, just beating Kessler to the end zone. Even though Kessler left the game for a couple plays after a hard hit, the junior quarterback led a touchdown drive the other way, culminating in a 10-yard scoring pass to JuJu Smith for a 7-7 tie. Utah missed an opportunity later in the first quarter when Booker fumbled at 1. Kessler also lost the ball after driving to the Utah 27 in the second quarter. The game marked the first time two ranked teams met in Rice-Eccles Stadium since Utah lost to TCU 47-7 in 2010. Utah fans marked the occasion with the largest home crowd in school history at 47,619. AP Recap | Final Stats | Photo Gallery | Post-Game Presser

USC Goes to Utah

ABC In a battle of Top 20 teams from the Pac-12’s South Division, No. 20 USC travels to No. 19 Utah for a primetime showdown on FOX Sports 1. It is only USC’s fourth trip ever to Salt Lake City and just the second since 1917. Rice-Eccles Stadium should be sold out for the 29th consecutive time. The Pac-12’s top two rushers will be on the loose in the game. Utah had extra time to prepare for the Trojans as it won in overtime at Oregon State last Thursday, while USC is coming off a huge Homecoming victory over Colorado in which QB Cody Kessler threw a school-record 7 TDs. Kessler has 18 TD passes and just 1 interception while hitting 69.5% of his aerials (above the school standard) this year, and he shows up in the national Top 20 in completion percentage, passing efficiency, passing TDs and completions. USC’s strong ground attack (5 games with 200-plus yards) is led TB Javorius Allen, the Pac-12’s rushing and all-purpose yardage leader who is on the verge of eclipsing the 1,000-yard rushing barrier this season. He is the only player in the country with at least 900 rushing and 250 receiving yards in 2014, and he is the first Trojan since 2005 to post 6 100-yard rushing games in a season. Head coach Steve Sarkisian’s up-tempo offense also features WR Nelson Agholor, who is among the country’s leaders in receptions and receiving TDs (he had 3 scoring grabs last week). The USC defense–behind All-American DE Leonard Williams, ILB Hayes Pullard (Troy’s tackle leader for a third season) and ball-hawking, tackles-for-a-loss-making 2013 Freshman All-American S Su’a Cravens–continues to excel in stopping opponents in the red zone and on third downs and in taking away the ball. USC has yet to suit up more than 57 recruited scholarship players in 2014 because of NCAA-mandated scholarship limitations, so 11 true freshmen have played significant roles this season and 8 have started. Veteran Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham’s team is only 2 points from being undefeated in 2014. Junior QBs Travis Wilson, who has almost 4,000 passing yards with 30 TD throws in his career, and Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson share time and have helped the Utes rank 21st nationally in scoring offense. The top pass catchers are WRs Kenneth Scott and Dres Anderson, who has 2,047 career receiving yards. JC transfer RB Devontae Booker, who had 229 rushing yards at Oregon State, is No. 19 in the nation in rushing (second in the Pac-12 behind USC’s Allen). The Utes strong defense leads the nation in sacks and tackles for loss and also is in the Top 20 in turnover margin and rushing defense. DE Nate Orchard, a 3-year starter, is second nationally in both sacks and tackles for loss, while DE Hunter Dimick (sacks) and LB Jared Norris (tackles for loss) also rank high in the national stats. Utah’s superb special teams play features 2013 All-Pac-12 P Tom Hackett, who is third nationally in punting, PK Andy Phillips, a one-time U.S. ski team member who is fourth nationally in field goals and sixth in scoring, and WR Kaelin Clay, who is fourth in the nation in punt returns and has returned 3 punts and a kickoff for TDs this year. USC Media Release (pdf)

Kessler sets TD mark in #22 USC’s 56-28 win

ABC Cody Kessler set a school single-game record with seven touchdown passes, throwing five in the first half of No. 22 Southern California’s 56-28 victory over Colorado on Saturday. Nelson Agholor caught three TD passes from Kessler, who broke the mark previously held by Matt Barkley. He passed the record on a 24-yard TD pass to Steven Mitchell, who made a diving catch in the third quarter of a blowout victory for the Trojans (5-2, 4-1 Pac-12). Kessler also became the first Pac-12 quarterback to throw seven TD passes in the first three quarters of a game, and the junior tied the conference record for TD passes in a non-overtime game. He finished 17 of 24 for 318 yards. Nelson Spruce and Shay Fields each caught TD passes for Colorado (2-5, 0-4). Sefo Liufau had 143 yards passing with two interceptions before being replaced on the final drive of the third quarter by Jordan Gehrke. Barkley threw six TD passes in four different games, first setting the record against the Buffaloes in 2011 and matching that total in Colorado’s last visit to the Coliseum in 2012. And while their previous two games were decided in dramatic fashion in the final seconds, the Trojans ended any doubt of a close game by racing out to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter while much of the homecoming crowd was still filing into the Coliseum. Kessler found Agholor for touchdown passes of 16 yards on USC’s opening possession. He then hit Agholor from 18 yards out, just six plays after linebacker Su’a Cravens intercepted Liufau’s first pass attempt. Freshmen JuJu Smith and Bryce Dixon added scoring receptions from 7 and 15 yards out as Kessler went 11 of 14 for 159 yards and four touchdowns in the first quarter. With a 9-yard pass to Dixon late in the second quarter, Kessler became the third USC quarterback to throw five touchdown passes in the first half. Barkley did it on three occasions, while Mark Sanchez hit that mark in 2008. Agholor added his third TD reception early in the third quarter, finishing with six catches for 128 yards. Running back Javorius Allen added 128 yards on 15 carries, scoring on a 39-yard run. Spruce tied the Colorado single-season record set by Derek McCoy in 2003 with 11 TD catches. Spruce, who grew up in the north Los Angeles suburb of Westlake Village, caught nine passes for 69 yards and threw a 17-yard pass to Liufau to set up a second-quarter touchdown run by Michael Adkins. AP Recap | Final Stats | Photo Gallery | Post-Game Presser