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What We Learned About Utah Against USC

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NCAA Football: Southern California at Utah Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After a thrilling last minute win against USC, the Utes now sit at 4-0 and rank 18 in both the AP Poll and Coaches Poll. Though Utah pulled it off, the battle versus the Trojans felt reminiscent of the 2014 matchup and it was a fierce fight until the bitter end. Here is a look at three takeaways from the victory over the Trojans.

1. Do you have it? Guts!

Some of you may not get the reference but in the early 90s there was an action sports television show on Nickelodeon called GUTS. During Friday’s game the Utes found themselves in fourth and short situations four times and as each proved to be successful I found myself singing the theme song, “Do you have it? Guts!” The Utes are currently 5-5 in fourth down conversions on the season and two of those conversions came in the last drive against the Trojan’s. If anything, we learned that this week brought out an uncharacteristic side to Coach Whittingham that has been missing in seasons of late. When asked about the multiple decisions to go for it on fourth and short he said, “It’s more a gut feeling than anything else… You can’t be reckless; it has to be a calculated risk. You don’t have to be right all the time, but it needs to be most of the time.” And right he was this week. With a weapon in kicker, Automatic Andy Phillips, you have to imagine this will not be a season long statistic but if nothing else the confidence the coaches have in risk taking this season is something to be enthusiastic about.

2. An offense?

The Utes offense hit the trifecta this week as quarterback Troy Williams, ball movers, and the offensive line left it all out on the field in the victory versus the Trojans. Troy Williams completed 21 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns passing, adding one running touchdown. While Tim Patrick was his go to receiver for the night accounting for six completions, 100 yards and one touchdown, Williams found 10 receivers total and the tight end, Harrison Hadley. The three-headed running back monster reared its beastly head again this week with a combined 39 carries for 154 yards and while they still were not perfect in ball protection they only had one turnover, a fumble by Zack Moss. With all of the positives on offense the real story was the offensive line. Though troublesome over the past couple of weeks, the offensive line finally showed that they mean business and Garrett Boles had a block that would excite any college football fan. It would be amiss not to also note a thwarted fumble by Isaac Asiata for a touchdown in the end zone. With little material thus far into the season, it is still too early to tell just how good the Utah offense is but it is clear as they progress each week, they could be the best we have seen in years.

3. Picking up the slack

For the first time this season the Utah defense showed a few flaws and gave up 466 yards to the Trojan’s offense, the most since last season against Oregon. This could be due to the first explosive offense the Utes have faced this season in USC, who found the gaps, or it could be the loss of both Kylie Fitts and Lowell Lotulelei. After this victory, it is evident that Utah can step up on both sides of the ball and pick up the slack and though it hasn’t been the story in weeks past, the offense stepped up to make things happen against USC. While not the best performance from the defense we have seen this season, it is important to note that the defensive play was not all bad. With three first half fumbles and another that was reversed in USC’s favor after a huge sack by Chase Hansen was ruled an incomplete forward pass, winning the turnover battle 3-1 proved to be just enough.

Even with a well-fought victory against the USC Trojans and a move up in the polls the Utes are considered underdogs to the unranked California Bears this week.

Can Utah handle Cal in Berkeley?