McGillen Galleries: Utah

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The Trojans slugged it out with Utah in rainy Salt Lake City on Friday night, falling behind on a Ute TD with 16 seconds to go. USC team photographer John McGillen was there to capture the heartbreaking loss:

6-Points: Utah 31, USC 27

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The Trojans fall in the final seconds to Utah, dropping to 1-3 overall and 0-2 in conference play.

Click here for the recap and final stats.

IMG_6252.JPGSam I Am

Redshirt freshman QB Sam Darnold was the obvious silver lining in a losing effort. "I thought he did a tremendous job," said head coach Clay Helton about his new starting quarterback. "He made some terrific plays in a hostile atmosphere on a rainy night. You could not ask for anything more from the kid than what he did tonight." Darnold completed 18 of 26 for 253 yards and ran 9 times for 41 yards and a touchdown. The team needed a spark and Darnold ignited the offense. "I am so proud of Sam," said senior RB Justin Davis. "I am so proud of the way he handled himself and stayed composed. If he keeps playing like that, we're going to win some football games."

First Half Regrets

The Trojans put together their best performance of the season, but they did not do enough to put Utah away and then the Utes capitalized with a late comeback. "I thought the biggest thing for us was the first half," said Helton. "We came in 17-10, but I walked in at halftime feeling sick to my stomach because of the three turnovers, two of them deep in their territory which could have led to points and being up two or three scores." USC only punted once the entire game, but three first half fumbles let the Utes hang around.

Running Wild

When the Trojans held onto the ball, they ran wild with it. On only 10 carries, Davis covered 126 yards with a touchdown. "The offensive line allowed me to see a hole and I just took advantage of it, just let my abilities work," Davis praised his offensive line. "They did a great job up front." The offensive line also held Utah's pass rush to one sack after the Utes recorded 10 sacks last week. USC averaged 6.5 yards per rush as a team.

A Step Behind

The Utes came out running the football, but once they were behind, they were forced into the air. The Trojans could not generate a pass rush, so the defensive backs were assaulted in coverage. "Congrats to Troy [Williams]," Helton complimented Utah's quarterback. "He made some big plays down the stretch as well as the big receiver, Tim Patrick. I thought they made the plays that had to be made down the stretch." Williams orchestrated a game-winning 93-yard touchdown drive, finishing the game with three consecutive scoring drives of 10 plays or more. "The quarterback played well," said CB Iman Marshall. "We gave up a lot of slants, a couple of plays, but at the end of the day, we've got to execute on our end and we didn't do that today."

The Kicker

Utah is known for having the best specialists in the Pac-12, but USC's group was exceptional tonight. PK Matt Boermeester continued his tremendous season, hammering two field goals through the uprights and burying the Utes in their own end with four touchbacks. On his lone punt, Chris Tilbey placed the ball at the Utes' seven-yard line. And of course, Adoree' Jackson returned his third career kickoff for a touchdown, going 100+ yards to tie the game in the first quarter.

September Ends

The Trojans had the hardest September schedule of any team in the country, and it has put them "behind the eight ball" to use a Helton expression. "It pains me that the whole Trojan Family, all the fans have to go through this because USC is not supposed to be 1-3," said Davis. "We're going to come together as a team and do what we can do to get these next two wins." USC returns home to play Arizona State and Colorado. "They are going to Fight On," said Helton. "The kids that were out there tonight, they live and breathe to help this team win."

Here are the game highlights:

2016 Game 4: USC vs. Utah

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USC Trojans (1-2, 0-1) at No. 24 Utah Utes (3-0, 0-0)

Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on FS1

Dimick.jpegUte to Watch: Senior DE Hunter Dimick

The Utes have several candidates on their defensive line worthy of the spotlight, but Dimick has made the most noise so far this season with three sacks to lead the Pac-12. As a team, Utah tops the conference and sits second in the nation with 15 sacks, including 10 last week. Dimick was hurt much of last season, but he had 1.5 sacks against the Trojans at the Coliseum. In 2014, he had another 1.5 sacks against USC en route to 10 for the season which placed him fifth in the conference.

Click here for more on the Utes.

3 Keys

Free Darnold

Sam Darnold is set to become the eighth freshman and fifth redshirt freshman to start at quarterback for USC since 1984. The offense needs a spark, ranking last in the Pac-12 (although strength of schedule plays a major factor), and head coach Clay Helton has pointed to the fresh-faced QB to energize the Trojans. Darnold certainly has the ability to be a difference maker. In limited duty, he has displayed a powerful arm, completing 14/22 for 136 yards and 2 TDs. In practice, he has also shown the swiftest feet for a USC quarterback in quite some time. In a difficult atmosphere, the coaching staff must create a game plan that plays to Darnold's strengths and puts him in a position to succeed.

Hog Heaven

If the USC offense is going to improve, the offensive line has to lead the way. While the unit has gotten better each week, according to Helton, the front five will again be tested by Utah's defensive line, which is the calling card of head coach Kyle Whittingham's program. The Trojans manhandled Stanford last week, but they stalled their own momentum by committing six false start penalties. On a wet and cold Salt Lake City night, expect a slugfest with OC Tee Martin pounding the run game to take pressure off Darnold and to slow down Utah's pass rush. The offensive line is central to that game plan.

No Regrets

The USC defense has walked out of both losses bemoaning a few mistakes which spoiled an otherwise dominant performance. The Utah offense is talented but middle of the Pac. QB Troy Williams provides a dual threat option, but he is also tied with UCLA's Josh Rosen for the conference-lead in interceptions. The Utes have turned to tailback by committee to replace Devontae Booker, while Tim Patrick has emerged as the playmaking threat on the outside. If the Trojans can eliminate the handful of mental errors and breakdowns that have plagued them this season, Clancy Pendergast's defense could take control of this game.

Photo Gallery: WVB Falls to Bruins

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No. 21 USC women's volleyball saw its eight-match winning streak come to an end in a tight four-set loss to No. 9 UCLA on Wednesday night.

Click here for the recap.

The Women of Troy were led by junior Niki Withers who had 13 kills and freshman Khalia Lanier who posted 12 kills.

Here are the John McGillen photos:

Utah Wednesday: Clay Helton Presser

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Written by Max Holm, USC blog contributor 

With a shorter week leading up to Friday's game on the road against the Utah Utes, USC got in one last practice Wednesday.

Coach Clay Helton provided several injury updates and more information ahead of the game at his press conference, which you can watch below.

Yoga on the Pitch

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No. 10 USC women's soccer is ready to make a run at the Pac-12 title and needs your support to create a home field advantage at McAlister Field. To that end, the Women of Troy are offering a post-match yoga session as part of a package that includes admission to the USC women's soccer game against Cal on October 9 at 11 a.m.

Click here for ticket information.

The $20 deal includes admission, a USC yoga mat and the post-match yoga session on the field. The package is only $20.

USC vs CAL yoga soccer social media.jpg

Divisional Rival

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Traditionally, the NFL is known for its divisional rivalries, while college teams focus on conference play. But in the modern era of oversized conferences, divisional games have gained in importance as schools try to secure spots in conference championship games with postseason implications.

The stakes are clear in the Pac-12. First, win your division. Then, battle for the conference crown at the Pac-12 Championship Game in Santa Clara. Win that and you've earned a ticket to the Rose Bowl.

Last year, the Trojans showed the value of winning divisional games. Despite dropping three contests to Pac-12 North opponents, USC won the South by running the table in its division.

While USC is 0-1 in conference play this year, the loss came at the hands of the reigning Pac-12 champions Stanford from the North. This week, the Trojans travel to Utah, beginning Pac-12 South play, adding increased value to an already crucial contest.


2016-17 Women's Basketball Schedule

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USC women's basketball begins its fourth season under head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke on November 11 against Hawaii at the Galen Center and then sets off on a challenging schedule which features 15 televised appearances.

Click here for more.

The Women of Troy will play the balance of its non-conference schedule at home in front of the Trojan Family, highlighted by the Women of Troy Classic (December 16 and 18). The toughest early road test is at Texas A&M, an SEC power, which will broadcast the game live on SEC Network+.

The Trojans know that the Pac-12 offers nothing but challenges, including showcase home games against Oregon State (January 15), UCLA (January 18), and Washington (February 19). USC went 19-13 last season, but its hoping to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013-14.

Click here for tickets.

Utah Tuesday: Notes

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On Tuesday, the Trojans continued their accelerated preparation for their first Pac-12 South opponent, Utah, on Friday night.
  • USC_Football_Utah_State_2016_McGillen_DSC_4791.JPGTE Taylor McNamara (foot) and Malik Dorton (hip) were limited in practice today.
  • USC head coach Clay Helton announced that OT E.J. Price plans to transfer from USC to a school closer to home to deal with family issues. Helton called Price "a really good kid" and wished him "nothing but the absolute best."
  • Helton said that despite Price's departure, he's happy with the depth of his offensive line, and noted that he thought the Stanford game was the unit's "best game by far," in terms of sacks allowed and opening up the run game.
  • USC LB Porter Gustin took time to compliment Utah's offensive line, as well as their QB. "He's very athletic so we've got to contain him, make sure he doesn't run," he said. "They've got a pretty solid O-Line, I think. So just get off blocks, set edges, be quick on the pass rush and play physical."
  • Gustin, who spent his final two years of high school in Salem, UT, said he's excited to play in cooler weather and in front of a lot of family.
  • DT Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, who transferred to USC from Utah this year, expressed even more excitement to play there. "I can't wait to see what I can do against them," he said. "Hopefully it's good."
  • Tu'ikolovatu (pictured) reminisced on Utah's last-second win over USC in 2014. "I remember beating USC, saying how much I hated these guys, but now I love them to death," he said.
  • Now, Tu'ikolovatu has pledged his allegiance to USC, and has been "telling everybody how the other offensive lineman plays, what's his weaknesses, so we can try to capitalize on that."
  • The Trojans will need his advice on playing in a sold-out Rice-Eccles Stadium on a rainy Friday night, but Helton said he has the utmost confidence in Sam Darnold starting his first game on a short week. "Showing the poise he did, the anticipation he's shown in his throws, his knowledge of the offense right now --- he's making plays."
  • Helton also praised QB Max Browne's attitude this week. "That's why he's got the C on his jersey," he said. "He's shown true leadership out here. He's been a pro about how he's handled it, and really led our team."
  • Here is Helton's full press conference:

Crosstown Cup Commences

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USC women's volleyball will be the first Trojan team to face off against UCLA this season when they host the No. 9 Bruins tomorrow. The 7 p.m. match will mark the start of the 16th Crosstown Cup competition.

Click here for the full match preview.

In 2015, the Trojans took home the Crosstown Cup for the 10th time in 15 years of competition. USC swept UCLA in key sports like football, men's basketball, women's soccer and women's water polo to earn a 115-70 edge in total points.

The women's volleyball team split matches with UCLA last season, so both teams earned 5 points each. In their first meeting, the Trojans swept the Bruins, but the tables turned later in the year when No. 13 UCLA upset top-ranked USC.

This year, UCLA enters the matchup at 9-1 and is ranked No. 9 in the nation, while USC is ranked No. 21 at 8-3. The Crosstown Cup begins when the teams face off tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Galen Center.