- Greg Katz, Columnist, WeAreSC.com
SALT LAKE CITY -- Notes, quotes, and anecdotes from Rice-Eccles Stadium after USC’s (4-1 overall, 2-1 Pac-12) 38-28 win over Utah (2-3, 0-2).
Lane Kiffin comments:
On the game: First of all, credit Utah. They came out, and the crowd was electric, as we thought it would be. The players came out and played really physical right off the bat and made some big plays. And, we obviously helped them by not performing well early in the first quarter and getting down 14-0. But at the end of the day, as you go through your season and your team builds itself, those things are good.”
On being down 14-0: “I really felt calm, and I felt like our team was and our coaches were. I felt we did a lot better job as a staff today handling negative plays than we did last time on the road (Stanford).”
On Matt Barkley: “The quarterback played really well, to go on the road versus a defense that can give you some problems. They’ve got a couple of really good defensive linemen [that] do a lot of things. To complete over 70 percent of his passes, no interceptions, no sacks, three touchdowns -- and was maybe two catches away from a huge night -- it’s good to see.”
Key to victory: Trojans sophomore receiver Marqise Lee scored on an 83-yard touchdown reception from Barkley with 12:10 remaining in the fourth quarter to put the Trojans up 31-21 and seal the victory.
To the house: On his 83-yard touchdown reception, Lee, who had more than 200 yards in total offense and 12 receptions for 192 yards, said, “Coach Kiffin called it. I didn’t want to run all that way and not catch it. I just wanted to get past the safety. We’ll take what they give us.”
Whittingham wisdom: Afterward, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said, “It was 24-21 going into the fourth quarter, and when you play a team of USC’s caliber, that’s what you hope for. Give them credit. They made a few more plays than we did, two in particular.”
Utah quarterback Jon Hays: “For my part, I pressed too much on the third-down screen pass. The game did not shift all on that particular play, because we were still in the game, but a pick-six in that situation can’t show up."
ESP: Of his 38-yard return of the interception off Hays, Trojans corner Nickell Robey said, “They kept running the same play over and over, and I just felt it and got a pick-six.”
The meat wagon: Trojans tailback Curtis McNeal left the game early and never returned from what appeared to be a jarring hit to the head. Tight end Randall Telfer went out in the third quarter with an apparent right ankle injury.
It’s offensive: The Trojans were averaging 422 yards per game on offense going into Thursday’s game. Against the Utes, the Men of Troy had 432 total yards on offense.
Tailback Who: According to Silas Redd, McNeal went down early with a concussion. Redd also went out with an undisclosed injury. However, sophomore D.J. Morgan got extensive play, finishing the game with 46 yards on nine carries.
The offensive scoring average: The Trojans scored 38 points against Utah. Before the Utah game, the Trojans were averaging 33.0 points per game.
Twins: All-Pac-12 placekicker Andre Heidari missed two field goals of 40 and 44 yards, respectively.
Passing fancy: Before the Utah game, the Trojans were averaging 256.8 passing yards per game. Against the Utes, the Trojans passed for 303 yards.
Block party: Credit Telfer with the big block of 48-yard Utah field goal attempt near the conclusion of the first half.
The defensive scoring average: The Trojans defense allowed 28 points to Utah. Coming into the game, the Trojans were allowing 17.2 points per game.
The homecoming: Starting offensive guard John Martinez returned to his native Salt Lake City, and the victory was hard to get. Martinez said, “The win feels great, but I didn’t do great. Their D-line is a monster. In Star (Lotulelei) and (Dave) Kruger, it’s all about technique. If you don’t do it, you fall down. I was concerned early, because I saw doubt in my teammates’ faces.”
SRO: Thursday night’s game at Rice-Eccles Stadium was a sellout (45,017). The official attendance was 46,037, the fourth largest in Utah history.
Getting defensive: Before Thursday, the Trojans were allowing an average of 346.5 total yards on defense. Against the Utes, the Men of Troy allowed 304 total yards.
The flag is up: The Trojans were penalized 14 times for 100 yards. Lane Kiffin called the penalties “completely disappointing.”
Four blasts: To start the final quarter, Utah fired off four cannon shots that shook the stadium. Each shot represented a quarter.
Rush to judgment: Before the Utah game, the Trojans were averaging 165.2 yards per game on the ground. Against the Utes, the Trojans gained 129 yards on the ground.
The leader: The Trojans defense was led by All-America safety T.J. McDonald, who compiled nine tackles.
Yorktown: Former Trojans verbal commit Kelvin York, a transfer from Fullerton Community College, carried the ball three times for 15 yards and a touchdown.
Up next: The Trojans travel to Seattle next Saturday to play the Washington Huskies at CenturyLink Field, the home of the Seattle Seahawks.