Utah Utes football: Utes loses to USC 23-14 in first Pac-12 game
Tom Smart, Deseret News
LOS ANGELES — Utah came up short in the inaugural Pac-12 football game.
A 41-yard field goal attempt by Utah's Coleman Petersen was blocked by by USC's Matt Kalil and returned for a touchdown by Torin Harris as time expired — capping a closing sequence so wild that the final score wasn't officially resolved until almost two hours after the horn. Officials initially waved off the game-ending score because of an unsportsmanlike penalty, but Pac-12 officials opted to reverse the decision after reviewing it.
It wasn't the first change down the stretch. The spotting of the ball on a fourth-down pass play from Jordan Wynn to DeVonte Christopher on Utah's final drive changed a loss-on-downs into a first down in the final minute inside the USC 40.
A pass interference call on a throw to Dres Anderson moved the ball to the Trojan 24 with just 11 seconds to go.
Then came the kick, which could have knotted things up at 17-17 and forced overtime.
It didn't happen.
"In the end, they just came through and we didn't," said cornerback Conroy Black.
Despite the tough outcome, no one was taking the close loss as a moral victory.
"No. We want the 'W.' But it is what it is," said linebacker Chaz Walker. "You can't change what we got now."
The Utes, though, had opportunities. They came up empty, though, on their last five drives.
"We put ourselves in position to win. They made a great play," Walker said. "We did what we could. They just outplayed us on the last play."
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham was pleased with the effort, but disappointed with the setback.
"We never had a situation where we felt overmatched or overwhelmed in any way shape or form," Whittingham said. "They're a good football team. Give them credit. That's a talented football team from the top of their roster to the bottom. They gave as much talented as anybody in the country."
Trailing 17-7 midway through the third quarter, Utah closed the gap after linebacker Brian Blechen forced USC's Xavier Grimble to fumble near midfield. Balck scooped it up to give the Utes possession.
A 51-yard run by Reggie Dunn followed before John White plowed in for a 1-yard touchdown run to close the gap and set up the dramatic finish.
"It a close one. We played our hearts out. Things happen," Blechen said. "There's not much I can say. They played a good game."
As they walked off the field, Utah's offense and defense noted shortcomings.
"It's frustrating losing like that. Bottom line is we've got to make more big plays on offense," said Wynn, who completed 23-of-46 passes for 238 yards. "I've got to complete more passes, I guess. The defense holds them to 17 we should be winning the game."
Defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake, though, saw things differently.
"If we want to win these games we've got to do better on defense and that's on me," he said. "But these players played their butts off and I'm proud of them."
The Utes, he continued, simply gave up too may plays.
"It's the hardest loss in my life. I grew up a UCLA fan. All I thought about was beating USC," Anderson said. "That's all I wanted to do. We had it. It was right there in our hands."
USC coach Lane Kiffin gave the Utes credit for playing extremely hard and coming to play.
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