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Tom Smart, Deseret News
Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham watches as Utah Utes wide receiver Dexter Ransom (88) gains yards as the University of Utah plays their opening football game against Montana State Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

SALT LAKE CITY — After Thursday's 27-10 season-opening win over Montana State, many of the Utah Utes talked about needing to play better in this week's Pac-12 opener.

Two days later, the USC Trojans had a similar refrain following their 19-17 victory over Minnesota.

"We have to play better to beat Utah," USC quarterback Matt Barkley told the Orange County Register.

The newspaper also reported that head coach Lane Kiffin said "no" when asked if the Trojans could play the same way again this Saturday and beat the Utes.

Despite team record-setting performances by Barkley (34 completions) and wide receiver Robert Woods (17 receptions), USC had only three touchdowns to show for it — all coming in the first half and all passes to Woods.

Fullback Rhett Ellison told the Los Angeles Times that won't cut it against Utah.

"We're going to have to score more points against those guys," he said.

The Utes also had offensive shortcomings in their opener. They put just three points on the board after jumping out to a 24-0 lead early in the second quarter against Montana State.

"We have to play a lot better," said quarterback Jordan Wynn.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham was more direct, noting the Utes wouldn't win a game in the Pac-12 if things don't improve with the passing attack. They netted just 101 yards in the air — finishing with only 16 first downs and going 4-of-13 in third-down situations.

"Overall we have to clean up a lot of things before playing USC," Whittingham said.

COMMEMORATIVE BALL: The Utah-USC game at the Los Angeles Coliseum will be the expanded Pac-12's first league contest. As part of the pomp and circumstance surrounding the historical event, a commemorative football will be presented to conference commissioner Larry Scott in pregame ceremonies.

The ball is currently making the rounds on a 12-day journey through the conference that began on Aug. 30. All of the Pac-12's head coaches are signing it. After the ball is presented to Scott, it'll be donated to www.911memorial.org to be auctioned off. It's progress to the game in L.A., can be tracked via Twitter by following at:


Email: dirk@desnews.com, Twitter: DirkFacer