LOS ANGELES — Ten days after Utah State blitzed its first opponent, the Aggies experienced a thorough, methodical dismantling in their second contest.
USC built a 31-0 advantage late in the third quarter and finished with 422 total yards in a 45-7 rout Saturday in front of a crowd of 62,487 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
"We didn't make enough plays early on," USU coach Matt Wells said. "Our kids fought late, but we didn't have enough, especially early, when the game was being decided."
Tight end Wyatt Houston, who scored the Aggies' only touchdown, believed the visitors hurt themselves before the opening kickoff.
"We came out kind of slow," Houston said. "Mentally, we just need to be in there more. We just didn't come ready to play out of the gate."
USU (1-1) might have suffered an even bigger loss. Devante Mays, who ran for 208 yards and three touchdowns in the Aggies' 45-6 win against Weber State, left the game in the third quarter after sustaining an injury.
USC's Chris Hawkins hit Mays in the right knee on a 5-yard gain. Mays had to limp off the field with help and stood on crutches on the sideline. The senior finished with just 24 yards on eight carries.
"We'll have to find out on Mays either tonight or tomorrow with our docs," Wells said after the game.
Aggies cornerback Daniel Gray suffered a more serious blow late in the first quarter when he collided with USC wide receiver Stephen Mitchell Jr. during a tackle. Gray had to be immobilized and removed from the field on a stretcher. X-rays were negative, Wells said.
USU began by holding the Trojans (1-1) to minus-10 yards on the opening series. But the game turned on the end of the Aggies' first drive.
USC's Michael Pittman Jr. blocked Aaron Dalton's punt at the 50-yard line. The Trojans' Quinton Powell recovered the ball and returned it to the Aggies' 6-yard line. Three plays later, the hosts took a 7-0 lead on Max Browne's 3-yard scoring pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster with 3:10 gone in the game.
"Coaches tell us this statistic all the time; I think it's somewhere in the high 80s or 90s," Houston said while referring to percentages. "If there's a blocked punt, that team normally wins."
The second of two successive turnovers in the next quarter also proved costly. USC held a 14-0 lead and was driving from its 14-yard line to the Aggies' 42 when Jontrell Rocquemore intercepted Browne at USU's 26.
But on the next play, the Trojans' Leon McQuay intercepted Kent Myers to begin a series that ended with Browne's 2-yard touchdown pass to Mitchell, giving USC a 21-0 lead 19 seconds before halftime.
The Trojans applied the coup de grace in the third quarter. Adoree' Jackson fielded Dalton's bouncing punt and zig-zagged through the Aggies' coverage for a 77-yard return that extended the hosts' lead to 31-0 with 3:49 left in the period.
Houston caught Myers' 6-yard scoring pass on the ensuing series to narrow the deficit to 31-7 as time expired in the third quarter.
"Obviously, all three phases of our team did not play well," Aggies linebacker Derek Larsen said. "The punt return was a blow. I definitely feel we could've bounced back better from that blocked punt."
Myers completed 25 of 37 passes for 204 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Mays now has 1,198 career rushing yards after passing David Fiefia and Profail Greer to move into 21st place among USU's all-time rushing leaders.