You want to see your coach have that much faith in you. —Zack Moss
LOS ANGELES — Utah didn’t come away from Saturday night’s 28-27 loss at USC completely empty handed. The Utes did leave the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with a degree of satisfaction, despite the disappointment of not converting on a potential game-winning two-point conversion with 42 seconds remaining.
“As an offense, we love the call. We just weren’t able to execute as we wanted,” said running back Zack Moss, who rushed for a career-high 141 yards in the setback. “But you want to see your coach have that much faith in you.”
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham insists he wouldn’t have switched his decision to go for the win after the Utes pulled to within one point in the final minute. A 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Troy Williams put the option in play. The senior, though, was pulled down short of the goal line on the conversion attempt that followed.
Considering how effectively USC’s offense and quarterback Sam Darnold were in rallying from a two-touchdown deficit in the second half, Whittingham felt it was the thing to do — especially since the Utah defense was on the field for 83 plays in the game and had logged no sacks.
“Darnold was on fire and I thought that was the percentage play,” Whittingham said. “And if I had to do it again I’d do the same thing.”
Darnold, a Heisman Trophy candidate, completed 27 of 50 passes for 358 yards and three touchdowns. He directed three double-digit play drives in the second half as the Trojans wiped out a 21-7 lead by the Utes.
Utah’s lone response was the late touchdown. Then came the two-point that Williams said was designed to be play-action. When he could see no receivers open, he ran to the right side and was tripped up before reaching the end zone.
“If we make the two-point play we’re all sitting here thinking it was a great situation,” Whittingham said. “But we didn’t make the play.”
After losing their second consecutive game, the Utes fell to 4-2 overall and 1-2 in the Pac-12. The two losses — to current division leaders Stanford and USC — have come by a combined total of just four points.
“We kept fighting and we feel we can play with anyone in this league without a doubt,” Whittingham said. “To come down to the Coliseum and stand toe-to-toe and have a great shot to win at the end, something to be said for that. But like I said, there are no moral victories. We have to move on and pick yourself up and get ready for next week.”
Utah hosts Arizona State (3-3, 2-1) on Saturday (1:30 p.m., FS1).
EXTRA POINTS: The Utes fell out of the national rankings with the loss. Senior tight end Siale Fakailoatonga recorded his first catch of the season, a 37-yard reception on fourth down that set up Utah’s final touchdown. Moss averaged 7.1 yards on 20 carries. Demari Simpkins topped the Utes with four receptions. He also threw a touchdown pass to Williams. Mitch Wishnowsky averaged 46.8 yards over six punts. Safety Marquise Blair led Utah with eight tackes. Linebacker Sunia Tauteoli and nickelback Javelin Guidry each had two pass breakups. USC linebacker Cameron Smith had another big outing against the Utes. He had a game-high 16 tackles and an interception.