The Trojans put 11 on the field and fought— that much was evident. A fitting line for a team that featured 10 walk-ons against Utah. USC pulled out a solid victory despite losing many starters before and during the game. An injured Dion Bailey even suited up at halftime to fill in after Su’a Cravens went down.
Of the walk-ons, three were receivers— Cody Skene, Robby Kolanz, and George Katrib. Offensive guard Abe Markowitz and long snapper Zach Smith also had playing time. Out of the three walk-on tight ends, two were converted from other positions. Chris Willson was actually a quarterback who transferred from Wake Forest and needed an NCAA waiver to play this season. Nathan Guertler converted from offensive tackle. Only Shane Sullivan started out as a tight end. USC also played walk-on running back John Akiba, and safety Rob Dooley.
USC’s offense did what it could. They had no scholarship tight ends heading into the game and to make matters worse, Sullivan had to leave with an injury long before halftime. Cody Kessler managed the game well even though he had a patchwork offensive line— especially after starting right tackle, Kevin Graf left the game with an injury as well. The run game was not so lucky. Kessler finished with no interceptions on 32 attempts, undeterred by the five sacks allowed. He spread the ball to seven different receivers and connected with Nelson Agholor for the only touchdown of the game— on both sides. USC only scored once without the assistance of a turnover. This game was made by the defense.
Utah’s starting quarterback, Travis Wilson, entered the game with 1955 yards of total offense and accounted for 19 out of 30 of Utah’s touchdowns. He threw for two touchdowns in Utah’s upset win over then-rank 5 Stanford. USC’s defense held him to 51 yards passing and 42 yards rushing. He completed less than 35% of his passes against the much maligned secondary before being knocked out of the game. Before that, Josh Shaw, whom had moved back to corner, and Leon McQuay III both intercepted him once. The backup quarterback got picked off by Cravens before the end of the half. Cravens returned it 54 yards, setting up a short field goal with four seconds left on the clock. The defensive line also notched six sacks— 3 on each quarterback— and forced a fumble.
Overall, the game was not pretty, but a win is a win. Many backups and walk-ons participated and contributed to the game. USC probably surprised many with such a large margin of victory.
Andre Heidari made field goals of 35, 38, 28, and 40 yards before missing his last field goal attempt of 37 yards.
De’Von Flournoy converted on second-and-22 after catching a 10-yard pass and fighting forward for another 21 yards.
If not for the anomaly against Arizona State, USC’s defense would be allowing an average of 13.1 points per game, which would have been good for fourth in the nation. When accounting for the ASU game, the defense allowed an average 19.25 points per game— the best for USC since 2008.