Los Angeles, CA – USC held a four-point lead in the third quarter when Michael Pittman Jr. snatched the pass out of the air, stiff-armed a defender and raced into the end zone for a 77-yard touchdown.
The six-foot-four senior wide receiver finished with 10 receptions for a career-high 232 and USC upset previously unbeaten No. 10 Utah, 30-23, Friday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
“Glory to God and a bunch of great teammates that are the definition of Fight On and who don’t know how to quit,” USC head coach Clay Helton said. “I’m so proud of this team. I thought it was a team effort all the way around. Some guys made big plays, and some guys garnered some opportunities, and we needed every play to beat a good Utah team.”
USC starting quarterback Kedon Slovis, who was starting in place of the injured JT Daniels, got hurt on the Trojans opening drive. On the second play of the game, Utah defensive lineman Leki Fotu hit Slovis as he released the pass and landed on top of him. Slovis tried to get up but fell back down to the turf.
Slovis was helped off the field and taken to the locker room for an examination. He was being evaluated for a head injury according to the FS1 broadcast. In the post-game press conference, Helton said Slovis was not medically cleared to come back and was dinged according to the medical staff.
Third-string quarterback Matt Fink, who moved up to the back up role after Daniels’ injury, almost left USC in April after entering the transfer portal but decided to stay. Fink said he had some unofficial visits and an official visit with Illinois. He met some great coaches and great players and built some good relationships.
“Like Coach Clay said, I did some research, I went to some schools,” Fink said. “But this team is stacked. You have the best players in the nation here. I’m saying that SC is on the rise. We have guys that are going to push us to the top here.”
The redshirt junior replaced Slovis and led the Trojans on an impressive drive, completing 4-of-5 for 64 yards and a 29-yard touchdown to Taylor Vaughns for a 7-0 lead. Utah came right back to tie it with a 5-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 17-yard touchdown run by backup running back Devonta’e Henry-Cole.
USC responded with a 31-yard touchdown pass from Fink to Amon-Ra St. Brown for a 14-7 lead. Utah’s linebacker came free on a blitz up the middle but Fink evaded the sack and hit St. Brown on the run for the score. St. Brown made a touch catch between two defenders.
Utah added a field goal in the second quarter but USC held a 14-10 lead heading into halftime. The Trojans extended the lead in the third quarter on Fink’s 77-yard touchdown pass to Pittman Jr. Utah cut the USC lead to three points on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Huntley to tight end Cole Fotheringham.
The Utes opened the fourth quarter with a 10-play, 62-yard drive but were held to a field goal after Isaiah Pola Mao sacked Huntley on third-and-goal at the 1-yard line. After USC was forced to punt, Drake Jackson hit Huntley as he got rid of the ball to avoid the sack in the end zone. Huntley was called for intentional grounding, giving USC a safety and a 23-20 lead in the fourth quarter.
Pittman Jr. hauled in a 42-yard catch which set up Markese Stepp’s 4-yard touchdown run with 6:58 remaining in the game. Fink finished with 351 yards and three touchdowns.
“I don’t think that this moment was too big for me,” Fink said. “I’ve been in the era of Sam Darnold and I’ve seen things that were much crazier. But I think getting in today and showing what I can do was what I really wanted to do by staying here.”