USC senior cornerback Ajene Harris put the game away in the third quarter when he intercepted a tipped pass and returned it six yards for the score. The Crenshaw High School product was part of a Trojans defense that finished with 16 tackles for loss.
“I kind of saw it was thrown behind him and he bobbled it,” Harris said. “I tried to secure as fast as I can and get into the end zone. I do my job, being and athlete, and making a play.”
The Trojans scored 21 points in the second quarter en route to 31-20 victory over previously undefeated No. 19 Colorado on Saturday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Michael Pittman Jr. hauld in five receptions for 144 yards and two touchdowns to help the Trojans win its third straight game after suffering back-to-back losses. USC (4-2, 3-1) jumped to the top of the Pac-12 South division and remained unbeaten at home under head coach Clay Helton.
“It was a really good win for our team,” Helton said. “It’s a win that allows us to control our destiny the rest of the way, it gives us first place and we have the opportunity now to move on to Utah and prepare for that game.”
On defense, USC was flying to the football and making plays all over the field, holding Colorado to 265 total yards. The Buffaloes had only 164 yards through the first three quarters.
“I was very proud of them,” Helton said of his defense. “I thought we were playing in their backfield the entire night. Whether it was run game, pass game. Their quarterback had a night where he was having to get off his spot consistently and just interrupt his timing.”
Freshman linebacker Palaie Gaoteote, who started in place of injured Cam Smith, led the defense with nine tackles.
“We did a lot of extra meetings around Thursday and Friday with coach Clancy and Cam,” Gaoteote said. “They got me straightened out with calls and alignments so coming into the game I was really confident.”
Helton said it was a tremendous plan by Clancy (Pendergast) and the defensive staff. He credits Johnny Nansen and Kenechi Udeze for a great job with what they’re doing with that D-line.
After a scoreless first quarter, Colorado’s Laviska Shenault takes a direct snap and races 49 yards for the score. USC answered with a J.T. Daniels to Tyler Vaughns touchdown on the ensuing drive.
USC took a 14-7 lead on a 65-yard touchdown pass from Daniels to Michael Pittman Jr. in the second quarter. The duo connected again, this time for a 9-yard touchdown with 1:10 left in the first half. The Trojans went into halftime leading, 21-7.
USC hits the road to take on Utah next Saturday in a Pac-12 south showdown.