USC football, now No. 21 in the AP Poll, is used to being the dominant team targeted by others, not the underdog pulling the upset. However, Fink said he believes this team is on its way to returning to college football’s elite. Pittman’s highlight of the night was a career-high 77-yard touchdown on USC’s first drive of the third quarter. Pittman said he thought Utah knew the ball was going to him after his hot start, but that it didn’t matter. Utah eventually made it a 21-20 game, appearing to have all the momentum on its side when it forced USC to punt with under 10 minutes left in the game. Senior wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter against Utah. (Katie Pietzold / Daily Trojan) “What I’m most proud of, though, is we get the ball on a four-minute drive when you gotta have it, everyone knows we’re going to run it, we competed and found a way to do it,” offensive coordinator Graham Harrell said after the game. After freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis went down with an injury on the second play from scrimmage, Fink’s 351 yards and three touchdowns helped USC to a 30-23 victory over Utah at the Coliseum. Utah’s sloppy play was not confined to penalties, though. Right before halftime, Utah had the ball at USC’s 2-yard line and a go-ahead touchdown looked inevitable. However, with 16 seconds remaining, Trojan sophomore inside linebacker Palaie Gaoteote IV forced sophomore running back Devin Brumfield to fumble. Redshirt sophomore cornerback Greg Johnson scooped it up, and USC was ahead at the break. While Fink’s excellent start was certainly the story of the first half, USC wouldn’t have entered halftime ahead if not for several Utah mistakes. The Utes set themselves back on almost every offensive drive and were flagged nine times for 75 yards in the first half alone. “Matt’s not scared to take shots,” Pittman said after the game. “He’ll look at me and then give me the signal, and I know that he’s probably going to throw that pass.” “I can’t tell you how proud I am of [Fink],” head coach Clay Helton said. “In today’s world, things don’t always go your way, and you live through adversity, and you say, ‘Hey, you know what, when my opportunity comes, I’m going to make the most of it.’” “We really just wanted to keep him in the pocket, so we just rushed him at a certain rate to where he couldn’t get out or get around us,” Jackson said. “They just couldn’t stop me,” he said after the game, smiling. That’s when the defense stepped up. The play was the capstone of USC’s improved pursuit of Huntley in the second half. The Utes’ signal-caller rushed for 48 yards in the first half compared to just 12 in the second. It has been a turbulent journey for Fink. In the offseason, even before he was named the third-stringer, he entered the transfer portal and took a visit to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. However, the talent level at USC brought him back, and he mentioned that his bond with his teammates helped him push through the disappointment. After the game, Fink said he knew he was prepared for the opportunity and was not fazed by the pressure. Fink connected with senior wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. for a staggering 232 yards on the night — a career-high for the tenured receiver. It was a lead USC would not relinquish. After redshirt freshman punter Ben Griffiths pinned the Utes at their 6-yard line in the middle of the fourth, freshman defensive lineman Drake Jackson pressured Utah senior quarterback Tyler Huntley in the end zone, forcing an intentional grounding and a safety. “Just do my job,” Fink said. “I don’t think this moment was too big for me.” Utah responded with a field goal, but USC picked up a few first downs to run out the clock and seal the win. Wide receivers redshirt junior Tyler Vaughns and sophomore Amon-Ra St. Brown also scored on USC’s first two drives, early signs that the unit would steal the show for the Trojans. Friday night’s matchup between USC and No. 10 Utah was one of the most highly anticipated games of the past few seasons for the Trojans — not just because it had a chance to decide the winner of the Pac-12 South, but because former Trojan running back Reggie Bush was making his return to the Coliseum as a broadcaster. The Trojans’ rushing unit — which picked up only 13 yards compared to Utah’s 247 — managed to do just enough. The “Reggie, Reggie” postgame chants from USC fans didn’t come as a surprise, but the guest on Bush’s FOX postgame show — redshirt junior quarterback Matt Fink — did. After the ensuing punt, a 42-yard pass from Fink to Pittman led to a 4-yard touchdown run from redshirt freshman tailback Markese Stepp, putting the Trojans up 30-20. “You have the best players in the nation here,” Fink said. “I’m saying that ‘SC is on the rise. We have guys that are going to push us to the top here.”
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