Los Angeles — In less than two weeks, Southern California went from the depths of a coach’s firing to the heights of a wild celebration after beating the No. 3 team in the nation.
Most of these Trojans have been on a roller-coaster from the day they joined this storied but troubled program. This particular peak sent them soaring over mighty Utah.
Cameron Smith returned the second of his three interceptions 54 yards for a touchdown, and USC knocked the third-ranked Utes from the unbeaten ranks with a 42-24 victory Saturday night.
Ronald Jones II, Justin Davis and fullback Soma Vainuku rushed for scores to help the Trojans (4-3, 2-2 Pac-12) snap their two-game skid and earn a victory for interim coach Clay Helton in his debut game at the Coliseum.
“These guys want to prove to everybody what type of team they are,” Helton said. “When we play together and play like we did tonight, they’re a very hard football team to beat. There’s a lot of talent in that room.”
Cody Kessler passed for 264 yards and a touchdown and rushed for another score, while JuJu Smith-Schuster had eight catches for 143 yards and a fourth-quarter TD that wrapped up the win. The sounds of the Trojans’ celebration could be heard through the walls of the Coliseum, where USC had lost its previous two home games.
The Trojans were outstanding in their first appearance at the venerable arena since an embarrassing loss to Washington and the subsequent firing of coach Steve Sarkisian. After Helton took over for last week’s narrow loss at Notre Dame, he became the eighth straight USC coach to win his first home game when his Trojans dominated the Pac-12 South leaders.
“It’s been tough, and these guys have been pushed to the limit, but (Helton) has kept everything together,” Kessler said. “He has kept us family. It was a great win, but that’s what we expect.”
Smith, USC’s dynamic freshman linebacker, led a fine defensive performance by picking off Travis Wilson’s throws and making three returns for a combined 122 yards, including his scoring romp down the USC sideline 1:07 before halftime.
“Any time a big play happens, the whole team feels it,” Smith said. “We piggyback on each other and make more big plays.”
Utah was second in the nation in turnover margin entering the game, forcing 19 turnovers and committing just seven. The Trojans erased that advantage thanks to Smith, the first USC player with three interceptions in a game since Jason Oliver in 1991 against Penn State.
“In my opinion, that’s the best team we have played all year long, for certain from a personnel standpoint,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, whose Utes have beaten Oregon and Michigan. “Give them credit, they played well. Tough to give them essentially three touchdowns on turnovers and hope to have a chance to win against a team of that caliber.”
Britain Covey caught two touchdown passes for the Utes (6-1, 3-1), whose eight-game winning streak ended.
While Wilson threw four interceptions during a rough night for the Orange County native, Utah also inexplicably failed to establish its running game against USC, which had been bullied up front this season. Star tailback Devontae Booker had just 14 carries for 62 yards, and Bubba Poole rushed for a score.
“We didn’t expect to get punched in the mouth like that,” Utah linebacker Gionni Paul said. “I forgot what it feels like to lose. I’m so used to winning. It’s a bad feeling. A lot of guys in the locker room didn’t like that, so I don’t think we are going to lose anymore.”
The tumult-plagued Trojans entered the night as slight betting favorites against the powerful Utes, and USC proved Vegas’ prescience with an excellent game plan that largely played to its strengths. Jones and Davis combined for 139 yards rushing, and Smith led an aggressive defensive effort that limited Utah to 213 yards in the first three quarters.
Smith returned his first interception 41 yards to set up Vainuku’s fourth-down TD dive. In the second quarter, Smith took his second interception to the house, putting the Trojans up 28-14.
“In practice and spring, he had the best hands on the team,” USC safety Chris Hawkins said of Smith. “And then all this season he couldn’t catch a thing. We’ve been taunting him about it this week. I guess he heard.”
Utah played without top linebacker Jared Norris, Kessler’s best friend in their native Bakersfield, California.
(At) No. 2 Baylor 45, Iowa State 27: Shock Linwood ran for 171 yards with a touchdown, and caught a pass for another score as Baylor took its FBS-best 20th consecutive home win while ending another impressive streak.
On a rainy day along the Brazos River, the Bears (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) were held under 60 points for the first time in six games. The only other NCAA team with five consecutive 60-point games was Oklahoma in 2008.
Corey Coleman had two more touchdown catches, his sixth consecutive game with multiple scores pushing his FBS-leading total to 18. He also surpassed Kendall Wright’s school record for career touchdowns with his 31st.
Coleman had a 36-yard score on Baylor’s opening drive, then had a downfield block that helped quarterback Seth Russell break free on a 37-yard TD run for a quick 14-0 lead. Coleman caught a 12-yarder from Jarrett Stidham in the closing minutes.
Mike Warren had his fourth 100-yard rushing game for Iowa State (2-5, 1-3), with 145 yards on 28 carries. Joshua Thomas, another freshman, ran 13 times for 77 yards and a score.
(At) No. 5 LSU 48, Western Kentucky 20: Brandon Harris passed for a career-high 286 yards, with two of his three scoring passes going for more than 50 yards, for LSU.
Leonard Fournette ran for 150 yards and a short touchdown on a soggy field, giving him 1,352 yards rushing and 15 TDs this season.
The Hilltoppers (6-2) were as close as 17-13 on Brandon Doughty’s 39-yard touchdown pass to Antwane Grant in the third quarter, but LSU (7-0) scored the next 17 points.
Malachi Dupre caught a 55-yard scoring pass on LSU’s opening series. Tigers freshman Tyron Johnson made a tough downfield catch over defender Wonderful Terry, then scampered about 20 yards for his 61-yard score in the third quarter.
Doughty, who came in averaging 387 yards passing, finished with 325 yards, three TDs and one interception against LSU.
No. 6 Clemson 58, (at) Miami 0: Clemson handed Miami its worst defeat in the program’s 90-year history.
Deshaun Watson threw for a touchdown and ran for another, while Wayne Gallman rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown for the Tigers (7-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference).
Stacy Coley had eight catches for 54 yards for Miami (4-3, 1-2), in a game that could doom whatever chance Hurricanes coach Al Golden had of keeping his job much longer. There was booing and a “Fire Golden” chant from the sparse crowd even before the first quarter ended, and the stands were largely empty by the midpoint of the third quarter.
Until Saturday, the worst loss in Miami history was a 70-14 defeat to Texas A&M on Dec. 8, 1944. It was Clemson’s largest win over an FBS opponent since an 82-24 win over Wake Forest on Oct. 31, 1981.
(At) No. 8 Alabama 19, Tennessee 14: Derrick Henry’s 14-yard touchdown run with 2:24 left lifted Alabama.
Alabama’s aggressive defense then recorded two straight sacks and Ryan Anderson knocked the ball loose from Joshua Dobbs to preserve the win and the Crimson Tide’s national championship hopes.
Alabama (7-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) got plenty of help, with Tennessee (3-4, 1-3) missing three long field goal attempts.
The Vols took the lead on Jalen Hurd’s 12-yard scoring run with 5:49 left. Alabama overwhelmed the 15-point underdogs from there.
Quarterback Jake Coker moved Alabama downfield thanks to athletic catches by ArDarius Stewart and Calvin Ridley. Then he turned it over to Henry.
Dobbs and Tennessee managed a first down before the sacks. Anderson jarred the ball loose and A’Shawn Robinson recovered on the second one.
Alabama has won the last nine meetings, and the Vols have dropped 24 straight against Top 10 teams.
(At) Georgia Tech 22, No. 9 Florida State 16: Lance Austin returned a blocked field goal 78 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the game to give Georgia Tech an upset.
Roberto Aguayo, one of the most accurate kickers in the country, attempted a 56-yard field goal to win the game for the Seminoles (6-1, 4-1 Atlantic Coast) with 6 seconds remaining. But the kick was low, and Patrick Campbell managed to get a hand on it.
While most of the Georgia Tech players celebrated, Austin went back to retrieve the ball, rolling along inside the 25-yard line.
At first, he seemed hesitant to pick it up. But then he did, taking off the other way in front of the Georgia Tech bench. He avoided Aguayo’s diving attempt, then cut back on the final guy who had a shot at him to win the game for Georgia Tech (3-5, 1-4).
Georgia Tech snapped a five-game losing streak and might have knocked Florida State out of the race for the national championship. The Yellow Jackets also ended Florida State’s record-tying streak of 28 straight victories against ACC opponents, a run that dated to 2012 and matched the Seminoles’ streak of winning its first 28 conference games after joining the league in 1992.
Leading 16-13, Florida State had a chance to seal the victory in the fourth quarter as it drove deep into Georgia Tech territory. On third-and-goal from the 10, Everett Golson’s deflected pass led to the Seminoles’ first offensive turnover of the season — and first turnover of any kind since their first game. Jamal Golden made the interception in the back of the end zone.
(At) No. 10 Stanford 31, Washington 14: Christian McCaffrey caught a touchdown pass, ran for another score and gained 300 all-purpose yards in another sterling all-around performance to lead Stanford to its sixth straight victory. Kevin Hogan threw for 290 yards and two scores for the Cardinal (6-1, 5-0 Pac-12). They have topped 30 points in each game since a season-opening loss to Northwestern thanks to their efficient quarterback and all-purpose star.
McCaffrey, who entered the game with an FBS-best 253 all-purpose yards per game, had a 50-yard touchdown catch and 7-yard scoring run in the third quarter. In all, he ran 23 times for 109 yards, caught five passes for a career-high 112 yards and added 79 yards on kick returns in his third 300-yard all-purpose game of the season.
The Huskies (3-4, 1-3) were no match for the Cardinal, especially with starting quarterback Jake Browning watching with an injury. Backup K.J. Carta-Samuels completed just 9 of 21 passes for 118 yards as Washington didn’t even cross midfield until the third quarter.
The one bright spot for the Huskies was freshman running back Myles Gaskin, who ran for 108 yards and a score for his third straight 100-yard game. Gaskin ran five times for 57 yards on the opening drive of the third quarter to cut Stanford’s lead to 17-7.
(At) No. 14 Oklahoma State 58, Kansas 10: Backup quarterback J.W. Walsh ran for three touchdowns and passed for two more to help Oklahoma State, hours after a fatal crash near the stadium during the school’s homecoming festivities.
Four people were killed and dozens injured when a woman suspected of driving under the influence plowed a car into a crowd at the homecoming parade. Oklahoma State considered postponing the game, but in the end, opted to go ahead with it.
The flag at Boone Pickens Stadium was lowered to half-staff and Cowboys players knelt down on the field and prayed before the coin flip.
Mason Rudolph completed 20 of 26 passes for 305 yards and had a touchdown for Oklahoma State (7-0, 4-0 Big 12).
Kansas (0-7, 0-4) lost its 10th straight game overall and 36th on the road.
(At) No. 24 Mississippi 23, No. 15 Texas A&M 3: Chad Kelly threw for 241 yards and two touchdowns and Mississippi dominated on defense.
Ole Miss (6-2, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) bounced back from last week’s loss to Memphis. Laquon Treadwell caught five passes for 102 yards and a touchdown and Jaylen Walton ran for 97 yards.
Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2) has lost two straight. Sophomore Kyle Allen completed just 12 of 34 passes for 88 yards before being replaced by Jake Hubenak early in the fourth quarter.
Ole Miss jumped out to a 16-3 lead by halftime and put the game out of reach with a 58-yard touchdown pass from Kelly to Treadwell with 9:16 left in the third quarter.
Ole Miss then relied on its defense to coast to a surprisingly one-sided win.
(At) No. 17 Oklahoma 63, Texas Tech 27: Samaje Perine ran for 201 yards and four touchdowns and helped quarterback Baker Mayfield top his old team.
Mayfield transferred from Tech after his freshman season in 2013 and had to sit out last year because the school blocked him from playing right away.
Mayfield completed 15 of 22 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns. Joe Mixon ran for 154 yards and two scores, and the Sooners (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) ran for 405 yards.
Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes passed for 233 yards and ran for 58, but threw four interceptions. DeAndre Washington ran for 94 yards and a touchdown for the Red Raiders (5-3, 2-3).
Mayfield walked on and started at Tech two years ago before losing the job, and he transferred because he believed Tech had no plans to offer him a scholarship. In his first game against his former team, he helped the Sooners gain 617 total yards.
Oklahoma jumped to a 21-3 lead, but two turnovers by the Sooners became scores for the Red Raiders. Reginald Davis caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes, and Washington scored from 13 yards out to bring the Red Raiders back.
No. 19 Toledo 51, (at) Massachusetts 35: Phillip Ely recovered from a poor start and threw four of his five touchdown passes in the second half as Toledo stormed back from an 18-point deficit.
Ely was intercepted three times in the first half, but the Rockets (7-0, 4-0 MAC), and are off to their best start since 1997. He completed 26 of 47 passes for 355 yards.
Terry Swanson ran 21 times for 117 yards and a score for Toledo, which entered with its highest ranking in Top 25 since climbing to No. 18 in ’97.
Blake Frohnapfel completed 27 of 49 passes for 240 yards and four TDs for UMass (1-6, 0-3 MAC). The game was played at Gillette Stadium, home of the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
No. 21 Houston 59, (at) UCF 10: Kenneth Farrow ran for 167 yards and three touchdowns and Houston remained undefeated with a victory over winless Central Florida.
The Cougars (7-0, 4-0 AAC) scored 24 points in a mid-game span of 31/2 minutes and won for the fifth time by 21 points or more.
Houston cornerback Brandon Wilson scored on an 85-yard return of a fumble on the third play of the game, but the Cougars fell behind 10-7 before rallying late in the first half and turning the game into a rout in the third quarter.
Farrow’s 26-yard touchdown run gave Houston the lead with 2:26 left in the half, and interceptions by William Jackson III and Donald Gage set up a TD and a field goal in the final 50 seconds.
Tristan Payton scored UCF’s touchdown on a 46-yard pass from Justin Holman, but the Golden Knights (0-8, 0-4) had four turnovers and gained only 105 yards after the first quarter.
(At) No. 23 Duke 45, Virginia Tech 43 (4OT): Thomas Sirk threw four touchdown passes and ran for a 2-point conversion in the fourth overtime to lift Duke.
Sirk hit Erich Schneider with a 25-yard TD pass on the first play of the fourth overtime, after the Hokies had scored and missed the mandatory 2-point attempt. Sirk then rolled right and cut upfield, giving the Blue Devils (6-1, 3-0) the victory in the longest game in Atlantic Coast Conference history.
Virginia Tech (3-5, 1-3) lost for the fourth time in five games, and for the third time this season at home. The Hokies, getting the ball first in the fourth extra period, seemed in good shape to either win or extend it, but after Travon McMillians’s 1-yard touchdown run, Michael Brewer’s 2-point conversion pass to Isaiah Ford was broken up by Deondre Singleton just inside the goal line.
No. 25 Pittsburgh 23, (at) Syracuse 20: A fake punt for a first down helped set up Chris Blewitt’s 25-yard field goal on the final play of the game for Pittsburgh.
The Panthers (6-1, 4-0 ACC) have now won four of five on the road, with their only loss at Iowa on a 57-yard field goal on the final play of the game. Syracuse (3-4, 1-2 ACC) has lost four straight.
Qadree Ollison ran for 98 yards and two touchdowns for the Panthers, including key yardage on the winning drive.
With the score at 20-all and time ticking away, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi called for a fake punt on fourth down near midfield. Punter Ryan Winslow hit Matt Galambos for 12 yards and a first down.
Ollison took care of the rest, gaining 26 yards on seven straight carries to set up the winning kick.
Freshman quarterback Eric Dungey kept the Orange in the game, going 21-of-30 for 210 yards passing and two scores. Steve Ishmael had seven catches for a career-high 114 yards and one TD.
Tyler Boyd, the most prolific pass catcher in Pitt history with 204 career receptions, had 12 catches for 93 yards, six runs for 39, and one pass completion for 38. Nate Peterman was efficient again, going 19-for-25 passing for 189 yards.
No. 18 Memphis 66, (at) Tulsa 42: Paxton Lynch completed 32 of 44 passes for a career-high 447 yards and four touchdowns to help Memphis win its 14th straight game.
Lynch has thrown for more than 300 yards in each of his last six games for Memphis (7-0, 3-0 American Athletic).
Dane Evans was 24-of-36 passing for 421 yards and four touchdowns for the Golden Hurricane (3-4, 0-3), who had 504 yards of total offense. Keyarris Garrett had 14 catches for a career-high 268 yards and three touchdowns.
Both in the top 10 nationally in total offense, the teams combined for 1,248 yards of offense in the wild back-and-forth affair.
Sophomore Doroland Dorceus had a career-high 150 yards rushing and two touchdowns and Jamarius Henderson added 119 yards on the ground and two scores on 14 carries for Memphis, which totaled 704 yards.