Los Angeles — Matt Fink decided to stay at Southern California even after finishing third in the Trojans’ four-man quarterback competition in training camp last month.
A few weeks later, Fink found himself passing for 351 yards, leading a victory over No. 10 Utah at the roaring Coliseum, and sitting between Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart for a postgame interview on national television.
Fink didn’t give up on his USC dream, and the Trojans are grateful they had such a talented backup to their backup.
Michael Pittman Jr. caught 10 passes for a career-high 232 yards and a touchdown from Fink in USC’s 30-23 victory over the Utes on Friday night.
Fink went 21 of 30 with three touchdown passes for USC (3-1, 2-0 Pac-12) after taking over when freshman Kedon Slovis left with a possible concussion on the second play of the game. Fink mostly looked sharp as the third quarterback to play important snaps in four games for the Trojans, who lost starter J.T. Daniels to a season-ending knee injury in their opener.
“I don’t think this moment was too big for me,” Fink said. “I’ve been in the era of Sam Darnold, and I’ve seen things that are much crazier. Getting in today and showing what I can do is what I really wanted to do by staying here.”
After barely playing the past two seasons, Fink nearly went to Illinois as a graduate transfer last spring. The Los Angeles-area native instead decided to stay home and wait for a chance, however remote.
“In a world where everybody goes different places, this one stayed for his family, waiting for his moment, waiting for his memory,” USC coach Clay Helton said. “And what a memory it was tonight. When his number was called, he made the most of it tonight.”
Tyler Vaughns, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Pittman all caught TD passes from Fink, while Pittman had the fifth-biggest receiving yardage game in USC history. His remarkable 42-yard catch in the fourth quarter eventually led to a 4-yard TD run by Markese Stepp , who celebrated by handing the ball to Bush, the Trojans great attending the game as a broadcaster despite his NCAA-mandated disassociation from his school.
Devontae Henry-Cole rushed for an early touchdown and Cole Fotheringham caught a TD pass for the Utes (3-1, 0-1), who struggled after star running back Zack Moss left in the first half with an apparent shoulder injury. Utah still has never won at the 96-year-old Coliseum.
Tyler Huntley passed for 210 yards and ran for 60 more, but the Utes committed 16 penalties for 120 yards and struggled to get key defensive stops against a green Trojans quarterback and his stellar receivers.
“Mostly we had no answer for their receiving corps,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Michael Pittman did a number on us. We just didn’t do a good enough job on him. We’ve got to rethink some things coaching-wise.”
With Bush and Urban Meyer watching at the Coliseum as part of Fox Sports’ broadcast crew, USC’s roller coaster season went on the upswing again after last week’s embarrassing overtime loss at BYU.
Slovis had played two encouraging games as the starter after replacing Daniels, but he couldn’t continue after 335-pound Utah defensive tackle Leki Fotu landed on him. Helton said Slovis “got dinged,” and the USC medical staff held him out.
Fink jumped into USC’s Air Raid offense and completed eight of his first nine throws during two game-opening touchdown drives in which he relied heavily on his receivers’ playmaking abilities.
Pittman then scored on a brilliant 77-yard catch early in the third quarter, snatching a long pass away from defenders and fending them off on his run.
(At) No. 20 Boise State 30, Air Force 19: Hank Bachmeier threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns, Robert Mahone rushed for a pair of scores in the fourth quarter, and Boise State pulled away in the second half.
Bachmeier’s arm made up for a Broncos’ running game that was ineffective until the fourth quarter. He hit CT Thomas on a 36-yard touchdown pass in the first half while getting crunched by a defender, and added a 28-yard TD toss to tight end John Bates late in the third quarter to give the Broncos a 17-13 lead.
Mahone added a pair of 10-yard TD runs in the fourth as the Broncos (4-0, 1-0 Mountain West) won their 20th straight conference opener.
Bachmeier completed 19 of 26 passes in another impressive performance by the freshman in just his fourth start.
Air Force quarterback Donald Hammond III had an 8-yard touchdown run in the first half and threw a 31-yard TD to Geraud Sanders late in the fourth quarter. Taven Birdow led Air Force (2-1, 0-1) with 67 yards rushing, but the second-best rushing attack in the country was held to 242 yards, more than 100 yards under its season average.