Following their first road victory of the season against BYU, the No. 17 Washington football team heads into its second Pac-12 matchup of the year against No. 21 USC. Let’s take a closer look at the keys and figures of the Huskies’ second conference opponent of the 2019 season.
3 numbers to know
351: After true freshman backup quarterback Kedon Slovis got knocked out of the Utah game on the first drive of the first quarter, redshirt junior and third-string quarterback Matt Fink took the reigns of the Southern California offense. Fink threw for 351 passing yards in addition to three touchdown passes in an eventual 30-23 upset over then-No. 10 Utah.
232: Senior wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. had a career night against the Utes. Pittman snagged 10 passes for a career-high 232 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown. He also tallied 95 receiving yards and two receiving scores against BYU two weeks ago as the go-to aerial threat for the Trojans.
14: Sophomore safety Talanoa Hufanga flew around on defense for USC in last week’s matchup against Utah. Hufanga registered a career-best 14 tackles (1.5 for loss) and 0.5 sacks. He has at least eight total tackles in every game so far this season, with three straight games of double-digit tackle production.
2 players to watch
Palaie Gaoteote IV - LB
Sophomore Palaie Gaoteote IV and Hufanga were the defensive stalwarts for USC’s game against Utah. Gaoteote IV had a career-best 14 total tackles in the Trojans’ victory over the Utes. Gaoteote appeared in 10 games and started five as a true freshman while looking to become an anchor on the USC defensive front seven.
Vavae Malepeai - RB
Junior tailback Vavae Malepeai is the lead back for the Trojans after racking up 69 rushing attempts through USC’s first four games. He’s also added four touchdowns via the ground. With nearly three times the amount of carries than the next back, Malepeai is the only USC player with more than 100.
1 recap of last game
USC quickly went from one backup quarterback to the next in its matchup against Utah. quarterback Slovis took a crushing hit on the first drive of the game and Fink filled the void under center for the Trojans. The former third-stringer went on to throw two passing touchdowns in the first half, which included passes from 29 and 31 yards out to redshirt junior Tyler Vaughns and sophomore Amon-Ra St. Brown.
USC took a 14-10 advantage into halftime and forced a Utah punt during the Utes’ first possession of the second half. Following the punt, the Trojans punched it into the endzone following a six-play, 90 yard drive that was capped off by a 77 yard strike from Fink to Pittman to give USC a 21-10 lead.
The Utes responded with a touchdown following a Fink interception to cut the deficit to 21-17. Utah tacked on a field goal to get even closer at 21-20 but that would be the closest they would get. USC sacked Utes quarterback Tyler Huntley in the end zone and the Utes got penalized for intentional grounded, which resulted in a safety and a 23-20 advantage for the Trojans.
USC tacked on another touchdown and earned an upset victory over the Utes by a score of 30-23 to earn their second win over a top-25 team this season.
Reach reporter Evan Wong at email@example.com. Twitter: @evan_wong29
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