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USC is stunned in overtime loss to BYU

Mauricio Botero Restrepo
USC is stunned in overtime loss to BYU

The trap was set. And USC fell right into it.

Mauricio Botero Restrepo

Riding high after a rousing victory over Stanford, with a new dynamic freshman quarterback and a renewed sense of hope behind him, USC rode into the state of Utah on its first road trip of the season with every intention of rolling over Brigham Young.

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Instead, the No. 24 Trojans tripped and fell on their face, losing 30-27 in an overtime game they could ill afford to lose

All week long, coach Clay Helton preached maturity to his young team. Mature teams, he told them, kept their focus in these situations

Advertisement But on Saturday, as its scorching offense went cold, its freshman quarterback’s mastery went stale, and its defense went missing in action, that notion dissolved into the mountain air

It ended with Slovis, the freshman who just a week ago had lit the Coliseum ablaze. But here, in a hostile environment, he folded at the worst possible time, throwing an interception in overtime that clinched the Trojans’ first defeat

Slovis completed 24 of 34 passes for 281 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions — the last of which proved to be the dagger

The road to that moment, however, had been littered with miscues on offense, defense, and special teams

Advertisement It all began according to plan. Slovis marched the Trojans down the field with ease on a 10-play, 74-yard opening drive. He hit open receivers in spite of pressure, showing the composure USC has so often raved about since his arrival. He took what BYU’s defense gave to him

When he ended the drive with a eight-yard dart to Michael Pittman Jr. in the end zone, it seemed the Trojans might skate to a road victory, setting their sights on a marquee Pac-12 matchup next Friday against Utah

But on the next drive, Slovis threw an interception in his own territory. Then, one drive later, he threw another, this one, into triple coverage

With a short field on consecutive possessions, BYU took a 10-7 lead and buckled down on defense

Suddenly, USC had issues moving the ball. Slovis struggled to push the ball down the field. And the run game, which was expected to excel against a BYU defense that allowed over 500 yards on the ground in two weeks, ran more often than not into a wall of defenders

The run game found its rhythm briefly before the half by leaning on its bruising back Markese Stepp. A touchdown from Vavae Malepeai, who led the team with 96 yards, capped the run-heavy drive, tying the score at 17 heading into the half

It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the Trojans finally seemed ready to pull away . But it wasn’t without a little bit of outside help

BYU‘s Lorenzo Fauatea tries to bring down USC quarterback Kedon Slovis during Saturday‘s game. (Getty Images) A 12-play drive late in the third brought BYU deep into USC’s territory. But as the Cougars faced a fourth-and-one play, a bizarre sequence of events handed the ball back to the Trojans

Advertisement A rush attempt on fourth down, which was stopped by USC, was whistled away by the refs, when Clay Helton apparently called a timeout. That timeout was then given back, due to a substitution issue. On BYU’s second try at fourth and one, USC’s defense again held strong,

Taking over at their eight-yard-line, Slovis drove the Trojans down the field on a crucial 13-play drive. In the corner of the end zone, he found Pittman for his second touchdown

Still, the Trojans continued to play with fire. A BYU field goal on the next drive cut the USC lead to four, and on the ensuing possession, the Trojans proceeded to self-sabotage

A penalty on the kickoff put them deep in their own territory again, but this time, there was no crawling out. They punted and could only watch soon after as Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson evaded their rush, hitting a wide-open Gunner Romney 35 yards down the field.

One play later, Wilson spotted an opening in the middle of the field and cut through USC’s defense for a go-ahead touchdown

With time ticking away, the Trojans led their most desperate drive yet down the field. It stalled just in field goal range. So Chase McGrath lined up and kicked a 52-yard field goal to tie it at 27-27, giving USC hope that it may just escape

BYU kicked a field goal on the first possession of overtime

But then, Slovis’ third interception was tipped into the air, and the BYU crowd flooded the field in victory