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USC hangs on to beat Utah in Pac-12's debut game

Matt Barkley passed for 263 yards, Matt Kalil blocked Utah's 41-yard field goal attempt on the wacky final play and Southern California held off the Utes 17-14 Saturday night in the first game in Pac-12 history.

Marc Tyler rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown in his return from suspension and Robert Woods had eight catches for 102 yards as the Trojans (2-0, 1-0) opened their new conference schedule with a tenacious defensive performance against their new division rivals.

But USC couldn't celebrate until Kalil swatted down Coleman Petersen's final kick after the Utes (1-1, 0-1) drove into field-goal range from their 33 in the final 1:01.

Torin Harris returned the kick into the Utah end zone, but the score apparently was waved off by an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty when much of the USC bench ran onto the field to celebrate.

The Pac-12's debut game matched the conference's newest member against the winningest program in league history. Once the biggest BCS-busters outside Boise State, Utah and its raucous fans didn't look at all out of place in the venerable Coliseum.

A week after getting shut out in the second half by lowly Minnesota, USC committed three key turnovers and couldn't score in the final 24 minutes despite outgaining Utah 415 yards to 320.

Neither team was particularly impressive offensively in the second half, with nobody scoring at all in the final 21 minutes. Barkley went 20 for 32 with a 9-yard scoring pass to Xavier Grimble, but the Trojans fumbled and threw an interception deep in Utah territory in the first half.

Jordan Wynn passed for 238 yards, and DeVonte Christopher had 11 catches for 136 yards and a score for the Utes, who hadn't played USC in the Coliseum since 1948. South Los Angeles native John White rushed for a score for the Utes, but they struggled to move the ball consistently all day.

After Wynn threw three incompletions on Utah's final drive, USC thought it had won when Harris tackled DeVonte Christopher inches shy of the first-down marker with 20 seconds left — but after video review, officials changed the spot and gave a first down to Utah.

Tony Burnett then committed pass interference with 11 seconds left, moving Utah to the Trojans 24. The Utes immediately got their field-goal team on the field, but Kalil's block went straight to Harris, whose return set off a huge celebration in the Coliseum end zone.

Tyler returned to the USC lineup after missing the season opener under team suspension for a series of misdeeds culminating in an ill-advised appearance on TMZ. The Trojans' leading rusher last season was allowed to return to practice late last month, and he ran with obvious urgency in his return, getting 24 carries — three times more than any other USC tailback.

The Utes struggled to keep up with USC's size and speed early on, but the disadvantages diminished over time. The Trojans outgained Utah by 87 yards in the first half, but also committed two turnovers inside the Utah 20, limiting their halftime lead to 10-7.

USC kicker Andre Heidari scored the first points in Pac-12 history on a 47-yard field goal, and Tyler scored the first touchdown late in the first quarter on a short drive set up by White's fumble.

After Morgan's fumble, Utah finally solved USC's defense with a 12-play, 84-yard drive culminating in Wynn's 10-yard TD pass to Christopher with 34 seconds left.

But after Utah punted to open the second half, USC replied with an 88-yard drive featuring three big receptions by Grimble, the freshman tight end from Las Vegas. One play before Grimble's 9-yard TD catch, the Utes committed two penalties against Woods on the same play, determined to disrupt USC's top playmaker after his school-record 17 catches last week.

Before the game, USC recognized the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with a ceremony and a pregame presentation of a game ball signed by every coach in the Pac-12. Woods carried a large USC flag while leading the Trojans onto the field.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott attended the game, reiterating his hopeful opposition to major-conference expansion in the next year. While Scott believes megaconferences are inevitable, he would prefer to keep his new conference and the Big 12 intact for at least another year.