Instant analysis from USC's 38-28 win over the Utes in Salt Lake City, Utah:
Player of the game: Matt Barkley
This was the best overall performance of the year for the Trojans quarterback. It started with a rough beginning -- he got stripped of the ball on first series which Utah returned for a touchdown -- but he regrouped and was very consistent the rest of the way. Barkley completed 23 of 30 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns, but more importantly to USC fans, he looked like the old Barkley again.
Game ball: USC defense
It was still very much a ballgame at halftime, with USC only up 24-21, but the Trojans defense did a terrific job of shutting down the Utes’ offense in the second half. The Utes did not have a second-half score until a meaningless late touchdown and only gained 111 yards in the final two quarters. The win was sealed for the Trojans when Nickell Robey intercepted a pass and returned it for a 38-yard score in the fourth quarter.
Star in the making: Star Lotulelei
Lotulelei is considered as one of the elite defensive players in the country and tonight was the biggest stage for him to live up to that ranking. Well, consider it mission accomplished. He made several big plays early against a pretty good center in Khaled Holmes and showed an impressive combination of size and agility. The Trojans eventually made some adjustments which slowed his impact, but there’s no doubt that Lotulelei is a big-time guy.
Turning point: Third-down conversion for Trojans from Barkley to Marqise Lee
USC was down 14-0 early in the game thanks to a pair of turnovers that were turned into points by Utah. USC got stopped on two early plays and was facing a third-and-7 when Barkley hit Lee for 18 yards. The drive continued and eventually ended up with a Silas Redd touchdown run to make it 14-7. If the Trojans hadn’t converted on third down, Utah likely would have had good field position after a punt and all of the momentum.
What it means for USC: The Trojans showed resiliency
The signs were all there for potential trouble, as Thursday night conference road games had been trouble for highly-ranked USC teams in the past and the Utah crowd was fired up to see it happen again. The Trojans had some hiccups -- two early turnovers and 14 penalties -- but they righted the ship and outscored the Utes 38-14 after spotting the Utes two early touchdowns.
What it means for Utah: John White IV is back
It wasn’t the result the Utes were hoping for, especially after getting spotted 14 points at the beginning of the game, but the good news was the solid running from White (13 carries for 68 yards). The star running back has been limited lately due to injury, but he ran hard in this game and was productive when the game was still in doubt in the first half. USC made some adjustments in the second half that slowed him down, but the Utes will need White for the remainder of the season, as he is the prime contributor for their offense.