Junior wide receiver Michael Pittman had six receptions for 155 yards and two touchdowns against Colorado. (Ling Luo | Daily Trojan)The Trojans will roll into Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday looking to extend their win streak to four, and to possibly secure a spot in the Pac-12 Championship game. It won’t be an easy task by any means; Rice-Eccles and its ear-splitting energy have famously been the bane of visiting Trojan squads in the past, and the Utes won’t be a pushover either. Utah sits with the same 4-2 record as USC, coming off of an impressive upset of Stanford, which beat the Trojans, and a 32-point throttling of Arizona. The Trojans’ victory against Colorado last week was a huge step toward securing the Pac-12 South and a spot in the conference championship. After this week, the Trojans’ conference schedule appears to be an easy run of wins as they play Arizona State, Cal, Oregon State and UCLA. A win against a tough Utah team on the road this weekend will likely solidify USC as the champions of the south.USC offense vs. Utah defenseThe USC offense was almost entirely one dimensional last week as it shredded the Buffaloes in the deep passing game to the tune of 283 yards and three touchdowns through the air. The offensive line performed well in pass protection for the third-straight game, giving freshman quarterback JT Daniels clean pockets to work from all night. Daniels wasn’t perfect, but his connection with receivers junior Michael Pittman and redshirt sophomore Tyler Vaughns continued to progress, as he repeatedly kept the chains moving with passes downfield. Pittman stood out with five passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns. “The thing I’ve been thoroughly impressed with [Daniels] is how fast he picks up playbook material,” Head coach Clay Helton said. “He’s so advanced mentally. He’s the main reason we’ve won the last three games against three quality teams.”The run game, however, couldn’t find its rhythm, with the Trojans failing to net positive ground yardage in the first half, ending the game with only 51 rushing yards. The offensive line failed to create any sort of push off the ball making it difficult for both senior running backs Aca’Cedric Ware and sophomore Stephen Carr to find running lanes.The Utes run defense is ranked No. 2 in the nation, giving up an average of only 74.8 rush yards a game. Utah plays with a stacked box, often leaving its defensive backs in man coverage with senior safety Marqise Blair playing single-high coverage deep. “Because of the quality of free safety that we’re getting ready to play in Blair, [one important key for Daniels] is being really disciplined with [his] eyes,” Helton said. “If you give away your intentions, [Blair’s] got enough range and enough speed to pick any ball off even on one hop. It’s important that [Daniels] does not lock in on receivers.” Although the Trojans will find it difficult to run against the physical Utah front seven, their scheme in the secondary leaves them prone to exploitation down the field via the passing game, with their No. 67-ranked pass defense. Look for Daniels to continue launching deep shots to Pittman, Vaughns and freshman receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown to keep the chains moving.Utah offense vs. USC defenseThe Utah offense runs through junior Zach Moss. The running back has been following up his phenomenal campaign from last year with another strong season, with 617 rush yards on a healthy 5.6 yards per carry. Junior quarterback Tyler Huntley throws the ball efficiently on a low volume of throws, working well with Moss and the run game, capitalizing on play action plays. USC’s run defense has been impressive in recent weeks as they’ve held Colorado, Arizona and Washington State to under 100 rushing yards each. Although Moss and Utah’s physical offensive line provide a much higher degree of difficulty, the Trojan defense is well equipped to handle a run-first offense, given the health of linebackers freshman Palaie Gaoteote and senior Cameron Smith, who may not play Saturday. “[Gaoteote is a] very smart and instinctive kid,” Helton said. “That linebacker position is like being a quarterback of the defense, and having to make calls and adjustments based on strength of formation. You’re literally a quarterback back there having to make those calls plus doing your own job.”Though Utah’s passing offense isn’t as lethal, Huntley and his receivers can make big plays, especially when he’s given time in the pocket. USC rediscovered its pass rush on Saturday after it was practically nonexistent for weeks, racking up four sacks on the Buffaloes. However, in doing so, the Trojans lost their best pass-rusher in senior linebacker Porter Gustin, who will miss the rest of his senior season with a broken ankle.The loss of Gustin is a huge blow to the defense, and it remains to be seen how it will fill the void of his absence on the pass rush. If the front seven can manage to step up, it’ll be huge for the Trojans’ chances.“They are a very good third down and one to five team,” Helton said. “You try to get them to a third and seven plus, and try and make them to a drop back pass team. That is where we thrive defensively, because we have the pass rush skill to get to the quarterback.”Injury reportGaoteote has been cleared to play after suffering a concussion against Colorado. He practiced on Thursday but will be a gametime decision on Saturday, along with senior linebacker Cameron Smith. Smith is progressing and moving around well, according to Helton. Redshirt senior cornerback Jonathan Lockett will travel to Utah with the team but will also be a gametime decision.Prediction: USC 28-Utah 21Expect this to be a tough, gritty game. Rice-Eccles Stadium is one of the toughest venues to play in college football, and with a Pac-12 South title in the balance, expect the Utes crowd to bring the noise and make life difficult for the Trojans. However, USC is built to match the strengths and weaknesses of this Utah team, able to light it up passing downfield and able to play tough run defense. It’ll be a hard fought contest, but look for the Trojans to eke this one out as they take advantage of the Ute’s aggressive front seven and slow down Moss and the run game.Steele decommitsFive-star cornerback Chris Steele from St. John Bosco High School decommitted on Thursday. “I have decided that it would be best for me to decommit from USC and open up my recruitment so that I can find a place that will help me reach all the goals that I wish to accomplish,” Steele tweeted in his statement. “There is no love lost for USC, it’s my hometown school and they will always hold a special place in my heart.”Nathan Hyun contributed to this report.
Serena Williams survived a scare before getting past Marie Bouzkova in the Rogers Cup semi-finals on Saturday.The star made another slow start at the WTA Premier event, but again recovered to reach the final courtesy of a 1-6 6-3 6-3 victory over Czech qualifier Bouzkova. Williams moved into her 96th WTA Tour final and fifth at the Rogers Cup, where she is a three-time champion and will face Bianca Andreescu in the decider in Toronto.But the 23-time grand slam winner looked in trouble early, dropping her first set of the tournament against the 21-year-old Bouzkova.It’s hard court win number for @serenawilliams!She is through to the @RogersCup final. Comes back against Bouzkova 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 pic.twitter.com/okADu9hthI— WTA (@WTA) August 11, 2019Williams committed 18 unforced errors in the first set, a backhand into the bottom of the net seeing her drop the opener.Needing a response, Williams broke in the seventh game of the second set, crushing a forehand return winner on her way to winning the final four games of the set.Bouzkova threatened to land the first blow of the decider, but Williams saved three break points in the third game. That would prove to be crucial as she broke in the following game, taking a 3-1 lead she would not relinquish.Andreescu awaits in the final after the 19-year-old Canadian overcame Sofia Kenin 6-4 7-6 (7-5) in the day’s earlier semi.She became the first Canadian to reach the women’s singles final at the modern Rogers Cup and first since 1969, when the event was called the Canadian Open.@Bandreescu_ advances to the @rogerscup final! The 19-year-old hometown hero defeats Sofia Kenin 6-4, 7-6(4)! pic.twitter.com/KptpqLDN6B— WTA (@WTA) August 10, 2019
…accepts that some “older” comrades against his leadership styleThe Peoples Progressive Party will continue its policy of affording its younger and more talented members and supporters access to meaningful opportunities to serve the party at various levels, as it continues its bid to regain the reins of executive office.PPP General Secretary Bharrat JagdeoThis is the only way the PPP can train and nurture the best quality of leaders, who will be tasked with continuing the legacy, political ideology, and belief system of the PPP.These sentiments were expressed by that party’s General Secretary, Bharrat Jagdeo, who on Thursday told media operatives that he is fully aware that there are some older members of his party who disagree with his leadership style and the fact that they are sometimes not being selected for certain roles.Jagdeo, one of Guyana’s youngest and longest serving former Presidents, made no apologies for putting youths first, but insisted that in order for the PPP to survive in the current political climate, a new cadre of leaders must, from within its youth corps, emerge capable of carrying on the struggle with the full support and mentorship of their elders and the party’s treasured “old guards”.“For me, one thing is important for the party…I got an opportunity as a young man from this party…and that this party continues to appreciate professionals, continues to give young people room to grow,” he insisted when asked if he was concerned that there may be divisions within his party because of the nonsupport of some seniors, which is seen as vital to his success as General Secretary.Acknowledging that it is a fact that “many have a problem” with his leadership style, the PPP General Secretary said he is concerned about the energy and vitality of those who wanted to serve the party in its quest to move forward.“If you’re spent, there is a place for you”, the General Secretary remarked, before adding, “But you shift down a bit and allow others to emerge and be new leaders. And you can be spent as a young person or as an old person”.Jagdeo explained that he is doing his best; and for him, the future of the PPP is more important than personalities and people’s quest for personal aggrandisement and fame.He stoutly defended his style as GS and the policies he has embarked upon, stating that while “there may be occasional concerns about that…we have no choice but to do that for the sake of the future of Guyana, future of our party”.Jagdeo explained: “We have to get the older comrades to see their responsibility as incubating another generation of leaders, bringing in young people.” He was confident, nonetheless, that he is making the right choices and decisions at this time in Guyana’s history; choices that would result in innumerable benefits for the party in the long run.He reasoned that it was not possible to get the support of “100” percent of all of the members, but he insisted that a major of the top ranking and grass roots supporters and PPP members were firmly behind him and supporting his leadership. (Michael Younge)