No. 15 USC clinches Pac-12 South in 38-24 win over Colorado
BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Sam Darnold has seen plenty of what cornerback Ajene Harris can do in practice. He’s just thankful he doesn’t have to face him when it counts.
Darnold tossed two touchdown passes and ran for another , Harris intercepted two passes, including one he returned for a score, and No. 15 Southern California beat Colorado 38-24 on Saturday to wrap up the Pac-12 South title.
“Always good to have someone like him on defense,” Darnold said.
The same can be said of Darnold — on offense, of course — after he threw for 329 yards and improved to 18-3 as a starter.
“I’ve really enjoyed his leadership, whether it’s good times or bad,” USC coach Clay Helton said. “When you’re the quarterback at USC and to have that much pressure on you and do it with so much class and character on a weekly basis, whether things are going good or bad, and perform for his brothers? He’s the definition of believing in the team’s success over individual success.”
USC (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12, CFP No. 11) led 27-0 in the third quarter, but needed to weather a late Colorado comeback. The Trojans blocked two field goals to move to 12-0 against the Buffaloes (5-6, 2-6).
Juwann Winfree had a big day for Colorado by hauling in TD passes of 79 and 57 yards. Steven Montez was tackled on a fourth down play near the USC goal line on Colorado’s final possession with just over a minute remaining. Montez said he thought it was first down. The confusion stemmed from the fact Montez thought the Buffs picked up the first down.
“It was fourth down — all the way,” Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said. “I don’t know.”
A pivotal play in the game was when Colorado tried to get something going with about a minute left before halftime and down 14-0. Montez forced a pass to the outside that Harris stepped in front of, tip-toed along the out-of-bounds line and headed into the end zone.
Harris had another interception in the fourth quarter that nearly went for a score. As he was being tackled, Harris pitched the ball to Marvell Tell III, who took it about 27 yards for a TD. The replay booth took a look and ruled that Harris’ knee was down before the pitch.
“It would’ve been real sweet for the whole squad,” Harris said. “What a great win for us.”
USC will play in the conference title game on Dec. 1 in Santa Clara, California. The representative from the north remains up in the air.
“There’s still a lot out there that we have to get ready for,” Helton said. “We’re going to celebrate tonight and go back to work tomorrow.”
USC: This should please Helton — the Trojans turned in big plays on offense, defense and special teams. This should not — a blocked punt that set up a short score by Phillip Lindsay to make it 27-14 in the third quarter.
Colorado: The Buffaloes remain a win away from reaching bowl eligibility for a second straight season.
USC will be trending up after turning in a dominant first half and something less than that in the second.
LOTS OF PRODUCTION
Darnold had four receivers with 59 yards or more yards.
“Finally starting to get a good groove and rhythm with my receivers,” Darnold said. “It’s really comforting.”
Asked what he will remember about Lindsay’s time with Colorado after the tailback’s final home game, MacIntyre just laughed.
“We got all night?” MacIntyre said. “His inner drive is probably the best I’ve ever seen and been around.”
A NICE RING
Colorado linebacker Trent Headley trotted out to the field on senior day, dropped to a knee near his cheerleader girlfriend and asked her to marry him . She said yes.
THIS & THAT
Ronald Jones II had 142 yards to move past Mike Garrett for sixth place on the Trojans’ all-time rushing list. ... Trojans PK Chase McGrath missed a 40-yard field goal and an extra point. ... The last time USC blocked two field goals in a game was Nov. 4, 2011, against Colorado.
USC: Closes out the regular season against UCLA.
Colorado: After a bye week, travels to Utah on Nov. 25. The Buffs are 32-28-3 all-time against the Utes.
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