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Streaks are meant to be broken: Utes looking to make history in Coliseum with win

Utah Utes running back Jordan Wilmore (5) is tackled for a loss of yardage during the game against the USC Trojans at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020.

Utah Utes running back Jordan Wilmore (5) is tackled for a loss of yardage during the game against the USC Trojans at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Where a game is played has no bearing on the result of a football game ... at least in theory.

Even the iconic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which has seen its fair share of historical moments from college football to the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics, is just a building that hosts the games played. And yet, the Coliseum is a fortress of sorts for the Trojans.

Inside the Coliseum, USC maintains an impressive 453-143-27 (72.7%) all-time record since the stadium opened in 1923 — six wins were vacated as a result of an NCAA penalty on the university. It's also a stadium where Utah has never won, despite several close attempts.

The last time Utah claimed a victory on USC's home field was in 1916 — a 27-12 win in front of 2,000 people — but the game was played at Fiesta Park and not at the Coliseum. So the next time Utah wins at the Coliseum, it will be the first time.

And until the losing streak ends, Utah's players and coaches will continue to answers questions about the difficulty of playing at the Coliseum.

Everyone gets what's at stake Saturday (6 p.m. MT, FOX) when the Utes (2-2, 1-0 Pac-12) travel to Los Angeles with hopes of a second straight win in Pac-12 play against a familiar opponent in USC (3-2, 2-2 Pac-12).

The streak at the Coliseum sounds longer than the reality of the series (USC leads 13-6 all-time, 9-0 at the Coliseum) considering that only nine games have been played between the two programs at the venue, but the point stands that Utah is winless in five tries over the last decade since joining the Pac-12.

And if ending the streak wasn't worthy of a challenge alone, Utah will be doing it with the added struggle of playing a game two weeks after former teammate Aaron Lowe was tragically killed while attending a private house party in Sugar House.

"That's history right there," quarterback Cam Rising said. "We have a lot of things that we need to play for — for Aaron and we've got history on the line — that we can accomplish right here as a team. We've got to do everything right this week to make sure that we can do that."

Regardless of the historical implications or playing while grieving, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said his team had to prepare "just like it takes to win any ball game."

"You've got to do your work Monday through Friday, and that's our challenge. ... Our guys know what it takes to win at this level," Whittingham said. "It's very challenging, and it's all encompassing. You've got to do things right all week long. You've got to eat, sleep, hydrate, practice, lift, study, filming, there's so much to the process."

"We are just focused on making sure we go down to the Coliseum and getting it done," Rising added.

For Rising, the USC game is personal.

As a native of Ventura, California, Utah's starting quarterback is deeply familiar with the history of USC. The Trojans are also the team that knocked Rising out of competition in 2020 when he sustained a season-ending injury to his throwing shoulder.

Rising is ready to complete a full game against the Trojans — and if a win comes at the Coliseum, all the better.

"Looking back at last year and the way that game went last year, I definitely want to make right for that game and pick up and make sure that we're hitting the ground rolling once we get the kickoff going," Rising said.

And while USC hasn't been as dominant as their projected first-place finish in the South division at the start of the season, the Trojans feature arguably the best receiver in the country in Drake London, who leads the country with 670 receiving yards on 48 receptions. With London, Utah's young and injury-depleted secondary will be tested.

"I know they've dropped a couple ball games this year, but they're as talented as they ever are," Whittingham said. "And that's a high level of talent is what they have, and so we'll have our work cut out for us. It's on the road down in the Coliseum, which has been a brutal place for us to play — we haven't had a lot of success there, if any.

"We've got to prepare and get ready and move forward, which our team is ready to do."

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