Adoree' Jackson wasn’t supposed to return the kick.
He started at the bottom of the letters spelling out “UTAH” in the Rice-Eccles Stadium end zone. If he had to retreat at all, he had been instructed to let the ball sail over his head and onto the painted FieldTurf for a touchback.
“My mindset was to let it go, but when I was about to put my hands up, the ball was... I didn't judge it right and I just caught it and just ran,” Jackson said with a smile after practice Wednesday.
“Then the hole opened up, so it's pretty nice. Shocking in my opinion. I thought there was going to be a flag because it was too open in my opinion.”
It wasn’t the only thing that shocked Jackson. He didn’t think the ball was even going to be coming his way. Other teams had already kicked the ball short and to the side opposite of Jackson to keep the ball out of his hands.
From the look of kicker Hayes Hickem’s face on the tv replay and his apparent pleas for the ball to travel further while the ball was cutting through the damp air, Utah didn’t intend for Jackson to touch the ball either.
And for good reason as Jackson became the second USC Trojan in history to record multiple 100+ yard returns (NCAA only credits returns up to 100 yards even though Jackson caught the ball three and a half yards into the end zone). He joins Anthony Davis with a pair.
“It feels pretty good honestly. I didn't know that. I thought probably a lot of people would have returned one for 100+ yards. It feels pretty good, but now I'm trying to break the tie,” he said with a chuckle. “That's pretty much how it goes now. Because the next person that may come, may get four. I want to set the bar high so they have to keep working.”
Only two other Trojans have 100+ yard returns. Marqise Lee had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Hawaii in 2012 while Elwin Caley had a 107-yard kickoff return against Pomona on a 110-yard field 110 years prior in 1902.
Watch as Adoree' Jackson talks about working with John Baxter and the special teams units, his kick return for a touchdown against Utah as well as the Utes' game-winning touchdown against him.
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