This game has been all but pretty for USC and Arizona, with 163 penalty yards between them and too many careless mistakes to count. Whichever team makes the necessary adjustments at the half and closes this game with composure will surely be the victor.
The Trojans opened the second quarter by driving into the Arizona redzone…and seeing Silas Redd fumble on what was looking like a scoring rush. Arizona recovered, and for the third consecutive time in this game, the Trojans left points on the field.
To their good fortune, USC’s defense came up with a stop on the Wildcat’s resulting drive and forced a punt, putting the ball back in Barkley’s hands. With that possession, USC marched right back down to the endzone. Four plays and 84 yards later, the Trojans finally got on the board when Barkley hit TE Xavier Grimble from 12 yards out. Heidari took the field for the extra point and nailed it, bringing the score 10-7.
Back in the game, the Trojans could breathe a little bit as their defense took the field. The Wall of Troy forced a three and out.
But in another head-scratching display of ineptitude, Matt Barkley threw a pick right to Arizona’s Marquis Flowers. The momentum now given back to the Wildcats, they charged down the field. It would seem though that the mistakes that have been plaguing the Trojans all game started to nip at Arizona as well, as their wide receivers had a severe case of the drops. A three and out later, USC had the ball once again.
After a roller coaster of events leading up to this drive, the Trojans held it together to move the ball 65 yards in four plays in under two minutes. Barkley hit Lee over the middle and he sprinted and stepped around defenders for 49 more yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
In the first half, Lee has catches of 50, 52, 49 and 32 yards, to name a few. Alone, he had 256 yards in the first half and a touchdown. He is the catalyst for USC to outgun this Arizona defense, as not a single person on the field can stop him.
On Arizona’s next drive, a comedy of errors took place when matt Scott threw a pick to USC S Jawanza Starling, who proceeded to run it back only to be stripped of the ball, which was recovered by the Wildcats at nearly the same spot that the play started in the first place. K John Bonano sneaked the consolation field goal through the uprights to bring it 14-13, USC.
And then USC looked the best it had looked all half, courtesy of Marqise Lee torching Arizona for even more yards. In yet another incredibly athletic display, he made a catch near the sideline and made sure to drag his feet before falling out of bounds. The drive culminated in RB D.J. Morgan sneaking it in from three yards out to extend USC’s lead 21-13.
Arizona managed another field goal to close the half, after USC’s special teams blundered and allowed the Wildcats a huge kick return. As they are known to do, Arizona stealthily moved the ball down the field and after an unsuccessful shot at the endzone, they lined up in field goal formation. From 32 yards out K Banano nailed it, but it was called back for a holding penalty. On the following 37-yard field goal the kick sailed right, keeping it at 21-13 to close the half.
Coach Lane Kiffin and Coach Rich Rodriguez will likely rip their teams new ones after that head-scratching, mind-boggling, comically error-ridden first half.