The Wildcats started the second quarter by driving deep into the Trojans’ territory, but again, they could not get in the endzone. Twice the Trojan defense halted quarterback B.J. Denker on the run, and on third down, his pass to Nate Phillps sailed incomplete. This time, kicker Jake Smith made his 27-yard field goal attempt, to put the Wildcats on the board, 14-3.
On its next drive, USC started deep in its own field and had a shaky start. THe Trojans looked to move off the field on 3rd and 9 after Kessler had been pressured by the Arizona defense on the previous play, but the young quarterback stepped up and hit Nelson Agholor over the middle for a 54-yard gain. A late hit penalty gave the Trojans 15 more yards, and the Trojans were in business. On the next series though, USC could make nothing of it. On 4th-and-10, the Trojans were forced to punt.
Kris Albarado’s punt dropped right near the Arizona 10-yard line, and the Wildcats did little with that unfavorable field position. J.R. Tarvai continued to overwhelm Denker and force stops. Getting swept off the field, the Wildcats punted it away, only to see it blocked by USC fullback Soma Vainuku. USC recovered the ball at Arizona’s 42-yard line and took over on downs.
Kessler again looked deep for Agholor downfield, but an Arizona defender broke up what would have been a touchdown. On 3rd down, Kessler targeted Agholor again and this time hit him for 20 yards and the first down. Later, USC got a roughing the passer call for 15 free yards and from there, Justin Davis carried the ball 11 yards to the endzone for another Trojan score. USC led 21-3 after a five-play, 42-yard drive.
At the end of the half, sophomore Buck Allen went on a tear. He picked up 20 yards on his first play in the game and added 13 more en route to a 1-yard, diving touchdown for the Trojans. With it, USC touted a 28-3 lead over Arizona.
Arizona responded quickly, when Denker hit Nate Phillips from 57 yards out, for its first touchdown of the night. The Wildcats closed the gap to 28-10 going into the half, but the Trojans still carried the momentum.
The first half was all USC: Cody Kessler completed eight of 16 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns, while Arizona’s B.J. Denker went 12-of-17 for 133 yards. On the ground, Tre Madden rushed for 24 yards and had 63 and one touchdown through the air. In total, USC gained just 97 yards on the ground. Nelson Agholor led the passing attack, with four receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown. USC has 315 yards of total offense at the half, to Arizona’s 257.