The Ed Orgeron era at USC began with a splash and finished with a giant exhale.
After watching their 38-17 lead in the fourth quarter dwindle down to an uncomfortable 38-31 lead with just over four minutes left to play, the Trojans relied on hard-nosed, physical football to walk away victorious.
USC entered the game without the services of Morgan Breslin, Marqise Lee, Dareus Rogers, and proceeded to see additional players go down to injury.
Xavier Grimble suffered an apparent sprained shoulder as he tried to catch a deflected pass, and Tre Madden was lost due to a hamstring injury.
Madden managed to only carry the ball for a total of five times before having to exit the game.
Kevin Graf and Victor Blackwell each received attention from the training staff, but were able to return.
Throughout the game, the Trojans were relegated to formations that often included one, or both, walk-on receivers George Katrib and Christian Tober.
The crowd was on the smaller side, which was to be expected given the unconventional Thursday night home game, but the excitement and buzz was plentiful.
Keyshawn Johnson, decked out in a Ronnie Lott jersey, led the team out of the tunnel and pulled Cody Kessler aside for what appeared to be a final pep talk prior to kickoff.
That excitement quickly exited as the Trojans’ first offensive series resulted in the all too familiar three-and-out.
However, once the Trojan offense got the ball back, they quickly went to work.
Kessler connected with Nelson Agholor for a 62-yard touchdown pass on the Trojans first play of their second series.
Agholor finished the night with seven receptions and 161 receiving yards.
Under Clay Helton’s direction, the offensive attack remained balanced and utilized many of the Trojans’ weapons, making it difficult for Arizona to key in on one or two players.
Javorius “Buck” Allen, Justin Davis, Ty Isaac, and Silas Redd were all given the opportunity to contribute.
Allen responded with 37 powerful yards and two touchdowns, but the night belonged to Redd.
In his first game in 2013, Redd was heavily relied upon, carrying the ball 19 times for 80 yards.
43 of Redd’s 80 yards came when USC took possession of the ball with 4:18 remaining and looking to run out the clock.
After pitching a shutout in the first quarter, the Trojan defense suffered mental lapses, which aided Arizona’s effort to get back in the game.
With the absence of Breslin, arguably the Trojans’ best pass-rusher, J.R. Tavai started in his spot and filled in admirably.
Tavai recorded seven solo tackles, with three and a half of them resulting in a loss.
The Trojans surrendered 508 yards of total offense to the Wildcats and failed to create any turnovers, which is cause for concern.
But, at this point, victories are much needed and you hope the team can improve the next time they’re out on the field.
The win is USC’s first in Pac-12 play and they are now 4-2 overall, and 1-2 in conference games.
Their hopes of remaining in contention for the Pac-12 South title are still hanging on by a thread.
Next up for the Trojans is a trip to South Bend and win there could spark substantial momentum.