USC outlasts Arizona in a shootout in the Coliseum


In a particularly impressive offensive performance, the USC Trojans bounced back and bested the University of Arizona Wildcats, 48-41. The score would imply that this game was just a close shootout, but that only tells half of the story.

USC takes the field in the Coliseum. C/O Timothy Lutes/

USC came into this game fired up, and put up a quick 17-0 lead in the first quarter. The first score came in the first minute of play, off of a quick pass from Matt Barkley to Robert Woods, where Woods then burned the defenders to take it 82 yards to the endzone. Then safety T.J. McDonald picked off Arizona quarterback Nick Foles on back to back drives in the first quarter, which led to the next two scoring drives by the Trojans.

From then on, the USC offense was rolling.

Barkley did throw one interception, but he also completed 32 of 39 passes, threw for 468 yards (a new USC record, formerly held by Carson Palmer who had 452), four touchdowns. Punter Kyle Negrete did not have to step onto the field of the Coliseum even once on Saturday, as the Trojans scored on all but two of their possessions.

Robert Woods yet again had another blistering performance, making 14 catches and torching the field for 255 yards and two touchdowns. Marquis Lee and tight end Xavier Grimble also added to the Trojan’s collection of touchdowns in this prolific display of the Trojan’s offensive firepower. The running game didn’t appear until late in the game, but the offense shined regardless.

Receivers Robert Woods and Marquis Lee celebrate after a touchdown. Both receivers had great games vs. Arizona. C/O

While the offense was busy putting in work, the defense was scrambling to counter Nick Foles and the Wildcats’ spread offense.

It is no secret that USC has struggled against quick, pass-heavy opponents, and this game was no different. To USC’s credit though, the Trojans did keeping Arizona scoreless in the first quarter, and for only allowing two scoring drives in the first half. Arizona’s kicker shanked the first point-after attempt, and the USC special teams unit showed up in a big way, blocking the second point-after attempt.

Going into the half, USC was visibly dominating, 27-12.

After that though, the Trojans would see their defensive rhythm falter, and this game would become one mostly off offensive prowess on both sides of the ball.

Nick Foles only hit Juron Criner three times for 29 yards and one touchdown, but he spread the ball out easily with running backs Ka’Deem Carey and Keola Antolin against USC’s inconsistent secondary. Though Foles and the Wildcats did not score quickly and easily—which has been the case in the past for USC against spread teams—they were still able to place the ball in the often wide-open flats and march down the field to score. Had Foles not thrown those two picks, USC very easily could have thrown this game away. USC gave up 554 total yards to the Wildcats, just under 30 yards less than the Trojans themselves gained.

Though they almost blew it, the Trojans outlasted the Wildcats and will go into the bye week, 4-1.

There are obvious issues that the Trojans still need to fix before they face Cal in two weeks, and then the next marquee match up against Notre Dame.

For starters, will the Trojans EVER get their running game back? Marc Tyler hasn’t dazzled anyone since his first game against Utah, while Curtis McNeal has come up with big plays with the few carries he gets. As said before, it is critical for USC to get the running game going if they are to win against better opponents.

Then there’s the question of just how much better is USC’s defense. Though they have come a long way from the team that gave up big plays like it was their job, they still are surrendering an average of 400 yards and 26.4 points a game, and only have three interceptions on the season. If games continue to fall on the shoulders of the secondary, it really could go either way for USC.

Safety TJ McDonald picked off Arizona QB Nick Foles twice. Both INTs resulted in scoring drives for the Trojans. C/O

We have learned though is that USC can hang with spread offenses—if they score early and often, and make big plays on the ball. It has yet to be determined though, if both of those things can happen at the same time.

The Trojans got Sunday off, and will reconvene for practice starting on Tuesday. In two weeks time, we will see whether or not the Trojans used their week off to correct these problems.

Until then, Trojan fans can relish in being 4-1, and being second place in the Pac-12 South. Looks like “you can’t sanction the endzone”, after all.