Saturday night’s USC vs. Arizona score was supposed to be indicative of a waltz for the Trojans, who were 19.5-point favorites. It didn’t turn out that way, as USC had to come back from a 14-point deficit to become bowl eligible with a 38-30 victory.
The lowdown: Arizona got out to a fast start, taking a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter. Anu Solomon torched the Trojan secondary for 353 yards and three touchdowns total, including strikes to Nate Phillips and David Richards in the first and second quarters. USC answered with a field goal, then a John Plattenburg interception in the red zone gave the Trojans a chance to really fight back as Cody Kessler hit JuJu Smith-Schuster on a 72-yard bomb. As Arizona settled for three field goals, Ronald Jones and the Trojan ground game took control, punching in four scores on the ground to seal the victory for USC.
The takeaway: USC came out and laid an egg in the first quarter, gaining just 15 yards on 18 plays. While they dug themselves out of the hole in the second quarter, the Wildcats proved difficult to put away. Once the Trojans truly committed to Jones and the running game, things turned around. Jones accounted for 176 yards rushing with two touchdowns via the ground and the air. With 19 carries, it was the true freshman’s first opportunity to make the game his own and he answered the call by breaking Lendal White’s single-game freshman rushing record.
Player of the game: Despite playing with a broken hand, Smith-Schuster was far and way the best player on the field. He had six catches for 122 yards in the first half alone, including a 72-yard touchdown reception to help the Trojans grab momentum in the second quarter. Jones deserves every accolade but what Smith-Schuster did less than a week after surgery was nothing short of astounding.
Stat of the game: With the win, USC has become bowl eligible for the 13th-straight year in which they were eligible, dating back to Pete Carroll’s first season in 2001. The Trojans were ineligible in 2010 and 2011.
Next on tap: The Trojans now will prepare for their only short week of the season, as they’ll have just five days to prepare for their trip to Colorado on Friday night. The Buffs are 4-6 and coming off of a 42-10 rout at the hands of Stanford.