Another late comeback was required as USC vs. Arizona resulted in a Trojan win
The Groundhog’s Day continues.
USC football’s opponent on Saturday was Arizona, but it might as well have been ASU. The Trojans needed the same kind of fourth-quarter comeback to get past both.
As fun as the individual heroics may have been, it wasn’t a showcase by any stretch of the imagination.
USC football 34, Arizona 30
The lowdown: USC could hardly have started the game better. Talanoa Hufanga picked off a pass on Arizona’s first drive, setting up the offense in great field position. Markese Stepp ran through a man to punch in the opening score.
However, things went downhill from there.
The Trojan defense struggled to stop Grant Gunnell scrambling as the Wildcat quarterback led his team on a tying drive.
USC took advantage of a slew of bail-out penalties from Arizona but had to settle for a field goal in the end.
Arizona missed a field goal on their ensuing drive, before forcing a punt and tying the game on a kick.
Despite both sides of the ball looking discombobulated, the Trojans drove back down into scoring range and Stephen Carr punched in a short touchdown. When Arizona mounted another drive to respond, a Raymond Scott shoestring tackle took down Gunnell for a sack, forcing a field goal.
USC carried a 17-13 advantage into halftime.
The third quarter isn’t usually the Trojans’ best and it wasn’t on Saturday. They managed a mere three points despite making it to the goal line three times in the quarter. One of those came on the back of a highlight-reel catch from Amon-Ra St. Brown.
USC’s defense was able to tighten up somewhat as the game wore on. Still, they allowed a 51-yard field goal as Arizona took the lead at 23-20.
Slovis and company responded. It wasn’t particularly pretty, but Drake London made a great catch to take USC to the goal line while Slovis finished off the drive finally with a slant to tight end Erik Krommenhoek.
Arizona’s offense came to life themselves. A devastating facemask penalty extended their drive and Gunnell hit a receiver screen to McKenzie Berryhill to take the lead with 1:35 remaining in the game.
The Wildcats made one key mistake. They gave Slovis time to produce yet another late game-winning drive. Slovis moved the ball down the field with ease, then lucked out a bit when a near interception tipped into St. Brown’s arms. Then running back Vavae Malepeai rode atop an Arizona defender into the endzone for the key score.
The takeaway: USC survived again. But they shouldn’t be let off the hook.
Nothing about the performance against Arizona, bar the final minute, was good enough.
The offense was far below what they should be given the immense talent available. USC’s running backs are being wasted with inside runs that aren’t blocked well enough. The gifted receiver group is being underutilized.
On defense, they’re still working things out under Todd Orlando and it’s not fun to watch those growing pains. At least they have the excuse of playing without Talanao Hufanga and Drake Jackson for much of the first half. They gave up 112 yards and 5.3 yards per carry to Gary Brightwell and allowed Gunnell to scramble all over the place.
There were also penalties galore, totaling 11 for 110 yards.
USC should be relieved to be 2-0, but largely unhappy with just how difficult it was to get there.
Player of the game: Fourth quarter Kedon Slovis. He wasn’t great in the first three quarters, but Slovis was outstanding in the end hitting 13-of-15 passes for 149 yards and one touchdown.
Stat of the game: USC left 14 points on the board with hapless red-zone execution. That was the difference between covering the spread and not.
Next on tap: The Trojans will head on the road once again to face a team making their season debut, this time Utah in Salt Lake City.