Arizona found itself having to prepare for a newly motivated team with an unpredictable playbook on offense.
Arizona took USC's best shot for the majority of the game and a comeback attempt fell short as the Wildcats lost 38-31 to USC Thursday night at the Coliseum.
Both teams went three and out to start the game, as USC took over on its own 38-yard line on its second possession. It only took the Trojans their first play to score, as Cody Kessler found Nelson Agholor for the 62-yard touchdown pass with the extra point giving the Trojans the 7-0 lead with 12:21 left in the first quarter.
Arizona started on its own 11-yard line with an 11-yard run by Ka’Deem Carey followed by a 14-yard pass from B.J. Denker to Nate Phillips. Two plays later, Carey gained six on the ground and then added an 11-yard reception on the next play.
USC forced third down, but Denker found Johnny Jackson for seven yards to keep the drive going. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the drive then stalled and Jake Smith missed a 38-yard field goal with 7:43 left in the first quarter.
The Trojans started on their own 22-yard line with a ten-yard run by Tre Madden followed by a four-yard gain on the ground. Agholor caught a six-yard pass before a holding call, but two plays after the penalty, Kessler found a wide open Madden in the middle of the field, as the extra point gave the Trojans a 14-0 lead with 5:02 left in the first quarter.
Arizona went three and out, giving the Trojans the ball on their own 37-yard line. Kessler hit Victor Blackwell for 18 yards, but Arizona forced a punt and took over on its own four-yard line with a little over two minutes left in the first quarter.
The Wildcats gained a first down with three consecutive runs by Carey. After a fumble and loss of five by Denker, he completed a 27-yard pass to Terrence Miller as Arizona ended the first quarter down 14-0.
Denker completed a 32-yard pass to Jackson to start the second quarter and followed with a 14-yard pass as well. Carey then gained 11 on the ground, but the drive did not go any farther. Smith came in and hit a 27-yard field goal to cut USC’s lead to 14-3 with 12:42 left in the first half.
Arizona forced third down on the ensuing drive, but Agholor beat Shaq Richardson for a 39-yard grab and then the Trojans gained 15 more on a personal foul by Richardson. The Wildcats then came up with three straight stops to force a punt and took over on their own eight.
Arizona tried to get something going on its own eight with a 14-yard pass to Miller two plays into the drive. However, the Wildcats had to punt and it was partially blocked, giving the Trojans the ball on the UA 42.
On third down, Kessler found Agholor for 20 yards and the first down. Justin Davis then lost three yards on the ground and Arizona was called for a late hit on the next play, giving the Trojans the ball on the 11. It took one more play for USC to score, as Davis scored from 11 yards out and the extra point out the Trojans up 21-3 with 6:40 to go in the first half.
Arizona proceeded to go three and out due in large part to a holding penalty on a third down that actually was converted.
USC took over on its own 43 with a three-yard run by Madden followed by 11 more on the ground. Javorius Allen then picked up 20 and Shaquille Richardson picked up his second personal foul of the game. Allen had three consecutive carries with the third going for a touchdown and the extra point giving SC the 28-3 lead with 2:08 left in the first half.
Needing an answer, Arizona started on its own 25-yard line with two consecutive six-yard passes to David Richards followed with a six-yard pass to Grant. On the next play, Denker found Phillips for the 57-yard touchdown with the extra point putting Arizona within 28-10 with about a minute left in the half.
Arizona started the second half on its own 18-yard line with an offsides call on USC. Two plays later, Carey gained six on the ground and Grant picked up the first down with a six-yard reception. Carey was able to pick up nine yards a few plays later, but nothing else happened for Arizona, as it punted and gave USC the ball on its own 24-yard line.
On second down, Redd picked up six yards on the ground and Agholor caught a 12-yard pass right after. The Wildcats forced third down, but Kessler got it on the ground with a 34-yard run. A holding penalty slowed the drive down for the Trojans before Andre Heidari nailed a 45-yard field goal to put USC up 31-10 with 8:15 left in the third quarter.
The Wildcats proceeded to go three and out and the Trojans got the ball on their own 22. Ty Isaac’s first carry of the night went for 22 yards and he followed it with a 12-yard run. Arizona forced third down yet again and Kessler threw an incompletion as the Trojans punted.
Starting on its own 15, Arizona got a 39-yard run from Carey. Two plays later, Denker hit Garic Wharton for a 45-yard touchdown with the extra point putting the Wildcats within 31-17 with 3:59 left in the third quarter.
It did not take long for USC to respond, as Agholor caught a 17-yard pass. Two plays later, Randall Telfer caught an 11-yard pass. Davis picked up six on the ground and the Trojans converted a third and five a few plays later. Telfer then grabbed a 29-yard pass to out USC on Arizona’s four and bring the third quarter to an end.
It only took two plays into the fourth quarter for USC to pick up the touchdown with it coming on a four-yard run by Allen, as the extra point put the Trojans up 38-17 early in the fourth.
Later in the quarter, Arizona started on its own 29 with a five-yard run by Carey. Two plays later, he gained 11 more on the ground and Denker found Miller for 12 yards on third down.
Carey caught a ten-yard pass to convert on third down a few plays later and Denker found grant for nine two plays after that.
He proceeded to find Miller for nine yards, Carey for ten, and then got 11 yards on the ground from Jenkins. On first and goal, Denker connected with Richards for the nine-yard touchdown pass to make it 38-24 in favor of USC with just under seven minutes left.
Arizona forced a three and out and got the ball back on the USC 42 with 4:37 left.
Miller caught a 14-yard pass and denker followed with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Wharton as the extra point put the Wildcats within seven with 4:18.
Starting on the four, Redd went to the ground and picked up a first down, as the clock ticked away and the comeback attempt fell short.