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Arizona-USC game blog: Trojans hold on for high-scoring victory

Arizona cornerback Shaq Richardson was penalized for interference against Brice Butler on this play. Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

And this one is over. Arizona fights hard (at least offensively) but can’t overcome a 17-0 first-quarter deficit.

USC comes away with a 48-41 victory, with Trojans QB Matt Barkley setting a school record with 468 passing yards. Arizona’s Nick Foles threw for 425 yards.

The Wildcats drop to 1-4 overall and 0-3 in the Pac-12.

“Hats off to them,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said of the Wildcats.

“Arizona could have come out in the second half and folded. Nick Foles played his tail off. He played great today. It was a very competitive conference game.”

Said Arizona coach Mike Stoops in his postgame radio interview: “It’s hard to win when you can’t make them punt.”

So true.

Encouraged? Discouraged?

Have your say in the comments section…

* * *

Some misdirection on the on-side kick, as Arizona fakes left and kicks right, but the ball hops nice and easy to USC safety T.J. McDonald.

* * *

Not over. Nick Foles directs a quick scoring drive, firing a 4-yard pass into the back of the end zone to Austin Hill to make it 48-41 with one minute left.

* * *

USC is able to run all but 1:50 off the clock before turning the ball over on downs at the Arizona 47.

* * *

Arizona, which gives up a sack to Nick Perry, who beats LT Mickey Baucus, stalls at its 47 and has to punt back to USC with 6:23 to go.

It was fourth-and-13, but I’m pretty sure I would have gone for it there, given that Arizona’s defense can’t make a stop. Well, I am sure I would have gone for it.

He clearly did not read my story from after the Stanford game: Hey, Stoops, go for it…

* * *

Desert Swarm is weeping. USC slices through Arizona’s defense again, opening the drive with a 44-yard run from Curtis McNeal on just a plain ol’ handoff. More passes, more runs, yada, yada, yada, and USC scores again.

Matt Barkley has set the single-game USC passing record for USC.

The Trojans lead 48-34 with 9:28 to go.

The Arizona offense takes a deep breath and tries to climb the mountain again.

* * *

This is the best Arizona’s offense has looked all season, and there is no quit in the Cats today. Nick Foles drives Arizona 85 yards for a score, capped by a 13-yard touchdown pass to Juron Criner.

USC leads 41-34 with 11:09 to play. Lots of time left.

(There have been a combined 759 passing yards so far today.)

* * *

Another offensive player sets a career-high against Arizona; this time it’s Matt Barkley with 427 passing yards.

* * *

USC targets Shaquille Richardson again, with Matt Barkley able to stand in the pocket (remember when Arizona had a pass rush) and throw deep to Marqise Lee, who sprinted past Richardson to make a 45-yard catch inside the 1.

Barkley keeps on the next play for a touchdown. USC leads 41-27 with 14:40 to go.

Can Ka’Deem Carey play defense, too?

* * *

Going to the fourth quarter …

* * *

We have a ball game. The Wildcats are grinding down the USC defense, scoring after the turnover, with RB Ka’Deem Carey scoring again, this time on a 16-yard run. He carries a defender the final 5 yards into the end zone.

Alex Zendejas makes the PAT — y’all must have been saying your prayers — and Arizona closes to 34-27 with 52 seconds to go in the third quarter.

Interesting …

* * *

The Wildcats DO come up with a play on defense — an interception from CB Shaquille Richardson, who jumps inside on an attempted slant to Marqise Lee. That sets up the Cats at the their 46.

It is only Arizona’s third takeaway of the season.

* * *

Arizona answers with an impressive drive — 18 plays, 93 yards — capped by a 1-yard plunge from Ka’Deem Carey, who scores his second TD of the game.

The Cats go for the two-point conversion and get it as Nick Foles, flushed from the pocket and rolling to his left, shovels the ball to Austin Hill in the end zone.

Arizona cuts USC’s lead to 34-20 with 4:22 to go in the third quarter.

Now, can the Wildcats ever get a stop …

* * *

Well, Arizona makes it 6 for 6 in terms of crossing midfield on its possessions.

* * *

USC QB Matt Barkley and WR Robert Woods are headed to career-best days. (Woods is already there with 232 receiving yards to set a personal best.)

This, a week after Oregon RB LaMichael James had a career-best rushing day against UA. Which came a week after Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor had a career-best rushing day against UA.

Which came a week after Oklahoma State’s Joseph Randle had a career day in terms of combined rushing and receiving vs. UA.

* * *

I blinked. Missed it. I hear USC scored again. Something about a pass to Robert Woods.

USC 34-12.

* * *

Throwing out the stats from the NAU game, Arizona’s defense has allowed 7.8 yards per play this season.

* * *

It appears Arizona decided to pick its poison, and that poison is named Matt Barkley. The Cats have stopped USC’s running game — only 19 yards at halftime — but Barkley has thrown for 301 yards.

And it’s not like a lot of those were difficult passes. It’s just simple pitch-and-catch with his receivers … and then his receivers break a lot of tackles.

* * *

First half is in the books. Stop us if you’re heard this one before.

–The offense teases with some good yardage but doesn’t have enough points to show for it.
To review: That’s 227 yards of offense, crossing midfield five times, and only 12 points.

–The defense can’t get a stop. USC scored on all five of its possessions. It gained 320 yards. It converted 5 of 7 third downs and a fourth-and-2 to keep alive the drive right before the half.

–Arizona missed two PATs.

* * *

USC kicks a 31-yard field goal on the final play of the first half for a 27-12 lead.

* * *

OK. Really now. That has to be the last PAT Alex Zendejas ever misses … because there should never be another attempt. His last one was blocked. The NINTH time has had a PAT blocked in his career.

It’s not as if he is suddenly going to get better at it.

(OK, the line blocking on that last attempt was horrible… but still.)

* * *

This extra point thing. You’re laughing about it, right? It’s funny, isn’t it?

* * *

CDO grad Ka’Deem Carey scores his first college touchdown as the true freshman running back takes a swing pass to the left and zips up the sideline for a 27-yard score to cut the lead to 24-12 with 4:05 left.

You know what happened next with the PAT.

* * *

In basketball news, ex-Cat Derrick Williams tweets that he’s in the sky box at the L.A. Coliseum with Greg Byrne. You do want basketball news at this time of year, don’t you?

* * *

It’s getting worse for the Arizona defense. USC is doing whatever it wants, whenever it wants. It’s like Leinart, Bush and White all over again.

The Trojans go 73 yards for another touchdown to take a 24-6 lead with 5:45 to go, as Matt Barkley hits a short TD throw to tight end Xavier Grimble … and the Cats once again fail to make a play.

Linebacker Derek Earls reaches above his head to get his hands on the scoring pass, but it goes through his hands for the score.

* * *

Good penalty by Shaquille Richardson, running into Brice Butler in the end zone to prevent a long touchdown pass. It’s only a 15-yard penalty — kind of like what Stanford did to Juron Criner a couple of games ago.

* * *

I don’t know much, but I’m sure of this: John Bonano will kick the next PAT for Arizona.

* * *

Another stat you’ll love: Arizona is 10 of 13 on PATs this season. The Cats would have been better off going for two each time.

* * *

Alex Zendejas has missed 10 extra point attempts in his career — eight have been blocked.

* * *

Arizona begins its climb back, marching for a touchdown — with the help of two USC personal foul penalties — with 10:53 to go in the second quarter.

The Cats finish the drive in their full-house backfield on second-and-goal from the 4. Nick Foles fakes a handoff to the left and rolls hit, hitting halfback Taimi Tutogi with a short pass, and he bulls into the end zone to cut the lead to 17-6.

After a 5-yard penalty for an illegal substitution, Alex Zendejas misses ANOTHER extra point, pulling this one wide left.


* * *

Stunning. Arizona has been outscored 55-3 in the first quarter of the past four games.

* * *

Different game, same story. The Wildcats do something to short-circuit themselves on offense (see below) and the defense can absolutely not stop anyone.

Matt Barkley hits true freshman WR Marqise Lee for a wide-open 38-yard touchdown pass and a 17-0 lead near the end of the first quarter.

* * *

Arizona squanders another decent drive after crossing midfield. The Cats would have had third-and-1 at the USC 41, but RG Trace Biskin is penalized for holding. Eventually, on third-and-7, Nick Foles overthrows David Douglas and is intercepted by T.J. McDonald for the second time in the opening quarter.

* * *

The Trojans have no trouble with a freshman kicking a 46-yard field goal, as Andre Heidari converts it for a 10-0 lead with 5:00 to go in the first quarter. Now, if only Arizona can find a way to tackle USC receiver Robert Woods, it might have a chance …

* * *

Nick Foles’ streak of passes without being intercepted ends at 210, going to last year. Looks like Juron Criner isn’t able to get to the spot over the middle, and Foles’ pass lands in the hands of USC standout safety T.J. McDonald.

* * *

Austin Hill is playing after suffering a concussion last week. He catches a pass on UA’s second drive.

* * *

And there’s the Arizona defense we’ve come to know. USC runs a play-action pass, with the fake to the left and Matt Barkley throwing a quick pass to Robert Woods, who picks up a block, shreds a tackle from Trevin Wade and races 82 yards for a touchdown.

Just like that, Arizona trails again in the first quarter of a game, down 7-0 with 10:49 to go.

The Cats have been outscored 45-3 in the first quarter of the past four games, including this one.

* * *

A nice drive — with two first downs on the ground and a pass to the tight end — stalls in USC territory. It doesn’t help that Arizona gets a false start penalty on third-and-10 from the 34.

Kyle Dugandic comes in and does his job, punting from the USC 39 to the USC 9.

* * *

That 13-yard pass from Nick Foles to Drew Robinson on the first drive was the team’s first completion to a tight end this season.

* * *

Mike Stoops gets his first decision right. Arizona wins the toss and elects to receive. Can’t fall behind again. Be the aggressor.

* * *

According to CBSSports.com Rapid Reports, Arizona WR Austin Hill, recovering from last week’s concussion, went through warmups and appears ready to play. If so, he’ll mostly back up Juron Criner, going against young, small cornerbacks (including redshirt freshman Anthony Brown, filling in for injured Torin Harris).

* * *

Arizona is going all-white today — helmets, jerseys, pants. The only other time the Cats sported this look was, gulp, the 2009 Holiday Bowl loss to Nebraska.

Our Scott Terrell has the breakdown of Arizona’s uniform combinations and the ensuing records.

* * *

It was always a long shot that S Adam Hall would return from an ACL injury for limited action vs. USC … and he was not fully dressed in warmups. He will continue to target next Saturday at Oregon State as a potential return date, according to what coach Mike Stoops said earlier this week.

Coaches like having Hall on road trips for the experience and for his enthusiasm on the sideline.

* * *

Bad news for Arizona. USC star left tackle Matt Kalil, who missed most of practice this week because of an undisclosed injury, is likely to start. The Trojans have a couple of stalwarts on the line — Kalil and center Khaled Holmes — but the rest of the young is inexperienced and young.

* * *

Arizona tries to end its eight-game skid to FBS teams this afternoon, when it plays at USC, starting at 12:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Net.

Maybe being on FSN is a good sign.

All of UA’s eight straight losses to FBS teams have been televised — in all of its gory — on the ESPN family of networks.

Another hopeful sign? Arizona has won its past three games in Los Angeles — beating UCLA in 2008 and 2010, and the Trojans in 2009.

On the other hand, a Stoops-coached Arizona team hasn’t scored more than 21 points in seven meetings against USC.

This will be the spot for my in-game musings, and I’ll try to answer any questions you leave in the comments section.

Until kickoff, here are some things to watch:

1. QB Nick Foles
Foles, the unofficial team spokesman for the Wildcats, did not talk to the media all week, which is definitely weird. Perhaps he was tired of talking about losing. Perhaps he didn’t want to talk about himself amid all the losing. Perhaps he just needed a break.

He was pretty beat up by Oregon last week and has been sacked 10 times in the past two games; is he at full strength?

(According to CBSSports.com Rapid Reports — USC reporter Chris Huston is on the scene — Foles looks good in warmups. Follow the Arizona game reports at CBSSports.com.)

2. A fast start
The Wildcats have been outscored 38-3 in the first quarter of its past three games, against top 10 teams Oklahoma State, Stanford and Oregon. They then went on to play decent stretches of football, but too late. Arizona needs to play fast and loose from the opening kickoff.

3. Stopping the run
We’ve documented Arizona’s woes with run defense, and here comes another tough running back — USC’s Marc Tyler. He’s not like Oregon’s speedy LaMichael James, last seen running for 288 yards against UA last week — but the 230-pound Tyler is plenty capable of pounding away at the soft Arizona defense and picking up consistent chunks of yardage. “Marc Tyler is a very physical runner,” Stoops said. “His size makes him a factor.”

4. USC WR Robert Woods
He has caught at least eight passes in each of the first four games and ranks fifth nationally in receptions per game (10.25) and receiving yards per game (123.0). Arizona cornerback Trevin Wade has been the defense’s bright spot this season; the other cornerback, Shaq Richardson … not so much.

5. UA WR Juron Criner
USC starting cornerback Torin Harris isn’t expected to play because of injury. His replacement is expected to be 5-9 freshman Anthony Brown. The other cornerback is 5-8 sophomore Nickell Robey.

6. Turnovers
USC committed four turnovers last week in a loss at Arizona State, three coming from quarterback Matt Barkley. Foles has yet to be intercepted in 183 pass attempts, and Arizona has lost only one fumble in four games. That’s good. The bad news is the defense has come up with only two takeaways — and those momentum-making plays are exactly what the Cats need. Maybe USC will just cough up the ball on its own?

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