Los Angeles- USC head coach Clay Helton believes any Pac-12 victory is a good one regardless of how it is obtained. The Trojans squandered a 22-point in the second half but held on for a 49-35 win over Arizona Saturday night.
“We knew it was going to be a fight. That is a good football team, a very hot football team and a very prideful football team fighting for a pac-12 title, too,” said Helton
The victory over No.22 Arizona keeps the Trojans in control of their own fate for a shot at a Pac-12 title.
“Big win for us as far as the Pac-12 South goes. It puts us and leaves us in control of our own destiny and a great opportunity next week to go to Colorado and try to seal things up,” added Helton.
It was a much-anticipated homecoming for Arizona QB Khalil Tate who has taken all of college football by storm the past month. Tate, who was collared majority of the first half by the USC defense, was able to get loose on several big runs to tie the ballgame at 35 with 8:23 remaining in the fourth quarter. An interception late by Tate following a USC score sent the Wildcats back to Arizona with its 3rd loss of the season.
The Trojans began the game dominating in the trenches. USC totaled 331 yards on the ground, its second consecutive week rushing for over 300 yards.
Ronald Jones III had carries of 52 and 29-yards, while constantly picking up chunks of 6 then 4 then 13 yard carries. Jones also had 92-yard touchdown run called back on a holding penalty.
USC RB Aca’Cedric Wire also broke several lengthy runs including one of 21 and a 42-yard touchdown scamper. Jones finished with 27 carries for 194 yards and 3 touchdowns. Wire ended with 122-yard on 14 carries and 1 touchdown.
“I’m very proud of our offensive line and runners on the night, I thought they set the tone for the football game and the really added an attitude about them tonight and showed that they can run the ball, too,” Helton said.
USC scored first on the night on a blocked punt that was scooped up and ran back for an 11-yard TD by WR Jalen Greene. The Trojans took a 14-3 lead with 8:50 left in the 2nd quarter, and then expanded their lead 21-6 to end the half on a 27-yard TD pass from Sam Darnold to Steven Mitchell. USC had many opportunities to put the Wildcats to sleep but were haunted by penalties that shortened its drives or extended Arizona’s. USC totaled 14 penalties for 123-yards.
Tate and the Wildcats didn’t reach the end zone until the 4:30 mark of the third quarter; Tate took a read option play 32-yards for the score to start the Arizona comeback. On Arizona’s next possession, Tate found WR Shun Brown for a 30-yard touchdown pass to cut USC’s lead 28-20.
Tate finished the game 14 of 31 for 146 yards passing 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, but rushed for 161 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.
Darnold had a quiet 311-yards through the air 2 touchdowns and 1 interception on 20 of 26 passing.
USC will continue to chase a shot at the Pac-12 title when it heads to Colorado next week.