6-Points: USC 34, Arizona 30
For the second straight week, the Trojans scored two touchdowns in the final four minutes to pull off a stirring comeback. "Our kids did what they did last week," said head coach Clay Helton. "When it mattered the most, I didn't see any panic. They showed great poise." USC took the lead for good with 25 seconds left after flawlessly executing a 75-yard game-winning drive in 70 seconds.
Points on the Field
The Trojans could have won the game more comfortably if not for three second half trips inside the 10-yard line that netted a total of three points. "We missed some opportunities in the red zone that I thought could have separated ourselves in the game in the second half," Helton said. "I believe this can be a 45 to 50-point offense when we're running on all cylinders." While turnovers cost USC points last week, "the penalties obviously stick out" this week, Helton said. The Trojans were flagged 11 times for 110 yards.
Kedon the Closer
Sophomore QB Kedon Slovis has proven to be unshakeable in the clutch, delivering his best football when it matters the most. And statistically, he put together another fine performance, throwing for 325 yards with 1 TD and no turnovers. However, he clearly struggled with spinning the ball, leaving the media to wonder if he is healthy. "My arm feels fine," Slovis explained. "At times, my mechanics get sloppy. I don't know what it is but I'll get it fixed next week."
Running With It
With the offense searching for rhythm in the passing game, OC Graham Harrell turned to the ground game and found results with all three of his lead tailbacks. Markese Stepp posted a career-high 82 yards and a touchdown while Stephen Carr added 81 yards and a score. And on the game-winning play, Harrell called Vavae Malepeai's number, and the senior rewarded him with a powerful 8-yard TD run. "In the most critical situation, Graham went to it down in the red zone," Helton said of the run game. "Great play by Vavae to get that ball in the end zone." The head coach believes that the improvement in the run game is the biggest difference between this season and last for the Trojans.
The Trojans were dealt a slew of injuries in the first half as S Talanoa Hufanga, who set up the first TD with an interception, LB Palaie Gaoteote and OLB Drake Jackson all missed significant snaps. As a result, Arizona QB Grant Gunnell was able to use his legs effectively in the middle of the field. When Jackson returned in the second half, Gunnell's running days came to an end as the sophomore pass rusher had two big sacks and five tackles. Raymond Scott also filled in admirably at linebacker with a sack and three tackles in the first big opportunity of his USC career.
After some typical first game mistakes, USC was hoping to make a big leap in its execution from game one to game two. While the Trojans were able to clean up their turnover issues, they know that they are still a long way from executing at the level necessary to reach their goals this season. "Our kids deal with reality well. They deal with the truth well," Helton said about the week of meetings and practice ahead. "Was it perfectly clean? Heck no. And we understand that." USC awaits a trip to Utah this week to face the reigning Pac-12 South champs who have yet to play a game this season due to COVID issues.