The game started out strangely enough. Former USC receiver, Keyshawn Johnson, stomped out of the Coliseum tunnel wearing a jersey that neither had his name nor was it a USC jersey— it was Ronnie Lott’s 49ers jersey. The strange occurrences continued during interim head coach Ed Orgeron’s (“Coach O”) debut.
In the third quarter, Cody Kessler kept the ball and ran for 34 yards— the longest by a USC quarterback since Carson Palmer ran for 54 yards in 2001. Later in the quarter, the Wildcats fumbled the snap on a point after attempt and then Leon McQuay III kicked the football to keep it out of Arizona hands. The ensuing penalty allowed Arizona a chance to re-kick for the extra point. In the fourth quarter, punter Kris Albarado kicked a ball that just stopped dead at the Arizona 4-yard line.
USC also had 5 scholarship running backs split carries: Tre Madden, Justin Davis, Javorius Allen, Ty Isaac, and returning Silas Redd. Meanwhile three walk on receivers got significant playing time. Kessler even tried to throw a deep bomb to walk-on receiver George Katrib. He was a few steps short of hauling in the touchdown pass. Those are things you do not see every day.
Another thing that was seldom seen was an offense that worked more consistently. The offense did not have any turnovers and Kessler was not sacked. They also converted 6 of 13 third downs, the highest percentage since playing Boston College, when they were 5 of 10.
The Trojans quickly went up 14-0. They kept building on it until they got their biggest lead of the night— a 25 point difference. The Wildcats continued to chip at the USC lead until the fourth quarter. In the waning minutes of the game, the Wildcats managed to cut it down to 7 points. It took a final first down run by Redd on third-and-8 to close out the game for the Trojans.
Arizona came into this matchup averaging 36 points per game and converted nearly 47 percent of third downs. USC held them to 31 points but allowed the Wildcats to convert over 47 percent of their third downs. The Trojan defense also had a hard time stopping Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey at times, but he was still held to around his average yards per game. It does not seem too shabby when looking at it from that perspective. A look at Arizona’s quarterback situation should change that idea quickly. B.J. Denker only accounted for 722 yards of total offense in his first four games— an average of 180 yards per game. He also only had a mere two passing touchdowns. Against USC, he had an unbelievable performance of 363 yards passing while adding four touchdowns and no interceptions. The problem came from a combination of a defensive line that appeared fatigued and subpar cornerback play.
During the post-game presser, Orgeron acknowledged the issue with the secondary saying, “Well, obviously there were some concerns going on at the end— it seemed like some easy drives down there where we did not play very well. I’m sure Clancy and I will speak about it tonmorrow and make some changes if we have to as far as personnel or scheme whatever, it is— just fix it.”
Despite Kessler being only 15/30 passing, he accumulated 297 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. Imagine how much better his stats could have been if two huge potential touchdown passes were not dropped by Nelson Agholor.
Nelson Agholor gained 161 yards against the Wildcats, nearly matching his career high receiving yards in a game. He caught for 162 yards in a losing effort against Oregon last season.
Javorius Allen scored his first two touchdowns of his career Thursday night, with the first coming from a dramatic leap over the pile.
Ty Isaac, the true freshman 5-star running back from Illinois, showed flashes of greatness
Special teams play was above average with four out of six punts in the 20-yard line, a blocked punt, and a 45-yard field goal.
The official attendance was listed at 64,215. It certainly felt like more with the amount of life in the crowd.