No. 9 USC outdone by Arizona 39-36

TUCSON — Any hopes No. 9 USC had of playing in Miami for the BCS National Title Game are officially gone.

After finding themselves in a 10-0 hole in the first quarter, the Trojans were unable to convert a late Hail Mary attempt as time expired to rally back against Arizona, losing 39-36 at Arizona Stadium.

Despite a school-record 345 receiving yards from sophomore wide receiver Marqise Lee, the Trojans’ 13 penalties and five turnovers ultimately led to their downfall.

Carlo Acenas

“It was a very discouraging loss today,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said. “We made a lot of mistakes and weren’t able to catch up.”

The game was filled with penalties and strange calls for USC (6-2, 4-2) from the onset. After receiving the opening kickoff, junior running back Silas Redd appeared to score on a 34-yard touchdown run, but officials ruled he was down after he spun off an Arizona tackler and his elbow touched the ground.

Senior quarterback Matt Barkley, who threw for a school-record 493 yards on the afternoon to go with his three touchdown passes, was intercepted off a tipped pass with 9:15 left in the first quarter. A taunting penalty by senior safety T.J. McDonald left the Trojans on the field after what should have been a three-and-out. Arizona quarterback Matt Scott threw an eight-yard touchdown later on in the drive.

Lee caught a 57-yard pass on first-and-30 later in the first quarter. But on fourth-and-two, Barkley missed Grimble in the end zone and the Trojans gave the ball back to Arizona (5-3). The Wildcats finished the opening frame up 10-0.

“We made plays out there; there’s no question about the playmaking of our guys,” Barkley said. “But we just kept cheating ourselves early in the game.”

The second quarter didn’t start much better for the Trojans, as Redd fumbled at the Arizona 10-yard line. The Trojans’ defense held, however, and forced a Wildcat punt.

With 11:12 left in the half, Lee caught another deep pass, this one for 50 yards. The Trojans scored with a little more than 10 minutes left when Barkley hit sophomore tight end Xavier Grimble in the flat, after which he took it up field.

Barkley was intercepted on the next Trojan drive, though, giving the Wildcats the ball at the 35-yard line. But Arizona failed to convert a fourth-and-five, and again Lee made a highlight reel play on the ensuing possession.

Lee took a short slant pass 49 yards, giving the Trojans their first lead of the day at 14-10. Starling intercepted a Scott pass but was stripped by an Arizona player, which gave the Wildcats the ball at the 28-yard line. Arizona made the most of it by hitting a 44-yard field goal to cut the Trojan lead to one. After a couple more big plays from Lee, D.J. Morgan took it in from the four-yard line. USC took a 21-13 lead into the locker room.

“We all know he’s a special player,” Barkley said of Lee. “All the yards after the catch and what he can do with the ball.”

Things looked as if they might have finally turned around for the Trojans after halftime, as they got off to a fast start in the third quarter. Lee caught a 44-yard touchdown to break the school (260 by R. Jay Soward) and conference records (293 by Oregon State’s Mike Hass) for receiving yards in a game.

The Wildcats, as was the theme the entire game, responded with four minutes left in the third, however, as Scott scored on a quarterback draw to make the score 28-20. Sophomore running back D.J. Morgan fumbled on the next drive and the Wildcats capitalized with a touchdown pass from Scott to receiver Jeff Buckner. They missed the two-point conversion, trailing the Trojans 28-26.

The fourth quarter, however, was when things fell apart.

Arizona took a 32-28 lead with 10:46 left in the fourth after the Trojans failed to convert a fourth-and-two attempt. They scored again on Scott’s third scoring pass of the day with just under six minutes left in the game.

“They did what they had to do to win,” junior cornerback Nickell Robey said. “We gave a lot of effort and we played the best game we can play. The effort level we had today was remarkable.”

Lee returned the ensuing kickoff 72 yards, and the Trojans scored on a 10-yard touchdown run from Redd. USC converted a two-point try on a pass to Lee, bringing the Arizona lead to just 39-36.

That was as close as it would get, though.

The Trojans got the ball back with just under a minute left, and had the chance to win the game on a last second Hail Mary, but Lee could not catch it, making the upset official.

“You never know. Those are kind of throw-up plays,” Barkley said of the last-second heave. “I don’t think it should have come down to a play like that in the first place. It’s unfortunate that it did.”

After the disappointing loss, the Trojans face No. 4 Oregon on Nov. 3 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

“At the end of the day, we didn’t make the plays — all the credit to Arizona,” sophomore cornerback Josh Shaw said. “Now we’ve just got to regroup, come back and we have a big week ahead. Guys are kind of down right now … but we’ll come back.”

Kickoff for the next game is set for 4 p.m., and it will be televised on FOX.

4 replies
  1. Toad
    Toad says:

    As a Wildcat fan, I of course thought it was a great game. Lee is a STUD. However I was not all that impressed with Barkley in this game. Although Scott had fewer yards, he outplayed Barkley and made few mistakes. Good luck with the rest of the season. It was clear that Arizona wanted this game more.

  2. The Croc
    The Croc says:

    Between the inane offensive play calling (a REVERSE on 4th and 2??????), the total ineptitude of the defense, and a complete failure to work the game clock, tonight’s game proved that it is time for Lane and Monty Kiffin to be put out to pasture.

    There is no question that we have the talent on the field, but the talent on the sidelines is definitely lacking. If USC wants to regain its football dominance, it must do so without the albatross of the Kiffins.

    The Pete Carroll era was a magical time, and one that probably won’t be replicated soon, but we can learn a lot of his coaching style. Even in the face of losses, Carroll maintained a positive attitude and exuded a true love of the game. He motivated the players and kept the fans reassured. In fact, most of the time you saw Carroll during the game, he’d have a smile on his face. In short, Pete Carroll exemplified what it is to be a Trojan in a way that the abrasive, glowering asshole, Lane Kiffin, never will.

    • Manny
      Manny says:

      What a ridiculous notion. Carroll is a coward who flew the coop when the sanctions came – how’s that for character? Kiffin has guided our program through two rough years. Last year, it seems he even got them to overperform. He also got Marquis Lee.

      It’s the constant mental mistakes by the PLAYERS that are killing us. I hope he reminds them to play with good fundamentals. Barkley is killing us in the passing game right now – overthrowing Woods on an easy score, 2 INT’s per game it seems. Silas Redd seems to give up the ball at least once per game as well. D.J. Morgan, on the other hand, is a bright spot.

      I’ll agree about the defense – they are giving up WAY too much, but part of that is because our offense consistently goes three and out or turns it over. Our pass rush didn’t do much today, and the lack of tackling is ridiculous. The ONLY consistent player this year is Marquis Lee. Everyone else needs to pull their head out of their butt. As a longtime fan, I’m disgusted – 13 penalties, 5 turnovers, giving up a 26-0 run in the second half – seems the Stanford loss didn’t fix much.

      I’m glad we won’t be in the national championship – our team would get destroyed at the rate they’re playing – it would be embarrassing. And I’m nervous for the next four games – never have I thought 0-4 would be a possibility against those teams. Kiffin has plenty of reason to be “glowering,” especially at these players who are just going through the motions.

      • The Croc
        The Croc says:

        So you think a reverse on 4th and 2 is good coaching? You have no issues with the play calling? Care to address my criticism regarding Kiffin’s inability to work a play clock?

        Calling Carroll a coward is a ridiculous notion. He rebuilt the USC program, and kept returning for years despite getting some pretty big money offers. Then there’s “Big Balls Pete,” which is pretty much the opposite of cowardly coaching. Get your head on straight.

        We don’t lose because of an inconsistent offense, we lose because of our defense. That’s Monty, and I have yet to see much impressive by him the last couple seasons.

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