LOS ANGELES — If you were at the Coliseum for USC’s 43-41 triple-overtime victory over Arizona Saturday night, you might have heard a loud, constant beeping noise.
No, it wasn’t the fire alarm going off. No one was trying to break into your car. Don’t worry, you didn’t forget to take the cookies out of the oven back home.
No, that noise was the Trojans’ alarm clock going off. And its message was loud and clearly: wake the heck up.
The previous two weeks, USC largely sleepwalked through uninspiring road wins over Arizona State and Colorado. On Saturday night at the Coliseum, the Trojans tried to do more of the same.
And then, the alarm started going off in the form of a 17-0 second quarter deficit deficit to an unranked Arizona team.
The commotion woke Lincoln Riley’s team up briefly, as they responded with 28-3 run to take a 28-20 lead early in the game’s final frame. But instead of staying awake and finishing off an overmatched Wildcats squad playing with its backup quarterback, USC decided to hit the snooze button.
The Trojans allowed Arizona to score a touchdown on fourth and goal, and immediately followed that up by conceding a game-tying two-point conversion, on which the Wildcats ran the exact same play. USC’s field goal team then botched what should have been a chip-shot game-winner at the end of regulation, sending the contest into overtime.
In the third overtime period, the Trojans finally prevailed, as superstar quarterback Caleb Williams took it in himself for a two-point conversion run. The much-maligned USC defense then finally made a big stop, blowing up the Wildcats’ own two-point attempt to seal the victory.
But despite the final score, the game left a resounding message: the Trojans’ alarm is going off, and they can no longer afford to keep hitting snooze.
The Arizona win marked the final game of the “easy” portion of USC’s schedule. After not playing a single ranked team for during the first half of the season, five of the Trojans’ final six opponents are currently ranked in the AP top 25, beginning with a rivalry trip to South Bend to take on No. 21 Notre Dame this Saturday night.
USC was able to sleepwalk through wins over less talented Arizona State and Colorado squads. On Saturday night, Arizona gave the Trojans all they could handle, before finally bowing out in the third overtime session.
But the games are about to get much tougher. If USC continues to play like they did the past three weeks, they will be lucky to go 3-3 over their final six games. For a team that entered the season ranked in the top ten and with College Football Playoff aspirations, that would be a massive disappointment.
On Saturday night, the Trojans’ alarm clock went off. Its message was loud and clear: you need to step it up big time, or else this season is going to go down as a failure.
There’s no more time left for USC to hit the snooze button. The calendar has flipped to October, big games are on the horizon, and the alarm is sounding.
It’s time for them to wake up.