LOS ANGELES – Although Halloween is approaching, dealing with this USC defense has been nothing short of a nightmare. It was clear from the outset that the defense needed to step up against an Arizona team that has struggled this season. The Trojans’ offense got off to a slow start in the early drives, unlike their usual performance. Credit should be given to Arizona for holding the number one offense scoreless in the first quarter.
Here are my three takeaways from the game:
A nightmare first half for the Trojans
After winning in Boulder last weekend, USC’s performance took a hit and they dropped in the rankings. The defense allowed backup quarterback Noah Fifita to throw for 216 yards and two touchdowns, resulting in a total of 256 yards in the first half. Caleb Williams had a disappointing first half, with only 92 passing yards and one touchdown, marking it as his worst first half as a Trojan.
During the game, the USC offense struggled with third down conversions, failing to convert all four attempts. Additionally, they only managed six first downs compared to Arizona’s 15, causing frustration among Trojan fans who began to boo the team in the second quarter. The team also punted the ball four times in the first half. Although the defense missed multiple tackles, with 17 missed tackles in the previous game against Colorado, the players took responsibility for not completing their plays. Overall, USC faced many challenges during the game, making it difficult for them to find success.
Today, Domani Jackson was unable to play against Arizona but the Trojans have players ready to step up. In his place, Jacobe Covington started and made up for it with a crucial interception in the second quarter. However, the defense struggled to contain DJ Williams and Jonah Coleman, allowing them to make several big running plays.
In the first half, the Wildcats showed more physicality on both offense and defense, dominating the Trojans. USC’s offense struggled, experiencing multiple “three and outs” and Williams being sacked three times. The offensive line continued to struggle, as they had in previous games against Arizona State and Colorado. Despite the score not being as lopsided as it could have been, Williams credited the defense for keeping them in the game in order to win.
USC flips the script in the second half
We experienced a challenging first half, but were delighted to witness a remarkable comeback by the Trojans. The Coliseum was surprised by the game’s progression, but it’s understandable given the offense’s sluggish performance since being unable to score in the 4th quarter against Colorado.
USC struggled in all aspects of the game and almost lost to Arizona despite being a 21-point favorite.
The game was tied at 28-28 with only a minute left in regulation. USC’s MarShawn Lloyd made a significant run that brought them to the Arizona 6-yard line. With only 24 seconds left, the Trojans only needed to center the ball and kick a simple field goal to secure a victory. Unfortunately, they were unable to make it happen.
On their first down, USC made an unusual decision to throw the ball but unfortunately, the pass was incomplete. On their second attempt, there was a mishandling of the ball between Caleb Williams and Lloyd, which led to a loss of two yards. With time running out, USC quickly called a timeout with only four seconds remaining and brought out their field goal unit. However, disaster struck when the snap was too high and the play was unsuccessful, resulting in the game being tied at 28-28 and going into overtime.
During the game, both teams scored in the first overtime and continued to battle it out. Arizona had multiple opportunities to win, but Williams proved to be that special player we all know he is, especially when the pressure was on. In the triple overtime, Coach Riley made an incredible play call and expressed confidence in the team’s ability to execute it properly. As a result, Williams was able to run the ball in for a touchdown and convert a two-point conversion, securing the win for the team.
Moving forward, what should we anticipate from USC?
The Trojans’ triple overtime win against Arizona at home was not ideal. While the defense is a hot topic, credit must be given to all players for maintaining focus despite trailing by 17-0. Although some defensive players made big plays to secure the win, they also had some regrettable moments. USC has failed to cover the spread in their past three games.
During the game, MarShawn Lloyd had a shaky start but he gradually gained momentum and displayed impressive gameplay in the initial half. USC played for four hours, but they didn’t seem to deserve the win. The game was unusual in many aspects, but the team managed to maintain their undefeated streak by winning a home game. Lloyd’s final statistics were 15 carries, 86 rushing yards, and one touchdown. The win improved their record to 6-0 this season, leaving us to ponder whether they will move up or drop in the rankings.
In the post-game conference, Coach Riley highlighted the significance of the team culture and how it played a vital role in their victory tonight. He mentioned that most teams fail to recover and cover after going down by 17 points.
Williams appeared to become irritated during the press conference when repeatedly questioned about the defense. He took his time to explain that his brothers on the team, battle every possession to improve.
“This whole defense thing” Williams said that if they hadn’t played hard to keep the opponents in the game, the score wouldn’t be 43-41.
I have observed that this team is not the kind to sit back and relax after a performance. I am always present during their practice sessions, watching them put in the work to improve their skills. They are determined to continue their winning streak and are already preparing to face Notre Dame next Saturday.
Zachariah Branch was absent from his second game in a row, but he is anticipated to make a comeback on the field soon. Branch plays a crucial role in the offense, as his exceptional route running skills and speed create opportunities for ball runners.
“We came together as a brotherhood” said Jamil Muhammad on his defense’s performance in triple overtime.
Before leaving the press conference, Coach Riley shared an encouraging message with everyone, stating, “I wouldn’t count us out this year.”