Here are three thoughts about the game.
1. Penalties, turnovers, penalties and turnovers.
USC had four turnovers and eight penalties in the first half alone, but still led 21-13 at halftime, in part because of Arizona's lack of discipline in the first two quarters (10 penalties for 99 yards). The two Barkley interceptions were just bad reads and throws on his part, Silas Redd fumbled in the red zone and Jawanza Starling's fumble off his own interception was unforced, too. The second half didn't prove to be much better, either. A D.J. Morgan fumble led to an Arizona touchdown, and USC committed another five more penalties. Mistakes like these continue to plague the Trojans, and this time, a better team took advantage and that proved to be their downfall.
2. Seizing the moment.
Barkley missed the dagger when he overthrew Woods all by himself. That would have made it USC 35-13. After that, the Wildcats ran off 26 consecutive points. I hate pointing fingers, but certain players just didn't really show up. Fullback Soma Vainuku dropped a couple passes, cornerback Torin Harris was lost all game and even Barkley was average at best, despite his stat line (493 passing yards, three touchdowns). As much as Arizona really tried giving USC this game, the Trojans never took advantage of numerous opportunities — and dropped balls by Arizona receivers — to just take control of the game.
But as much blame as the players deserve, the coaching staff failed to adequately prepare and focus this team on the task at hand. Kiffin had hoped the team "hit rock bottom" in regard to penalties, but that clearly wasn't the case. Adjustments continue to be non-existent, too, especially in the second half. The last 30 minutes for this team has plagued them all year long. In both losses, they were outscored by their opponents (Stanford and now Arizona) and four out of six conference games, they've been shut out in the third quarter. Against the Wildcats, they were held scoreless for more than 20 minutes, from 10:36 in the third till 4:40 left in the game, while Arizona ran off 26 consecutive points.
For those that still have questions with the decision-making and play calling: How many were wondering why Kiffin didn't kick the field goal with USC at the Arizona 15 in the first quarter? They went for it on fourth down and that's when Barkley missed Grimble in the end zone. At the time, it seemed a logical call to just take the points on the road. Who would've figured that field goal would be difference in the game.
3. Marqise Lee for Heisman?
At least there was one bright spot in this loss: Lee had 12 receptions, 255 receiving yards and one touchdown — at halftime. He broke his career high for receiving yards of 224 set last year against UCLA. In that first half, Barkley looked as if he was playing a video game out there, finding the sophomore wideout time and time again. Lee had receptions of 57 and 50 in the first two quarters, including one drive with receptions of 32, 28 and 15 that led to a Morgan touchdown run. He then opened the second half with a 44-yard scamper to the end zone, breaking the USC single-game receiving record and the Pac-12 record. Lee finished with 16 receptions, 345 yards and two touchdowns (one 2-point conversion, too), but it still wasn't enough. Kiffin was certainly right about one thing a year ago, repeatedly stating Lee has the chance to go down as the best receiver in USC history.