TUCSON, Ariz. -- Survive and advance, just find a way to win no matter how ugly those gut-wrenching final moments may seem. The Trojans have now won and lost games in the closing seconds. Despite the assortment of emotions, the Trojans actually did some things really well against the No. 10 Arizona Wildcats. Things that can actually translate to greater success moving forward.
Here's the top five takeaways from USC's 28-26 victory in Tucson.
No. 1: Keep feeding Buck Allen the rock.
The Trojans finally committed themselves to the running game, alleviating the pressure of a blitz-happy U of A defense and a shaky start to the passing game. The results speak for themselves, 26 carries for 205 awe-inspiring yards of powerful and elusive running. Javorius Allen looked special, and I mean Doak Walker Award special, and the Trojans leaned on their best offensive player to carry the load. His best run, taking a handoff inside the USC 10-yard line, carrying four Arizona defenders 15 yards down field near the 50 was galvanizing. That play, along with some fantastic cut-backs runs for touchdowns, totally solidified how dependent USC really is on Allen carrying the load offensively.
2. Freshmen answered the call
Faced with an assortment of depth issues, cornerback Jonathan Lockett and safety John Plattenburg got major playing time in the second half. Lockett was first tasked with guarding Cayleb Jones and then switched to Trey Griffey and Austin Hill, two of Arizona's tallest threats. Though he later admitted to being nervous, the Mater Dei product seemed unfazed by the moment. His mother, watching her son from the stands, wasn't able to suppress nervousness quite as well. Including a crucial pass breakup on third down in the fourth quarter, Lockett stepped in for Adoree' Jackson and inherited one his cover corner role. Plattenburg was thrust into the game and didn't make the big mistake, something that has plagued USC defensive backs in weeks' past.
3. USC's bend but don't break defense held on.
Facing one of the best dual-threat offenses USC has seen all season, the Trojans took a page from the Stanford game plan in the red zone. It was actually a great defensive effort when it mattered most, exemplified by the first half effort limiting U of A to just six points on three red zone trips. They may have been gashed by tempo in between the 20s but once the game slowed down, the Trojans were able to make Anu Solomon's life uncomfortable in the pocket.
4. What else is new
If it's not the Hail Mary, it's the last-second field goal that makes USC fans hold their breath. The entire coaching staff was on edge for the fourth quarter and (surprisingly enough) the timeout usage by head coach Steve Sarkisian eventually saved USC six points on the night. One week after poor clock management cost USC a game, some smart coaching put the pressure back on the Wildcats. It sure wasn't a well-coached game overall, but the final few moves from Sark salvaged a very winnable game into a "thank God we didn't blow this" type of moment in Tucson.
5. Cody Kessler the juggler
Lost in the mess of a great rushing attack and decent performance from the tight ends, Cody Kessler saved the Trojans' butts on a multitude of bad snaps from Max Tuerk. Kessler joked after the game that he and Tuerk will continue to hash out those fine details. That said, his ability to manage stress and find the open player via the read-option or the quick pass was vital to USC occupying so much clock in the second half. The Trojans were exhausted on defense, and the savvy play of Kessler gave his team a chance to regroup, recover and not lose all the momentum of a strong first half.