Things were looking brighter for USC as they prepared for a Saturday afternoon clash under the sun in Tucson. After two consecutive wins against conference opponents, the race for the Pac-12 South was suddenly wide open again. A struggling Arizona Wildcats team presented an opportunity to further boost the Trojan’s confidence and hopes of a division title.
USC looked to ready to seize that opportunity from the outset. Sam Darnold sparked the offense once again, throwing and running the Trojans down the field in an opening 10 play, 73-yard drive. A 5-yard touchdown run by Ronald Jones started the scoring.
There was a brief moment where it looked like the Wildcats might have some fight in them. After the Arizona defense produced a three and out from the Trojans, quarterback Khalil Tate ran one in from 3 yards to tie the score at 7-7. But that’s as good as it ever got for the Cats.
USC quickly resumed command, and towards the end of the first quarter, the Trojans put together another beautifully balanced run-pass drive. During this sequence, Darnold twice ran for key third down conversions. Then, on a 3rd and 7 from the 11 yard line, Darnold found tight-end Deontay Burnett in the end zone, and the Trojans were back up by a touchdown.
USC started the second quarter with a bang, as “Mr. Everything” Adoree’ Jackson picked up an Arizona fumble and returned the ball 27 yards, taking it down to the 10 yard line. Sam Darnold took advantage of the turnover with another touchdown pass, this time to Daniel Imatorbhebhe.
Arizona’s only other chance to keep themselves in the game came on their next possession. But the Trojan D flexed its muscles again and stopped the Wildcats on a 4th and 1 from goal line. From here, USC never looked back.
On the next possession, Darnold tossed a nifty bubble screen pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster for another TD. JuJu scored yet again before half on an incredible catch and run, and USC led 34-7 at the break.
Coach Clay Helton was quick to praise Darnold at halftime, saying, “He’s not playing like a freshman right now, and that’s what we’re hoping for, distributing the ball really well to a bunch of different guys.”
And that really was the story as USC continued to pour it on. Darnold connected with JuJu for a third TD pass early in the second half - this time a 50 yard bomb. An impressive 21-yard touchdown run from Aca’Cedric Ware stretched the lead to 48-14.
Smith-Schuster was perhaps the team’s brightest star, finishing with 132 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. However, the day didn’t end well for him, as he left with an apparent injury late in the third quarter. After a hard tackle on the sideline, JuJu was left crumpled, holding his back. Trojan nation will be holding its breath until his status is better known.
Don’t look now, but Clay Helton has his team with a winning record at 4-3 going into the bye week. The Trojans will look to continue their hot streak against the Cal Bears on Oct 27th at the Coliseum.
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