The USC Trojans was in for a challenge with the Arizona Wildcats coming in for homecoming weekend. Arizona had an offense led by a dynamic quarterback in Khalil Tate and that ranked ninth in the nation. With that plus four defensive starters out for the game, the Trojans defense was in for a test. They managed to pass that test with flying colors. With the USC offense struggling in the first quarter, the defense stepped up and shutdown Arizona’s offense. USC managed to fluster and contain Tate in the backfield. They also sacked the Wildcats senior quarterback 5 times in the first half.
The Trojans defense held Tate to only 47 yards passing and -27 yards rushing after the sacks. Arizona made a quarterback change in the 3rd quarter, going with Grant Gunnell. However, the change didn’t change things as Arizona’s offense struggled all night and was shutout until the 4th quarter when USC put their third string defensive players into the game.
Offensively USC started off slow in the first half as they went three and out in their first 4 drives. However, thanks to two Arizona fumbles (One on special teams and another on offense) the Trojans had a 10-0 lead. The added on to the lead as the offense began to gain some momentum, taking a 17-0 lead into halftime. USC was also the first team to shutout Arizona in the first half this season.
The win came at a cost as injuries became a major story of tonight’s game. USC were the victim of the injury bug all week and it hit them again during the victory over Arizona. Defensively the Trojans lost safety Talanoa Hufanga, Drake Jackson, linebacker Abdul-Malik McClain to injuries during the first half of the game. The injuries were a huge hit to a unit that were without four starters in Christian Rector, Palaie Gaoteote, Olaijah Griffin, and Greg Johnson for tonight’s game. Offensively USC saw both of their running backs Stephen Carr (Knee) and Markese Stepp (Ankle) went down in the 3rd quarter. Even freshman Munir McClain went down with a knee injury during the late fourth quarter.
With key players going down to injury, USC relied on their backups and they stepped up in a huge way. Hunter Echols and Kana’i Mauga filled their roles in a huge way for the Trojans. Both pressured both Tate and Gunnell for the whole night. Mauga picked off Gunnell in the 3rd quarter after Arizona made the switch at quarterback.
Freshman running back Kenan Christon made his debut in a huge way for the Trojans. The high school track star showed his blazing speed with a 55 yard touchdown run to put USC up 34-0. Christon would strike one more time with a 30 yard touchdown run to make it a 41-7 lead. The true freshman was the leading rusher in the game with 103 yards and two touchdowns on 8 carries.
With the win USC moves to 4-3 overall and 3-1 in Pac-12 play. They’re currently tied with Utah for the Pac-12 south lead, however they own the tie breaker over the Utes following their 30-27 win back in September. The Trojans control their own fate in the Pac-12 south moving forward with their remaining games being in the Pac-12. Unfortunately they won’t have enough time to sit back and rest. USC has a short week as they travel to Boulder for a Friday night matchup with the Colorado Buffaloes. All eyes will be on the Trojans and their injury status moving forward.