No. 20 USC inspires little confidence in comeback win over Arizona – Press Enterprise

Another week, another from-the-jaws-of-defeat victory for USC.

This time, 20th-ranked Trojans pulled ahead on a Vavae Malepeai touchdown, the senior back spinning his way into the end zone with 25 seconds left for the go-ahead score and 34-30 victory over Arizona, which had taken a three-point lead with 1:35 to play.

Even with the win, it’s hard to walk away from this game feeling good about where the Trojans are as a team even with a 2-0 start to the year.

It was a little easier to brush off USC’s dramatic win over Arizona State last week. It was the opener, with the rust that comes with that, and the Sun Devils were expected to be a Pac-12 South competitor this season.

But Arizona was picked to finish last in the division this year, while USC was predicted to win it. Still, the Wildcats (0-1) gave the Trojans everything they could handle.

And even in the win, USC showed little progress, if not straight-out regression, in this game.

Arizona QB Grant Gunnell had 14 career rushing yards entering the day. It didn’t matter against USC, as the sophomore quarterback converted lumbering first downs on the ground against the Trojans, racking up 40 rushing yards.

The penalties USC accrued were increasingly inane as the game went on. The Trojans drew two automatic-first down flags on third down on Arizona’s second drive of the game, letting the Wildcats stay on the field for a touchdown.

In the third quarter, USC got to the Arizona goal line on consecutive possessions. But on the first scoring opportunity, USC committed a false start and then a delay of game to drop the ball back from the one-yard line to the 11 on third-and-goal. Parker Lewis had to attempt a field goal that sailed wide.

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The next drive, a pass interference call on tight end Jude Wolfe wiped out a first-down conversion. When the Trojans had to go for it on fourth-and-one, Markese Stepp was dropped for a loss as USC didn’t block the edge rusher.

That play was one half of the coin for USC’s ground attack Saturday. For much of the first half, it seemed like the Trojans coaching staff trusted its offensive line to block for more than a yard or two, only calling for a run on short-yardage situations. Given how frequently those plays failed, it seemed like a warranted concern.

But the Trojans made a more concerted effort to run as the game wore on, to some degrees of success. Stepp tied his career high with 82 rushing yards and a touchdown, while Stephen Carr reached the end zone for the second week in a row.