LOS ANGELES – Ronald Jones II had a career-high night on the ground, JuJu Smith-Schuster played just five days after surgery on a broken hand, and the USC Trojans rallied from a 14-point deficit to defeat the Arizona Wildcats 38-30 on Saturday night at the LA Memorial Coliseum.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Trojans were dead on arrival as they came out flat, unable to get a single first down on their first three possessions.
The Wildcats capitalized on the listless Trojans as Anu Solomon threw back-to-back touchdown passes to give Arizona an early 14-0 lead.
After a 25-yard field goal finally got USC on the board, the Wildcats marched down the field deep into Trojans territory when safety John Plattenburg intercepted Solomon turning the momentum in favor of the home team.
Seconds later, the Trojans struck on a 72-yard bomb from Kessler to JuJu Smith-Schuster that cut the Wildcats lead to four.
After a 37-yard field goal for Arizona extended the lead to a touchdown, the Trojans took over and ended the half with their best drive of the game, a 13-play, 82 yard touchdown drive that featured six impressive runs for the USC backfield.
Arizona recaptured the lead with a field goal to start the third quarter, but not before JuJu Smith-Schuster oddly collapsed on the field before heading to the locker room for treatment.
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USC missed a game-tying field goal of their own on the next drive, but stopped the Wildcats on a crucial 4th down and 2 to get the ball back in Arizona territory.
The Trojans would capitalize thanks to a nine-yard touchdown scamper by Justin Davis and retake the lead 24-20.
After a 44-yard field goal brought the Wildcats within one, Ronald Jones II broke the game open with a 74-yard highlight reel run that put the Trojans up eight.
With the game in-hand, Davis ran for another touchdown, capping off an 11 play, 85-yard drive that put the Trojans up 15 with five minutes left to play.
Arizona scored a last second touchdown to get back within a single score, but by then the outcome was no longer in doubt.
It's rare for the turning point in the game to come so early, but with the Wildcats leading 14-3, and deep inside Trojan territory midway through the second quarter, sophomore safety, John Plattenburg, intercepted Anu Solomon.
The Trojans scored on a 72-yard bomb a play later, and swung the momentum completely in their favor. Had Plattenburg not intercepted the pass, Arizona could have taken a commanding 21-3 lead.
MVP OF THE GAME
Ronald Jones II. It was a career night for the fantastic freshman. Jones II rushed 19 times for a career-high 177 yards and a career-long 74 yard touchdown run. Jones II had a rushing and receiving touchdown for the first time in his career.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
The last nine meetings between USC and Arizona have been decided by a touchdown or less.
TWEET OF THE NIGHT
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's…wait, what the heck was that?
PHOTO OF THE NIGHT
JuJu Smith-Schuster returns to the field with his surgically repaired right hand in a protective cast just four days after undergoing surgery to fix a broken bone.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"He is Superman," said USC Trojans head coach Clay Helton on JuJu Smith-Schuster before the game.
"I told you he was Superman," he joked after the game.
It was homecoming night at the Coliseum as hundreds of USC Alumni including former QB Matt Barkley, USWNT soccer player Amy Rodriguez, former NFL linebacker Keith Rivers and former Heisman Trophy winner Mike Garrett, joined the USC marching band on the field at halftime.
USC (6-3) (4-2 in conference)
Arizona (5-5) (2-5 in conference)
USC travels to Colorado for another conference game against the Buffaloes.
Arizona returns to Tuscon where they will host the No. 12 ranked Utah Utes in a pivotal conference showdown.