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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “No. 10 USC 20, Arizona 13”

    LOS ANGELES – The Arizona football team was 15 minutes away from its biggest road upset in years.

    Then, the Trojans became the Trojans again.

    The Wildcats took a 13-10 lead into the fourth quarter against a hungry USC team a week after it was stunned on its home turf against lowly Stanford.

    It wasn’t easy for the disoriented No. 10 Trojans (5-1, 3-1 Pacific 10 Conference), who sent out quarterback Mark Sanchez for his first career start, but their mission was accomplished, knocking out the Wildcats late in front of 84,671 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

    “”It’s a tough loss,”” UA head coach Mike Stoops said. “”We had a great opportunity that we let slip away there in the fourth quarter. We thought we would be able to take this game into the fourth quarter and make some plays but we never really did. They made the plays when it counted there down the stretch to really ice the game.””

    Quarterback Willie Tuitama completed 30-of-43 passes for 233 yards, but nine of his incomplete passes came in the second half, a time that the Trojans have been known to shine.

    The sixth straight win for USC over Arizona means that in order for the Wildcats (2-5, 1-3) to finish with their first winning record since 1998, it would have to win all of their remaining games.

    “”I think we played with intensity and a lot of heart and pride,”” Tuitama said. “”Honestly, we left it all out on the field. We need to do a better job finishing in certain areas.””

    USC running back Joe McKnight returned a Keenyn Crier punt for 45 yards with 10:53 remaining in the game, and on the very next play, Sanchez threw his first career touchdown pass to tight end Fred Davis, putting the Trojans ahead 17-13.

    For Arizona, it was the dagger. Not only did the team fail to score for the rest of the game, but its remaining three drives resulted in the same thing- three-and-out, for a grand total of 11 yards.

    “”I think we outplayed them for the first three quarters,”” Crier said. “”I guess in the fourth quarter we let go a little bit.””

    Crier also had an 83-yard punt in the fourth quarter that pinned USC to their own 1-yard line.

    However, five plays later, McKnight again stabbed Arizona in the heart with a 59-yard run, paving the way for a game-sealing field goal with 0:57 to play.

    The first half was highlighted by turnovers by both teams. Arizona’s first drive of the game looked promising until tight end Rob Gronkowski was hit at midfield by USC linebacker Keith Rivers, resulting in a forced fumble and a turnover on downs.

    USC led 10-0 with 8:46 remaining in the second quarter. The Wildcats chipped away, scoring 10 points in the next 7:34.

    On the first play after Jason Bondzio’s 28-yard field goal, Arizona safety Corey Hall picked off a Sanchez pass and returned it 17 yards to the USC 27-yard line, only to fumble the ball seconds later.

    Had Hall held onto the ball, the Wildcats might have had much different luck heading into the half.

    “”The guys played hard,”” said cornerback Antoine Cason. “”We needed to play all year like that. Maybe if we had, we would have had the confidence to pull this one out.

    “”We have to start somewhere. Now is not a bad place.””

    Late Hits

    Crier’s punt was only one yard shy of a school record, and the longest by an Arizona punter since 1930.

    Crier said he’s never punted that far in his life, “”only in practice messing around.””

    The game marked USC’s lowest point total at home since Nov. 3, 2001, when it defeated Oregon State 16-13.

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