Arizona Wildcats fall short in season opener against No. 20 USC


Courtesy Mike Christy / Arizona Athletics

Arizona quarterback Grant Gunnell looks down field and evades USC linebacker Hunter Echols on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020 in Tucson, Arizona. 

Ryan Wohl

The Arizona Wildcats lost their first game of the season in a close battle to the University of Southern California by a score of 34-30.

The University of Arizona’s offense started slowly as quarterback Grant Gunnell threw an interception on the first drive but improved after the mistake and finished the game with 286 passing yards and three touchdowns while throwing one interception. He put it all together today by establishing the run early on downs with senior Gary Brightwell and sophomore Michael Wiley, hitting his check downs, throwing the deep ball and even running the ball himself, finishing the day with 13 carries for 40 yards.

“We are disappointed, and I take full responsibility for throwing that pick early in the game,” Gunnell said. “We already got rid of that disappointment, we are optimistic and driven right now. We want to be great, we want to win games here, and we are tired of losing.”

Brightwell had an excellent game where he ran the ball 21 times for 112 yards while also catching three passes for 20 yards.

“I’m so proud of that guy; he’s family to me,” Gunnell said of Brightwell. “He’s a baller, and I see him playing on Sundays.”

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The Wildcats’ defense played well in the first half, surrendering just up 17 points to the Trojans in the first two quarters. Graduate transfer Aaron Blackwell made a huge impact on getting to USC quarterback Kedon Slovis along with sophomore Kyon Barrs and graduate transfer Roy Lopez.

Slovis finished the game 30/43 with 325 passing yards and one touchdown.

“The rotation up front has improved,” UA head coach Kevin Sumlin said. “Overall, we are better. We didn’t force a turnover today, but that is credit to USC.”

“I don’t know if we proved anything — you either win or lose,” Sumlin said. “It comes down to situational football, and in those close games, it comes down to making plays and doing your job.”

Even though the Arizona Wildcats lost their first game against the USC Trojans, they showed improvement in every aspect of their game. Their defense looked dramatically better than last year, and Grant Gunnell proved against the 20th-ranked team in the country that he is a big-time player and isn’t satisfied with losing.

Next week, Arizona travels to The University of Washington to play the Huskies in its second game of the season.

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