TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Southern California clicked on both sides of the ball, overcoming a rash of penalties while building a 24-point lead.
Then the offense bogged down. Two fumbles were lost in the fourth quarter. The penalties kept piling up.
What appeared to be an easy road victory turned into an ugly one.
“The one thing I love about our kids is theyre realists,” USC coach Clay Helton said. “To be able to come out of here with a victory and know theres still more on the bone is a good thing.”
USC (3-2, 2-1 Pac-12) dominated the Wildcats while building a 24-point third-quarter lead, but lost two fourth-quarter fumbles to let Arizona (2-3, 1-1) back in it. The Trojans also had 18 penalties for 169 yards, including a pass interference call that negated an interception in the fourth quarter.
“We didnt play very well,” Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin said. “Really, after that first drive of the second half, our defense did a good job.”
JT Daniels managed the Trojans offense well in the first half before the Trojans went stagnant in the second. He completed 16 of 24 passes for 197 yards and lost a fumble to set up Khalil Tates 32-yard touchdown pass to Cedric Peterson.
Tate threw for 232 yards and two touchdowns, but was limited to 38 yards rushing. J.J. Taylor, who had 284 yards rushing against Oregon State last week, was held to 50 yards on 18 carries.
“USC did a nice job of challenging us,” Sumlin said.
The Trojans controlled Arizona on both sides of the ball while building a 17-0 halftime lead.
USC racked up 281 total yards in the first half, scoring on Vavae Malepeais 1-yard run in the first quarter and Wares 26-yarder in the second. The Trojans stymied the Wildcats offense, limiting them to 116 yards while intercepting a pass by Tate to set up Michael Browns 42-yard field goal.
Arizona caught a break when a facemask penalty — USCs ninth penalty of the half — tacked on to a 20-yard completion gave the Wildcats a chance for a field goal with no time on the clock. Marvell Tell blocked Havrisiks 28-yard field-goal attempt, preserving the first-half shutout.
The second half continued the same as the first: Arizona gained 13 yards before punting on its first drive, Ware ripped off a 69-yard touchdown run.
Arizonas offense finally showed some life with Tate connecting on two long throws. The second one, 33 yards to Stanley Berryhill III, cut USCs lead to 24-7.
The Wildcats recovered a fumble at USCs 32-yard line after sacking Daniels early in the fourth quarter and Tate hit Cedric Peterson for a 32-yard touchdown on the next play, cutting the lead to 10.
Arizona got another score, but took too long in getting it and couldnt get the ball back.
“We just need to play a complete game in all three phases,” Arizona linebacker Colin Schooler said. “If you look at our losses, we havent done that.”
USC had a good rhythm going in the first half offensively, but labored after Wares second TD run. And those penalties. The Trojans have plenty to clean up in their week off.
Arizona took too long to get going, unable to fight all the way back from a 24-0 deficit.
With a freshman quarterback starting in his first conference road game, USCs coaches didnt want to put any extra pressure on Daniels. That meant running the ball — a lot.
The Trojans ran 47 times for 253 yards and threw it just 24 times, mostly underneath and mid-range passes. Daniels tried a couple of shots downfield, but couldnt connect. He didnt really need to the way USC was running the ball.
“We came in here saying we didnt want to put a young quarterback in a hostile atmosphere,” Helton said. “We wanted to lean on the run and he would make the plays.”
USC has a bye week before hosting Colorado on Oct. 13.
Arizona plays at No. 24 California next Saturday.