USC again has the final say, and score, to beat Arizona

For the second straight week at the start of this strange, pandemic-shortened college football season, USC found itself tiptoeing along the edge of oblivion, only to have its season saved in the last few seconds Saturday in Tucson, Ariz.

It took another fortunate fourth quarter for the Trojans to return from the brink against Arizona, which held a field-goal lead with just 95 seconds remaining. But USC mounted a final drive — and didn’t even need a miraculous onside kick this time — to sneak out of the desert with a 34-30 victory.

The Trojans (2-0) had their chances to do away with the Wildcats (0-1) much earlier in the second half. On three consecutive possessions, they drove inside the Arizona 10-yard-line. But USC managed just three points from those trips, as red zone woes saw them reeling for the second consecutive week.

It took a turnaround effort from Kedon Slovis in the fourth quarter to engineer another comeback. Until late, the sophomore quarterback didn’t look like himself, as many of his passes sailed off target. Some fluttered and flopped in mid-air.

During the Trojans’ final two drives, Slovis completed 13 of 15 passes, including his final 12, to save USC’s season. With 25 seconds left and Arizona’s defense on its heels, Slovis handed off to senior Vavae Malepeai, who finished off USC’s final drive.

Slovis finished with 325 yards passing and one touchdown, a six-yarder to Erik Krommenhoek.

Before that final drive, nothing seemed to come easy for USC. The Trojans’ run game took two quarters just to rev up, while the Wildcats ran roughshod with a quarterback who could hardly be described as a dual threat.

Grant Gunnell had just 14 career rushing yards when he took Khalil Tate’s place as Arizona’s quarterback. On Saturday, he had 41 before halftime, weaving his way with ease through a USC defense that last week let Arizona State’s Jayden Daniels run for 111.

Arizona’s quarterback wasn’t the only one to find running room against an uninspiring USC front seven. Running back Gary Brightwell powered his way to 112 yards, steamrolling a Trojans defense that gave up 258 the week before.

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