Opportunities are scarce for running back Aca'Cedric Ware, so although USC was leading Arizona by a wide margin in the fourth quarter Saturday, he still felt as though he had something to prove.
Lined up in the pistol formation, he took a handoff to the right side, cut back and slapped away an arm tackle. Suddenly, he was in space. He raced down the middle of the field until he was chased down by cornerback Dane Cruikshank, 37 yards later. He arose with his shoulders slumped, upset he didn't score.
So he tried again. On the next play, he skipped through a yawning hole carved by the line and cruised 21 yards into the end zone.
It was a career day for Ware, who had 12 carries for 103 yards to lead USC's 48-14 victory.
"It felt great," Ware said.
Ware’s second-half performance, and what Coach
USC hopes Justin Davis will return by its next game, against California, but Saturday his absence provided USC's rushers with an rare opportunity for touches.
"When he comes back, he's going to take over again," Ware said. "But until then we need to hold it down."
USC has tried to cycle Ware into its usual rotation. Against Utah, the coaches gave him a series even though Justin Davis had begun to find a rhythm. But since then, Helton has made giving Justin Davis more carries a priority.
Dominic Davis, too, made the most of playing time in the fourth quarter. He had an 85-yard run. Cruikshank also chased him down near the goal line.
Jones was Saturday's workhorse, Helton said. He had 81 yards in 16 carries, both season highs. But the electrifying runs that have propelled him to the USC freshman rushing record last season remained elusive.
He came close to breaking loose. Once, he careened into the secondary, collided with the safety, spun out and nearly slipped free. But he could not hold himself up as he stumbled forward.
"I had a couple one on ones," he said. "I need to make the safety miss and take it to the house."
For Arizona, it was an unwanted sequel just with a different lead actor.
A season ago, Jones, then a modestly used back, broke out against the Wildcats with a 177-yard performance. This time, it was Ware.
"We really challenged all three backs," Helton said.
"I thought they did their job."