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Five things we learned in USC's 28-26 victory over Arizona

Five things we learned in USC's 28-26 victory over Arizona
Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon, right, is sacked by USC teammates Delvon Simmons, left, and Leonard Williams during the first half of Saturday's game. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

USC defeated No. 10-ranked Arizona, 28-26, on Saturday at Arizona Stadium.

Here are five things we learned in USC's victory.

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The Trojans learned from their loss to Arizona State

USC lost on a Hail Mary pass as time expired last week against Arizona State -- and the Trojans would not let another game slip away in the final seconds.

USC had a 15-point lead in the third quarter, but with slightly more than three minutes left, Arizona had the chance to tie the score.

Defensive end Leonard Williams foiled a two-point conversion attempt by stuffing running back Jared Baker short of the goal line.

But the drama was not over -- and USC did not fold.

Arizona recovered an on-side kick and drove the field with a minute left for a potential game-winning field goal.

For the second time in a minute, USC proved resilient.

It took a stroke of luck, but Arizona's field-goal attempt was wide right, putting an elated USC offense in the victory formation on the final play.

Young defensive backs can make plays

Freshman Adoree' Jackson is going to be a star.

We already knew he was good, but this good? And against an Arizona receiving corps that had multiple veteran targets?

Jackson proved worthy of making his second start at cornerback.

He was sidelined for some of the second half because of an aggravated groin injury, Coach Steve Sarkisian said, but still made seven tackles.

More impressively, he broke up several passes, including another in the end zone.

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Freshmen safety John Plattenburg and cornerback Jonathan Lockett also played significant minutes and broke up fourth-quarter passes on consecutive plays.

Lockett was matched against Arizona's top receiver, 6-foot-3, 215-pound Cayleb Jones.

Plattenburg and Lockett proved capable of making an impact when rotating into the lineup.

Defensive line has depth

USC rotated defensive linemen throughout the game, enabling players to stay fresh as Arizona ran 101 plays.

Tackle Delvon Simmons, nose tackle Antwaun Woods and defensive end Leonard Williams started, but were replaced often by Claude Pelon, Cody Temple and Greg Townsend Jr.

It was the most Temple and Townsend have played this season.

And for the first time, Pelon proved he can affect the quarterback -- and the game.

Pelon, a junior, recorded his first sack on a third-down play late in the second quarter. On the next play, the final one of the first half, he blocked a 34-yard field-goal attempt, preserving USC's 14-6 lead.

Williams steps up

We already knew defensive end Leonard Williams was USC's standout player on defense and a virtual lock to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft.

But Williams had been relatively quiet the last few games.

He roared back against Arizona.

Williams made eight tackles, recorded two sacks and forced a fumble.

Williams proved he can make game-changing plays with the game on the line.

He made, arguably, the hit of the season on Arizona running back Terris Jones-Grigsby in the second quarter, forcing Grigsby to fumble.

In the fourth quarter, he stopped the two-point conversion.

If there was one play Arizona Coach Rich Rodriguez would probably like to have back, it would be that one – when he decided to run the ball into USC's most physically gifted player.

Still searching for game-breaking passing plays

We learned this week that throws down field are in Sarkisian's game plan, but that the Trojans are not executing.

Quarterback Cody Kessler completed 20 of 30 passes for 185 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.

His longest completion was 25 yards to Nelson Agholor.

Kessler attempted a few other deep throws but they fell incomplete.

With talented receivers such as Agholor, JuJu Smith, Darreus Rogers and George Farmer, the Trojans must find a way to stretch the field.

Questions about USC? Email me at LNThiry@gmail.com or tweet @LindseyThiry and I will answer questions in a weekly USC Now mailbag.

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