USC holds on for 28-26 win over Arizona

This time USC got the miracle ending.

A week after losing to Arizona State on a Hail Mary pass, the Trojans’ prayers were answered when Casey Skowron missed a 36-yard field-goal in the final seconds, allowing USC to hold on for a 28-26 win over Arizona Saturday night.

USC improved to 4-2 overall, 3-1 in the Pac-12 Conference. Tenth-ranked Arizona, fresh off an upset over Oregon, fell to 5-1, 2-1.

USC looked like it would hold on when it stuffed Arizona on a two-point conversion try with a little more than a minute left in regulation.


But Arizona’s onside kick bounced high over USC’s JuJu Smith and Cayleb Jones came down with it for Arizona, giving the Wildcats one final chance.

For USC, which waited all week to put last week’s final-second failing behind, it looked like the beginning of another heart break ending.

Instead, it was Arizona that was left stunned.

Nailbiters are par for the course the last eight times these teams have played -- all decided by a touchdown or less.


USC got a career-high 205 rushing yards from Javorius Allen, who ran for three touchdowns. Quarterback Cody Kessler completed 20 of 30 passes for 185 yards but had a pass intercepted for the first time this season.

The Trojans, who had two turnovers in their first five games, also lost a fumble and overcame 102 yards in penalties.

Jared Baker, a junior who played at Los Angeles Loyola High, had 43 yards rushing and two touchdowns for Arizona. But on his two-point conversion try, Baker was met head-on by USC’s Leonard Williams, who knocked him backward.

Arizona freshman Anu Solomon completed 43 of 72 passes for 395 yards and a touchdown.

USC 28, Arizona 26 (final)

Arizona needs a miracle.

And is part way there.

The onside kick bounces high over JuJu Smith and Cayleb Jones comes down with it for Arizona.


With 1:03 to play, Arizona is on the USC 47 but doesn’t have any timeouts.

A complete pass to the 40 to David Richards. Another complete pass to Richards at the 22. A run by Baker takes the ball inside the 20.

Now 27 seconds to play. After an incomplete pass in the end zione and it’s third-and-seven with 22 seconds left.

Casey Skowron is on for a 36-yard field-goal try with 17 seconds left . He’s missed twice tonight.

And he misses again -- wide right.

Skowron tries an acting job, falling to the ground as if he was hit. But he wasn’t and USC will hold on.


USC 28, Arizona 26 (1:07 left in fourth quarter)


Here we go. USC leads Arizona, 28-20, with 3:27 left in regulation. Wildcats take over at their own 20.

Anu Solomon hits Cayleb Jones for a five-yard gain. Then there’s an incomplete pass and another connection with Jones, this time for a 12-yard gain.

Then it’s Solomon to Jones for another gain, nearly to midfield. Jones fumbles, but manages to bat the ball goes out of bounds.

After a heavy rush by Hayes Pullard forces an incomplete pass, Solomon hits Trey Griffen for a first down at the USC 43. Then another pass goes to Griffey for a seven-yard gain.

Another seven-yard gain and a first down to Griffey precedes a pass into the end zone that falls incomplete.

Then it’s Solomon to Austin Hill for a first down at the USC 13 with 1:37 to play.

A pass to Cayleb Jones sails high. Now 1:22 left. Another pass to Jones is caught just inside the 10  and taken to the two. On first and goal from the two, Jared Baker scores on a run.

Arizona now within two points of a tie. It all come down to the two-point conversion try with 1:07 on the clock.

A pass by Solomon sails way over the head of Cayleb Jones but USC is called for pass interference -- even though Jones had no shot at catching the pass.

With now only a yard to go for a tie, the ball is handed off to Baker, but he runs into Leonard Williams and USC holds.


USC starts from its own 23-yard line. 

Cody Kessler hands off to JuJu Smith, who rushes for two yards. 

Another handoff the next play, this time to Justin Davis. Interesting call by Coach Steve Sarkisian to hand off to Davis, who has already fumbled tonight. Maybe Javorius Allen would make more sense to try to close the game out?

Allen returns to the lineup for third-and-one and picks up the first down with a five-yard run to midfield.

Justin Davis picks up four yards in two runs and we’ll see if Cody Kessler will actually throw the ball downfield this time.

Nope. A little swing pass to Allen gains one. Now it’s fourth-and-five and Steve Sarkisian actually looks like he’s contemplating going for it.

Nope again. USC takes a delay-of-game penalty and Kris Albarado punts it to the Arizona 20.


Arizona will start on its own 20-yard line. 

Anu Solomon goes to the Wildcats leading receiver, Cayleb Jones, on the first play of the drive -- completing a 10-yard pass.

Freshman cornerback Jonathan Lockett broke up a huge third-down pass by Solomon, intended for David Richards.

Arizona punts.


The Trojans will start from their own 10-yard line after the Trojans are called for holding.

A quiet crowd is now wide awake, on its feet and making a ton of noise.

Cody Kessler throws on first down, but the pass falls incomplete to Darreus Rodgers.

Wow, Javorius Allen is easily having the most impressive game of his career. He rushes 32-yards after drawing more awes when he made a couple of impressive cuts -- he then dragged defenders on his back a few yards before finally going down.

USC has first and ten at their own 42-yard line, but is backed up when Zach Banner is called for a false start.

The Trojans have been called for 11 penalties, resulting in 97 yards. Arizona has four penalties for 35 yards.

Kessler’s throws to freshman Bryce Dixon on third down, but Dixon is unable to make the catch.

USC punts.


USC 28, Arizona 20 (10:19 left in the fourth quarter)

Arizona will start from its own 15-yard line.

Anu Solomon is trying to quickly lead his Wildcats down the field. They pick up a first down before USC nose tackle Antwaun Woods kneels on the field and trainers come look at him.

Woods pops up and jogs off.

Solomon gets back to work and three officials throw flags at Chris Hawkins, who is called for pass interference trying to guard DaVonte’ Neal.

Arizona is faced with fourth and three on USC’s 41-yard line. Coach Rich Rodriguez tells his offense to go for it. 

Solomon finds a wide-open Jared Baker for a 41-yard touchdown. No USC defender was anywhere near Baker. 

And the crowd goes wild, the press box was just shaking as fans jumped to their feet. 


USC will start on its own 40-yard line. 

Cody Kessler goes right back to Javorius Allen, who is tripped for a one-yard gain.

Here is a play I haven’t seen this year, Cody Kessler throwing over the middle intending for fullback Jahleel Pinner. The pass fell incomplete.

Kessler was sacked on third down and USC punts... but as per the usual tonight, flags fly from the officials.

Off-setting penalties are called and USC will punt again.


Arizona started on its own 24-yard line.

It’s a quick three and out for the Wildcats.


USC 28, Arizona 13 (35 seconds left in the third quarter)

USC will start at its own 25-yard line.

Quarterback Cody Kessler goes for the kill shot on first down -- a 50-yard pass to JuJu Smith, but he is nearly intercepted as the pass falls incomplete.

USC brings in the jumbo package on third down, but Javorius Allen goes nowhere. 

Fourth and two on Arizona’s 42-yard line and USC Coach Steve Sarkisian is going to go for it. 

The gamble pays off, as Kessler completes a 10-yard pass to Randall Telfer.

Arizona is getting more pressure on Kessler, as he is forced to scramble checking for open receivers. He finds JuJu Smith on third down to put USC inside Arizona’s five-yard line.

One-yard touchdown run by Javorius Allen to cap the drive. Allen has rushed 163 yards in and scored three touchdowns in 21 carries. 


USC 21, Arizona 13 (6:05 left in the third quarter)

USC will start from its own 25-yard line.

Cody Kessler completes a three-yard pass to Justin Davis, who is hit from multiple directions and fumbles. 

Arizona recovers the ball on USC’s 22-yard line.

Anu Solomon hands off to hands off to Tyrell Johnson who rushes for nine yards.

A couple plays later, Solomon hands off to Jared Baker who rushes six yards for a touchdown -- and Arizona Stadium comes back to life.

That series -- just four plays -- was all on the ground for the Wildcats.

The game attendance tonight is 56,754.


Arizona will start from its own 25-yard line.

Anu Solomon fires deep for Cayleb Jones on third down, but Kevon Seymour -- who just rotated in after Adoree’ Jackson walked with trainers off the field -- makes a nice break up.

Arizona punts.


USC 21, Arizona 6 (9:17 left in the third quarter)

USC will start the second half from its own 25-yard line.

Cody Kessler goes to Javorius Allen the first two plays of the second half.

But on third down, Kessler finds an open Nelson Agholor for a 16-yard completion.

Kessler can throw on first down, too. He completes a 14-yard pass to Darreus Rogers.

Allen nearly breaks for his third touchdown of the game, but gets taken down after bouncing off a couple of Arizona defenders.

USC is at Arizona’s 28-yard line.

Kessler hands off to Allen again and the Trojans reach the first down marker to put them inside the red zone. 

Kessler throws to a wide-open Nelson Agholor in the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown.

You could hear a pin drop in Arizona Stadium right now. 


Here are some halftime statistics:

Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon has completed 23 of 38 passes for 205 yards. Seven Wildcats receivers have caught a pass, but Arizona’s leading receiver, Cayleb Jones, has been held to just two receptions for 18 yards.

USC quarterback Cody Kessler is 10 of 14 for 104 yards, with an interception.

USC tailback Javorius Allen has rushed 106 yards and scored two touchdowns in eight carries.

USC has seven penalties for 64 yards, Arizona has three for 20.

The Trojans have run 26 total plays, Arizona 55.

Interesting halftime observation, kicker Andre Heidari is on the field with the Trojans’ backup kickers and is holding for them.


USC 14, Arizona 6 (Halftime)

Arizona will start on its own 35-yard line.

Quarterback Anu Solomon completes an eight-yard pass to Cayleb Jones over Chris Hawkins, who is called for pass interference -- which automatically gives Arizona a first down.

Su’a Cravens gets a bit chippy with DaVonte’ Neal after Neal catches an 11-yard pass over him.

Pac-12 officials are working overtime.

Solomon was called for an illegal forward pass, but that was reviewed and overturned. So, officials then decided to go with their next penalty and call USC for roughing the passer. Which gives Arizona a first down. Who can keep up with these officials anymore?

I can’t even finish writing a sentence before another flag is on the field.

The officials called holding on USC’s defense, No. 9. There is no number nine on USC’s defense.

The next play, with Arizona at USC’s nine-yard line, Leonard Williams makes a huge hit and forces a fumble by running back Terris Jones-Grigsby.

Jones-Grigsby is shaken up on the play and is walked off by trainers.

J.R. Tavai recovered the fumble and USC will have the ball at its own nine-yard line.

Cody Kessler completes a 25-yard pass to Nelson Agholor on the first play of the series.

Kessler is nearly intercepted two plays later, but the ball bounces off Tra’Mayne Bondurant’s hands.

Kessler completes -- what I would say -- is his best pass of the season, sneaking the ball in between multiple defenders. But USC is called for holding, so a long completion comes back to the 25-yard line. 

Kessler scrambles, scrambles, and even avoids getting sacked before he is intercepted by Jonathan McKnight. McKnight is the brother of former Trojans tailback Joe McKnight.

That is Kessler’s first interception of the season.

Arizona has the ball on USC’s 43-yard line. 

Anu Solomon is working his way down field with a couple of six and seven yard completions.

On third and five at the Trojans’ 14-yard line, USC defensive tackle Claude Pelon registers his first sack of the season.

Arizona’s 34-yard field goal is attempt is blocked by Claude Pelon as time expires in the half. 

USC coaches just went crazy jumping on the field with the players before sprinting to the locker room.


USC will start from its own seven-yard line.

Cody Kessler hands off to Justin Davis who is absolutely flattened by Arizona players. But after the play, it’s tight end Randall Telfer who is laying on the turf in apparent pain. He was able to stand and walk off without assistance.

On third down, Kessler keeps the ball and is able to scramble for a four-yard gain and a first down.

USC’s offensive line is doing a nice job holding its blocks and allowing Kessler plenty of time to throw. He completes a seven-yard pass to JuJu Smith.

The sirens inside Arizona Stadium blare on third down, as Davis is stuffed for a loss of two yards.

USC punts.


Arizona will start from its own 16-yard line.

Javorius Allen’s long touchdown run has silenced this rowdy Arizona crowd. 

USC’s secondary continues to actively rotate. John Plattenburg and Su’a Cravens are at safety, as Gerald Bowman rotates out.

Bowman is back in on third down and makes a huge third down tackle, which will force Arizona to punt.

USC’s defense is looking much more active than it did against Arizona State last week.


USC 14, Arizona 6 (10:30 left in the second quarter)

USC will start from its own 37-yard line.

Javorius Allen rushes 15 yards after breaking through Arizona’s defensive line.

Two plays later, Kessler hands off to Allen who cuts to his left and leaves the Wildcats’ defenders behind -- rushing 48 yards for a touchdown. Allen’s move drew a few awes from the press box - it was slick. 

Allen has been unstoppable after he was stuffed on his first two carries of the game.

Alex Wood’s extra point is good.


Arizona will start from its own 10-yard line.

Anu Solomon has a wealth of receivers to work with as Arizona starts marching down the field -- seven Wildcats receivers have caught a pass.

USC’s defensive line is actively subbing -- this is a big change from what we’ve seen in the previous five games.

And on que, Leonard Williams rotates in and sacks Solomon on third down.

Arizona punts.


The kick off was caught by JuJu Smith and USC is called for holding.

USC will start on its own 16-yard line.

Cody Kessler completes a sideline pass to Nelson Agholor to start the drive and then fires down field on the run to Smith, who is able to make the catch -- and what do you know, USC finally throws down the field -- and gains 24 yards on the play.

That’s the end of the first quarter.

Kessler starts the second quarter with another sideline pass to Agholor, who crashed into his own blocker.

The third down noise is thunderous here, and center Max Tuerk snaps the ball almost over Kessler’s head. It’s fumbled, but the Trojans recover.

USC punts.


USC 7, Arizona 6 (42 seconds left in the first quarter)

Arizona will start on its own 25-yard line.

Su’a Cravens jumps -- and nearly intercepts -- Anu Solomon. Cravens is lined up as a linebacker for the third consecutive game.

Solomon is continuing to attack cornerback Kevon Seymour’s side of the field, rarely challenging Adoree’ Jackson. 

Solomon finally went after Jackson and completed a pass to Cayleb Jones, Arizona’s top receiver. Jackson is quickly rotated out for Chris Hawkins.

USC’s defensive line while a wholesale rotation, it’s Claude Pelon, Cody Temple, and Greg Townsend Jr. subbing in for Leonard Williams, Antwaun Woods, and Delvon Simmons.

Scott Felix jumps offsides -- a costly penalty against USC -- with Arizona in the red zone.  

The Trojans defensive rotation is very active, as Jackson subs in for Kevon Seymour and the starting defensive line is back in.

This is the first time this season I’ve seen this many defensive substitutions for USC.

Jackson makes a huge play in the end zone on third down, as Jones goes up for a touchdown pass and it falls incomplete. 

Arizona makes a 25-yard field goal.


USC 7, Arizona 3 (6:03 left in the first quarter)

USC freshmen Adoree’ Jackson and JuJu Smith were back to return the kick off. 

Jackson returned it 34 yards. USC will start from its own 34 yard line.

USC’s offensive line bought Cody Kessler plenty of time as he completed his first pass of the game to tailback Javorius Allen. 

It appears that USC Coach Steve Sarkisian’s game plan is to setup the run before the pass. Last week, the Trojans mostly threw the ball their first couple of series.

Kessler is feeding Allen -- and this time, it pays off.

Allen breaks -- and dodges -- a couple of tackles and rushes 34 yards for a touchdown. Sarkisian said the last two weeks that it was a point of emphasis for the tailbacks to break tackles in the second level. Allen executed there.  


Arizona 3, USC 0 (8:21 left in the first quarter)

Arizona will start from its own 36-yard line after a 43 yard punt return by the Wildcats.

Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon completed a 14-yard pass to Austin Hill. USC Coach Steve Sarkisian challenged the ruling on the field, but the call was confirmed -- which costs USC a timeout.

Arizona makes a 32-yard field goal.

The Wildcats, so far, look like the dominant team on the field.


Interesting to note, USC substituted for its defensive line on Arizona’s first drive of the game.

USC will start on its own 31-yard line.

Cody Kessler handed off to Javorius Allen on the first play for USC. Allen was dropped for a two yard loss

Kessler handed off to Allen again, this time for a two yard gain.

Kessler saw an open Nelson Agholor in the middle of the field, but the pass was dropped.

Kris Albarado is back punting tonight for USC with the return of long snapper Zach Smith, who was sidelined last week because of a concussion. 


Arizona will start on its own 25 yard line.

Outside linebacker J.R. Tavai is off to a quick start for USC, deflecting a pass on second down.

Arizona converts on third and seven. 

DaVonte’ Neal nearly breaks for a touchdown after getting by Kevon Seymour, but stepped out of bounds on the 38 yard line. It was a 27 yard completion.

Seymour is called for pass interference on the next play. Arizona is targeting Seymour’s side of the field early.

Arizona misses a 48-yard field goal attempt.


USC won the toss and elected to defer to the second half. 

Former USC quarterback Jesse Scroggins, who transferred to Arizona after the 2011 season, is a team captain tonight.


I just returned from the field, where kicker Andre Heidari was sitting on the bench in street clothes. 

USC announced Heidari is sidelined because of a groin injury and that Alex Wood will handle field goals, extra points, and kick offs. 

Kicker Matt Boermeester was also warming up. 

Arizona Stadium is loud -- the sound is muted in the press box -- but the student section is packed and the bass is rocking on the field.


It’s a beautiful night in Tucson, Ariz., as the sun begins to set and we get ready for 7:30 kickoff between USC and 10th-ranked Arizona.

Tucson natives in the press box are buzzing about the excitement on campus surrounding tonight’s game, with Arizona undefeated and off to its best start since 1998.

Arizona Stadium looks noticeably different than in 2012, with the North end zone now fully enclosed with seating. Two seasons ago, it was closed off for construction. 

The Arizona student section is quickly filling up with more than an hour until kickoff. 

Here is a link to today’s pregame story by Gary Klein.