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USC starts slow, but does enough to beat Arizona, 38-30

JuJu Smith-Schuster underwent surgery on his hand Monday and by Saturday night at the Coliseum he back to catching touchdown passes.

Smith-Schuster ignited the Trojans’ offense with a 72-yard catch and run, which ended with a touchdown in the second quarter to turn the game in USC’s favor. USC trailed Arizona, 14-3, before his score.

Smith-Schuster finished with eight catches for 138 yards.

The Trojans offense shuffled their feet and were held scoreless into the second quarter by Arizona thanks in part to a Kessler fumble which ended an early drive which began near midfield.

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The Wildcats capitalized on the Trojans mistake, scoring the first touchdown of the game on a nine-yard pass from quarterback Anu Soloman to receiver Nate Phillips.

USC failed to move the ball on its next possesion and punted back to Arizona, which did not.

Soloman capped a 51-yard drive with another touchdown pass, this time to receiver David Richards.

Alex Wood converted a 25-yard field-goal attempt to get USC on the board before Smith-Schuster scored.

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Cody Kessler, who completed 22 of 36 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns, hit running back Ronald Jones II with a four-yard scoring pass before halftime to tie the game, 17-17.

Jones finished with 177 rushing yards in 19 carries and a 74-yard touchdown run in a fourth-quarter which saw 31 points scored between both teams.

Tailback Justin Davis had two rushing touchdowns in 16 carries for 85 yards.

Solomon finished with 31 completions for 352 yards with three touchdowns for Arizona and had a pass intercepted by USC safety John Plattenburg.

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Arizona tightened the score with a field goal and a late touchdown catch for four-yards by Cayleb Jones.

The Wildcats had three receivers with more than 86 yards: Phillips (six catches, 94 yards), Johnny Jackson (eight catches, 89 yards) and David Richards (nine catches, 86 yards).

USC (6-3, 4-2 in Pac-12 Conference play) will travel to Colorado (4-6, 1-5 Pac-12) on Friday. Arizona (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) will host No. 12 Utah on Saturday.

USC 38, Arizona 30, end of regulation

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The Wildcats aren’t giving up.

Despite looking at a 15-point deficit, Arizona put the game in quarterback Anu Solomon’s hands. Solomon lead a 12-play drive, and gave the Wildcat special teams a chance to win an unlikely onside kick recovery.

Solomon found Cayleb Jones in the end zone with a four-yard touchdown pass to make the game 38-31 following a field goal from Casey Skowron.

The onside kick attempt is unsuccessful, and the Trojans will win their third game in a row.

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USC 38, Arizona 23, 2:36 left in the fourth quarter

Justin Davis caps an 11-play, 85-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown run to put the game even further out of reach from Arizona.

The Trojans chewed up more than five minutes of clock with runs from Ronald Jones II and Justin Davis and Cody Kessler went back to JuJu Smith-Schuster as well.

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USC’s defense makes a stand and forces Arizona to punt.

It hasn’t been a great night for special teams -- Tyrod Johnson returned the kickoff 56 yards to USC’s 41-yard line.

Su’a Cravens forced Anu Solomon to fumble, but the ball popped up and Arizona recovered -- Claude Pelon made the tackle.

The scattered USC faithful, loud enough to cause Arizona to false start.

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Solomon’s third-down pass fell incomplete.

USC 31, Arizona 23 -- 9:24 left in the fourth quarter

Ronald Jones II is an unreal talent. He rushes 74 yards -- shoving away two defenders -- and scores a touchdown.

The scoring drive, just two plays for 80 yards.

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USC 24, Arizona 23 -- 10:05 left to play in the fourth quarter

Arizona makes a 44-yard field goal to make it a one point game, 24-23, with 10:05 left to play.

Anu Solomon squeezed a 22-yard pass to David Richards between two defenders.

Then, Solomon completed a 36-yard pass to Nate Phillips. USC’s secondary hasn’t had its best night.

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Cravens forced Solomon out of bounds on third down and gets credited for a sack. Cravens has made seven tackles, two for losses -- including a sack.

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USC’s offense goes three and out as Jalen Greene appears to slip on third down and Cody Kessler’s pass falls incomplete.

The crowd boo’d, hoping for a flag for pass interference.

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Antwaun Woods is having his best game of the season and USC’s defense forces Arizona to punt.

Woods collected his third tackle for a loss, including two sacks.

Announced attendance at the Coliseum: 76,309

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USC 24, Arizona 20 -- 14:55 left in the fourth quarter

Justin Davis rushes for nine yards and a touchdown. USC takes a 24-20 lead with 14:55 left to play. The scoring drive covered 50 yards in seven plays.

Cody Kessler completed an eight-yard pass to Steven Mitchell Jr. on third down. Mitchell has caught three passes for 24 yards.

USC is seven of 14 on third down.

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Ronald Jones II -- what a get for USC out of Texas. He rushed for 27 yards and shed several defenders on the way to Arizona’s nine-yard line. He also limped toward the sideline after the play.

JuJu Smith-Schuster returned to the sideline from the locker room.

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USC takes over on downs on the 50-yard line after a nice stand on defense.

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John Plattenburg made his hit of the season -- and drew awes from the Coliseum -- when he laid out Nate Phillips after he caught a five-yard pass.

Then, Claude Pelon stuffed Orlando Bradford on fourth down and two.

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Alex Wood misses a 34-yard field goal and Arizona will take over at its own 20-yard line.

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Interim Coach Clay Helton said at halftime that the run game needed to be established. Ronald Jones II and Justin Davis combined for 34 yards on the drive.

JuJu Smith-Schuster fell to the turf after he caught a five-yard pass. It appeared that trainers were stretching his leg.

It was an interesting play call by Helton on third and nine, deciding to run the ball.

Arizona 20, USC 17 -- 10:51 left in the third quarter

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After a miscue on special teams, USC’s defense is able to hold Arizona to a field goal.

USC received to start the second half but went three and out after a four-yard completion to Adoree’ Jackson, an incompletion to JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cody Kessler is sacked.

Arizona returned USC’s punt 17 yards and Jahleel Pinner was called for a late hit out of bounds.

Arizona started USC’s 30-yard line, but USC’s front-seven smothered Anu Solomon.

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Arizona was called for a penalty which allowed USC to run one play before halftime with no time on the clock. Cody Kessler heaved a pass 50 yards into the end zone, but it fell incomplete.

Kessler is 12 of 21 for 201 yards and two touchdowns.

USC has rushed for a lowly 35 yards.

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Arizona Coach Rich Rodriguez chose to go for it on fourth and four, Anu Solmon attempted for the end zone, but the pass was broken up by several USC defenders. USC takes over on downs at its own 39-yard line.

Solomon is 16 of 25 for 170 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception.

USC 17, Arizona 17 -- 2:47 left in the second quarter

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Cody Kessler completes a five-yard pass to Ronald Jones II to tie the score, 17-17. USC covered 82 yards in 13 plays.

Jones and Justin Davis combined to rush for 47 yards on the drive.

JuJu Smith-Schuster caught a 15-yard pass and appears to be feeling no ill effects from the hand surgery he underwent Monday.

Arizona 17, USC 10 -- 8:12 left in the second quarter

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Arizona kicks a 38-yard field goal to take a seven-point lead.

USC attempted -- and recovered -- an on-side kick after scoring but Uchenna Nwosu was called offsides, giving Arizona the ball.

Clay Helton is clearly pulling out all of the stops to try to win this job.

Anu Solomon completed a 28-yard pass to David Richards, which put Arizona on USC’s 28-yard line but USC’s defense -- and an Arizona penalty -- held Arizona out of the end zone.

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Arizona 14, USC 10 -- 9:15 left in the second quarter

That was a quick turnaround and USC trails by four after Cody Kessler completes a 72-yard bomb to JuJu Smith-Schuster for a touchdown.

John Plattenburg intercepted Anu Solomon on the previous play and USC took over on its own 28-yard line.

Arizona was entering scoring territory after Solomon completed a 15-yard and 29-yard pass.

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Arizona 14, USC 3 -- 11:35 left in the second quarter

USC settles for a field goal after a third-down pass flies out of the hands of JuJu Smith-Schuster. After struggling through the first quarter, the offense appears to be finding its rhythm.

There was a tight end sighting on the drive -- Kessler completed an 18-yard pass to freshman Tyler Petite.

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For an unknown reason, Arizona left Adoree’ Jackson wide open for a 42-yard catch and run. Jackson made it to Arizona’s eight-yard line.

Kessler completed a touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster, but it was called back because of an illegal snap by Khaliel Rodgers. Keep in mind, Rodgers is the third-team center who was thrust into action because of season-ending injuries to Max Tuerk and Toa Lobendahn.

Four penalties for 30 yards by the Trojans.

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Arizona 14, USC 0 -- 14:56 left in the second quarter

This isn’t the Arizona team anyone expected to show up tonight after losing 49-3 last week to Washington but the Wildcats take a 14-0 lead after Anu Solomon completes a three-yard pass to David Richards for a touchdown.

The drive covered 60 yards in seven plays.

Solomon completed an impressive 23-yard pass over the middle to Johnny Jackson, which took Arizona to USC’s nine-yard line.

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Freshman cornerback Iman Marshall was called for holding on the next play, which moved Arizona half the distance to the goal.

Marshall, a freshman, has been prone to penalties this season.

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Mike Garrett is being honored between the first and second quarter. The 1965 Heisman Trophy winner draws a standing ovation from the Coliseum.

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In case you missed it, the Times caught up with Garrett last week and he had some strong words about the NCAA.

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USC’s offense looks completely out of sync and goes three and out for a second consecutive series.

The protection around Cody Kessler hasn’t been great. He has been sacked twice.

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USC has run 15 plays and has 12 yards of offense. That’s not a typo.

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After a lackluster drive that allowed a touchdown, USC’s defense comes back and forces Arizona to punt.

Anu Solomon completed a 24-yard pass to Johnny Jackson before he was sacked twice -- both times by Antwaun Woods.

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Those are Woods’ first two sacks of the season.

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USC’s offense is struggling and goes three and out.

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Arizona 7, USC 0 -- 5:46 left in the first quarter

Arizona capitalizes after recovering a USC fumble. Anu Solomon completes a nine-yard pass to Nate Phillips for a touchdown. The drive covered 55 yards in six plays.

USC’s defense struggled to stop the mobile Solomon on the drive. He has rushed for 21 yards in three carries.

Less than five minutes into the game, USC has managed two penalties already -- including a 15-yard hands to the face by freshman Noah Jefferson.

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Claude Pelon, who injured his knee against Washington, has returned to the defensive line.

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USC with a rare mistake on a handoff as Cody Kessler and Tre Madden are unable to make the exchange, resulting in a fumble. Arizona recovers and has the ball on its own 45-yard line.

JuJu Smith-Schuster must not feel any pain in his hand -- Cody Kessler has completed three passes to him.

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USC’s defense holds Arizona to a second three-and-out.

Arizona punts.

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First play on offense, Cody Kessler completes a seven-yard pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster. Smith-Schuster makes a one-handed catch with his left hand -- he had surgery on his right hand Monday.

Justin Davis rushes for two yards and Kessler is sacked on third down.

USC punts.

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USC defers to the second half and the defense forces a three-and-out to start the game.

Fans continue to trickle into the Coliseum.

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Former USC defensive lineman Lawrence Jackson led the team onto the field.

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USC announced starting lineups.

Offense: Quarterback Cody Kessler, tailback Justin Davis, fullback Jahleel Pinner, receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers, tight end Taylor McNamara and linemen Chad Wheeler, Damien Mama, Khaliel Rodgers, Viane Talamaivao and Zach Banner.

Defense: Linemen Delvon Simmons, Antwaun Woods and Greg Townsend Jr., linebackers Su’a Cravens, Anthony Sarao, Cameron Smith and Scott Felix, cornerbacks Adoree’ Jackson and Iman Marshall and safeties Chris Hawkins and John Plattenburg.

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Interesting that Smith-Schuster is in the starting lineup against a struggling Arizona team, considering he had hand surgery Monday.

Interim Coach Clay Helton said that minimum recovery time was three days, but made it sound as though he would most likely return next week.

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It’s a crisp fall evening at the Coliseum as USC and Arizona warm up for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.

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Clay Helton is 2-1 as interim coach and will try to make a 4-0 run in November against Arizona, Colorado, Oregon and UCLA in an attempt to win the permanent job.

USC is 5-3 overall and 3-2 in Pac-12 Conference play. Arizona is 5-4, 2-4.

Several USC starters are considered game-time decisions, including receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers, linebacker Cameron Smith, safety Leon McQuay II and defensive lineman Claude Pelon.

Smith-Schuster was scheduled to be fitted for a soft cast after he underwent surgery on his hand. It is unlikely Helton will play him against the struggling Wildcats.

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Rogers and Smith have been slowed because of hamstring issues, Pelon has been working his way back from a knee injury and McQuay injured a knee during practice this week.


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