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USC edges Arizona, 38-31, in Ed Orgeron's debut as interim coach

October 10, 2013|By Gary Klein and Mike DiGiovanna
  • USC defensive end George Uko forces Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker to scramble from the pocket in the first quarter Thursday night.
USC defensive end George Uko forces Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker to… (Luis Sinco, Los Angeles…)

Are we having fun yet? The answer for the USC football team, playing its first game under interim coach Ed Orgeron Thursday night, was a resounding “yes.”

Orgeron vowed to inject some more life, emotion and creativity into a program that had grown a little stiff under Lane Kiffin, who was fired after a Sept. 28 loss at Arizona State. Orgeron made good on that promise in USC’s 38-31 Pacific-12 Conference victory over Arizona in the Coliseum.

Orgeron and new play-caller Clay Helton gave Cody Kessler the green light to take numerous shots downfield, and the sophomore quarterback delivered, connecting with Nelson Agholor and Tre Madden on touchdown pass plays of 62 and 63 yards in the first quarter. The Trojans (4-2 overall, 1-2 in conference) had only one pass play of more than 60 yards in their first five games.

But it was some punishing runs by Silas Redd that sealed the victory for USC in the final minutes.

Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker, who completed 28 of 44 passes for 363 yards and four touchdowns, connected with Garic Wharton on a 28-yard scoring play to bring the Wildcats to within 38-31 with 4:18 remaining, and the ensuing kickoff pinned the Trojans back at their four-yard line with 4:15 left.

But Redd reeled off runs of eight, 12 and eight yards to chew up a couple minutes of clock. On a third-and-eight play from the USC 37-yard line, Redd rushed for 10 yards and a first down with 1:12 left. Arizona was out of timeouts, USC ran out the clock, and the Trojans dumped a bucket of ice water over the head of their new coach.

“It was fun, but we had a little too much fun in the fourth quarter,” Orgeron said in a television interview after the game. “I was happy for the coaches and our players. They gave us everything they could possibly give tonight.

“I liked our consistsency, the way we ran the ball, our balance, the way we protected the quarterback. I’m proud of our whole football team and happy for the Trojan family.”

Kessler completed 15 of 30 passes for a career-high 297 yards, with seven of those completions going to Nelson Agholor for 161 yards. Ka’Deem Carey rushed for 138 yards on 21 carries and caught six passes for 36 yards for Arizona.

Here's a recap of the scoring drives:

USC 38, Arizona 31 (4:18 left in the fourth quarter)

Here come the Wildcats.

A 21-yard punt return by Johnny Jackson gave Arizona the ball on the USC 42, and it took the Wildcats only two plays and 19 seconds to find the end zone.

B.J. Denker passed 14 yards to Terrence Miller for and then 28 yards to Garic Wharton for a touchdown. Wharton ran a wheel route from the slot, and Denker led him with a perfectly thrown pass.

USC 38, Arizona 24 (6:48 left in fourth quarter)

Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker is one quick and elusive dude.

The sophomore avoided a heavy pass rush that nearly pushed him out of bounds and fired a nine-yard touchdown pass to David Richards, who made a leaping catch in the back of the end zone and got one foot down.

The score capped a 17-play, 96-yard drive during which the Wildcats converted three third downs.

USC 38, Arizona 17 (14:46 left in the fourth quarter)

Javorius Allen capped a nine-play, 73-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown run to help the Trojans pull away from the Wildcats.

The two key plays on the drive were Cody Kessler completing passes of 11 and 29 yards to tight end Randall Telfer.

Kessler, through three quarters, has completed 14 of 27 passes for 294 yards.

USC 31, Arizona 17 (4:03 left in third quarter)

The Wildcats needed only three plays to drive 85 yards for a touchdown.

Ka’Deem Carey got the drive moving with a 39-yard run.

Quarterback B.J. Denker, after a pump fake, found Garic Wharton open down the left sideline for a 45-yard touchdown touchdown pass, Wharton’s first touchdown of the season.

USC 31, Arizona 10 (8:15 left in third quarter)

On a third-and-11 play from the Arizona 41-yard line, USC quarterback Cody Kessler, feeling the pocket close in around him, bolted up the middle and then toward the right sideline for a 34-yard scramble to set up Andre Heidari’s 45-yard field goal.

USC 28, Arizona 10 (halftime)

A USC offense that produced only one pass play of more than 60 yards in five games before Thursday night produced two such plays for touchdowns in the first quarter against Arizona at the Coliseum.

Quarterback Cody Kessler connected with Nelson Agholor on a 62-yard scoring play and combined with Tre Madden on a 63-yard strike as the Trojans took early control of interim coach Ed Orgeron’s debut game after replacing the fired Lane Kiffin.

Kessler completed eight of 15 passes for 218 yards in the first half, with four of those completions going to Agholor for 128 yards.

Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker completed 16 of 21 passes for 209 yards and a touchdown in the first half. The Wildcats had allowed only 11 first-quarter points in four games.

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