Here’s the fourth post in our new ‘film study’ series started last week.
Every other day from now until Aug. 23, we’ll be putting up a set of pertinent-to-this-year notes from each game, going of course in chronological order from the Minnesota season opener to the UCLA season finale. At the end, on Aug. 25, we’ll have one last post with our overall takeaways from the re-watching. By then, it’ll be the week of this year’s opener.
We've already done USC’s 19-17 win over Minnesota, 23-14 win over Utah, 38-17 win over Syracuse and 44-23 loss to Arizona State. Here, now, are our five notes — four big things and a bunch of little ones — from USC’s 48-41 win over Arizona on October 1, 2011.
The Trojans led this game 17-0 at one point and 34-12 midway through the third quarter. It should never have gotten to the point that it did in the final minutes, when USC had to recover an onside kick to avoid possible overtime.
In particular, USC's defense on Arizona's final drive was just bad.
Even with a penalty, it only took the Wildcats six pass attempts (and five completions) to go 53 yards against the Trojans in those final minutes. On first-and-goal at the USC 4-yard line with 1:06 to go, Arizona's Nick Foles threads the needle with ease through Shane Horton, Chris Galippo and T.J. McDonald to complete a touchdown pass to Austin Hill at the back of the end zone.
And, earlier, the Wildcats ran 24 plays to the Trojans' 10 in the third quarter. A team entering a period with a 17-point advantage should not be giving up those kind of numbers.
Lee breaks out
This was Marqise Lee's official breakout game, and, as you might expect, it was helped in large part by the dominant play of Robert Woods, who had a ridiculous 255-yard day.
On Lee's 33-yard touchdown catch near the end of the first quarter, Arizona's defenders are drawn out of position by Woods to leave Lee literally wide open in the end zone. It was a masterful play call by Lane Kiffin considering how the game had gone to that point.
One mistake by Lee: He didn't fight for the ball well enough on a slant route he ran in the third quarter, when he was targeted by Barkley. Arizona's Shaquille Richardson jumped the route, but Lee could have done a better job of preventing the interception.
Still, a telling move from him came at the end of the third, when he broke a nice 14-yard gain off a short pass from Matt Barkley but was tackled by his shoestrings as he developed eyes for the end zone. He slammed his hands on the ground repeatedly after the play.
Lee nearly scored two plays later, when he leaped to catch a 45-yard pass from Barkley and hurt his left shoulder as he fell to the ground at the 1-yard line. He was back in the game two possessions later.
McDonald's two picks
T.J. McDonald got really, really lucky in this game.
It's not often you get two interceptions to fall into your hands in one quarter. The junior safety had three picks all season, and two of them came within a five-minute stretch of the first quarter against the Wildcats.
And, to make matters crazier, Foles hadn't thrown a single one on the year heading into the game.
Other than those, though, McDonald still had his best game yet, producing six tackles and breaking up a key deep pass in the fourth that could have changed the outcome.
Pass rush problems
USC had only one sack all game against the Wildcats, who had previously had a lot of trouble keeping Foles off the ground.
Guess who had the sack? The Trojans' only real pass-rusher, Nick Perry. He was really the only one producing pressure on Foles throughout the game, with a little bit of DaJohn Harris mixed in.
That's how Foles was able to complete 41 of 53 passes for 425 yards. The problem had plagued the Trojans in each of their games before this one, but it really came to a head here.
With both Perry and Harris gone in 2012, it's going to be interesting to see who -- if anyone -- gets to opposing signal-callers.
Final notes: Once again, Brandon Carswell was the lead blocker on Woods' 82-yard catch-and-run touchdown early in the game. The senior receiver was by far the Trojans' best skill-position blocker. ... Anthony Brown had some really impressive open-field tackles, including one that was nullified by a personal-foul penalty on George Uko. ... Dion Bailey whiffed badly on an opportunity to quickly bring down Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey on his 27-yard scoring grab in the second quarter. ... Kiffin netted the Trojans three extra points with a smart decision to go for it on fourth down in no man's land at the end of the first half. ... This was not Kiffin's happiest day. He was irate at the officials on numerous occasions, including after one curious sideline interference call.