Arizona falls 34-30 as No. 20 USC rallies again with late touchdown
Vavae Malepeai bulled his way through multiple tacklers for an 8-yard touchdown run with 25 seconds left, and No. 20 Southern California beat Arizona 34-30 on Saturday with another late rally.
USC (2-0, 2-0 Pac-12) was outplayed by Arizona State last week before scoring two touchdowns in the final three minutes to win 28-27.
The Trojans again had two late scoring drives to win a game they were outplayed in for most of the afternoon.
Kevon Slovis hit Erik Krommenhoek on a 6-yard touchdown, but Arizona (0-1, 0-1) marched quickly down the field for a 6-yard touchdown pass from Grant Gunnell from Stanley Berryhill III with 1:20 left.
Slovis, off target early, completed four straight passes for 68 yards and Malepeai capped the 75-yard drive by carrying several Arizona defenders with him into the end zone.
Slovis threw for 325 yards and a touchdown on 30-of-43 passing.
Gunnell threw for 286 yards and three touchdowns for Arizona, which played its first game in nearly a year after last week’s opener against Utah was canceled due to the coronavirus.
The sophomore entered the 2020 season as the starter after sharing time with Khalil Tate last year and had a streak of 92 straight passes without an interception. The streak nearly ended on his first pass against USC and then did on the second, when he overthrew a receiver into Talano Hufanga’s arms.
That set up Markese Stepp’s 1-yard TD run.
Gunnell was much better on the next drive, hitting Jamarye Joiner on a short pass that turned into a 34-yard touchdown.
Arizona kept churning out yards — 231 by halftime — but had to settle for three field goal attempts. Lucas Havrisik made two and USC led 17-13 at halftime after Stephen Carr scored on a 3-yard run with 2 1/2 minutes left.
Arizona tied it at 20 when Gunnell hit Tayvian Cunningham in stride for a 75-yard touchdown reception early in the third quarter.
USC struggled in the red zone early in the second half.
Amon-Ra St. John pulled down a spectacular 48-yard catch, but the Trojans stalled and settled for Parker Lewis’ 28-yard field goal. Stepp ripped off a 49-yard run on the next drive and USC marched down to Arizona’s 1-yard line. Consecutive penalties back the Trojans up and Lewis pushed a 28-yard field goal wide right.
Another drive into the red zone, another trip without points. This time, Arizona stopped the Trojans on fourth-and-1 from the Wildcats 4.
Havrisik gave Arizona its first lead at 23-20 with a 51-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter.
USC played undisciplined at times and was disjointed on offense, particularly in the red zone. The Trojans again pulled it together for a 2-0 start.
Arizona did not look rusty in its first game in nearly a year. Gunnell was sharp and the defense was solid in its first game under new coordinator Paul Rhoads before playing on its heels on the final two drives.
USC plays at Utah next Saturday.
Arizona is at Washington on Saturday.
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