LOS ANGELES — Ronald Jones II caught a touchdown pass and rushed for 177 yards, including a 74-yard scoring run late in Southern California’s third straight victory, 38-30 over Arizona on Saturday night.
Cody Kessler passed for 243 yards and two touchdowns as the Trojans (6-3, 4-2 Pac-12) improved to 3-1 under interim coach Clay Helton and stayed in the race for the Pac-12 South title.
Justin Davis rushed for 85 yards and two touchdowns during USC’s 472-yard offensive performance. JuJu Smith-Schuster caught a 72-yard touchdown pass among his eight catches for 138 yards just five days after surgery on his broken right hand.
Nate Phillips, David Richards and Cayleb Jones caught touchdown passes from Anu Solomon for the Wildcats (5-5, 2-5), who have lost three straight and five of seven. The defending Pac-12 South champions were officially eliminated from contention for a repeat.
Solomon passed for 352 yards, and Johnny Jackson joined Phillips and Richards with at least 86 yards receiving apiece. Arizona still couldn’t keep up with USC largely because its defense foundered again.
After giving up 1,099 yards and 94 points in the previous two games, the Wildcats yielded 462 yards and all 38 points to USC during the final three quarters.
USC erased an early 14-point deficit and took its first lead on Davis’ TD run on the opening snap of the fourth quarter. After Casey Skowron’s third field goal trimmed USC’s lead to 24-23 with 10:05 to play, Jones burst through Arizona’s defense for the longest TD run of the freshman’s career.
Jones broke LenDale White’s 2003 single-game record for yards rushing by a USC freshman. While Jones and Davis both had big performances on the ground, Smith-Schuster produced a standout game in the same week he got a plate and a screw inserted in his hand.
After two weeks of miserable performances and off-the-field uncertainty about coach Rich Rodriguez’s future, Arizona improbably got off to an excellent start on the first chilly autumn night of the season at the Coliseum.
Phillips caught a 9-yard TD pass in the first quarter, and Richards had a 3-yard scoring grab on the opening snap of the second. Arizona’s defense held USC to 12 first-quarter yards and even recovered a fumble.
A two-play sequence in the second quarter changed everything. John Plattenburg picked off a poorly thrown pass by Solomon at the Trojans 6 to kill another likely scoring drive, and Kessler then hit Smith-Schuster down the middle for an untouched score on the next snap.
The Trojans mounted a tying 82-yard drive that ended with Jones’ 5-yard scoring grab shortly before halftime.
After Arizona turned the ball over on downs at midfield in the third quarter, Davis’ scoring run put the Trojans ahead.
Davis rushed for his second score with 2:36 to play. Cayleb Jones caught a TD pass with 10 seconds left, but Arizona’s onside kick went out of bounds.