TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Southern California faced the prospect of a second straight stinging defeat, watching as another opponent moved into in position for a gut-wrenching score.
No Hail Mary this time, just a wide right — and a big sigh of relief for the Trojans.
Javorius Allen ran for 205 yards and three touchdowns, and USC escaped with a 28-26 victory over No. 10 Arizona on Saturday night when Casey Skowron pushed a last-second 36-yard field goal wide right.
“I said this to the team: ‘God’s got a plan, but we’re not exactly what his plan is for us yet,'” USC coach Steve Sarkisian said. “He’s sure testing our will, our resolve, our leadership, our character. I couldn’t be more proud of our team just to continue to fight.”
USC (4-2, 3-1 Pac-12) left the Coliseum defeated and deflated a week ago after losing to Arizona State on a Hail Mary.
The Trojans were headed toward another disheartening loss after Jared Baker scored on a 1-yard with 1:07 left and Caleb Jones recovered the onside kick following a failed 2-point conversion try.
With the crowd roaring for another improbable victory by Arizona, the Wildcats came up short when Skowron missed his third field goal of the night with 17 seconds left.
A seven-day emotional roller coaster over, the Trojans now find themselves atop the jumbled Pac-12 South.
“I never thought it was over; last game showed that,” USC defensive end Leonard Williams said. “We learned that we had to play every second of the game.”
Especially against the Wildcats.
Arizona (5-1, 2-1) struggled with red-zone issues in the first half and didn’t have much of a run game with leading rusher Nick Wilson out and Terris Jones-Grigsby going down late in the first half.
But, like they had so many times, the Wildcats came roaring back.
Baker scored all three of his touchdowns in the second half and Anu Solomon had another big night, throwing for 395 yards and a touchdown on 43-of-72 passing.
The Wildcats put themselves in position to tie after Baker’s 1-yard run, but he was stuffed by Williams on the 2-point try.
They had a chance to win after Jones recovered the onside kick, but Skowron couldn’t come through.
No last-second jubilation this time, only disappointment for what could have been.
“Losing on a last-second play, it’s not easy,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “I’m proud of the guys the way they played hard and competed.”
It’s been an emotional couple of weeks for Arizona. The Wildcats rallied to beat California on a Hail Mary on Sept. 20 and knocked off then-No. 2 Oregon on the road last week.
The win over the Ducks vaulted the Wildcats from out of The Associated Press poll to No. 10 this week, the largest jump since the poll went to 25 teams in 1989.
Arizona’s task was to avoid a letdown against the Trojans, who rode into the desert with a different set of emotions after Arizona State’s Hail Mary.
Oddsmakers predicated a Wildcats’ hangover, installing them as 2 1/2-point underdogs despite being undefeated and playing at home.
The Trojans played like favorites from the start, moving the ball successfully against an Arizona defense that contained the Ducks a week ago, particularly when they gave the ball to Allen.
The junior running back turned an inside handoff into a 34-yard touchdown run by bouncing it outside in the first quarter, then burst through a hole for a 48-yard score in the second.
“He was tough to bring down,” Arizona safety Jared Tevis said. “A couple of times, guys were trying to strip the ball out before even securing the tackle and that’s where they got a couple of big runs.”
Gaining yards was not a problem for Arizona.
Scoring touchdowns was.
The Wildcats crossed USC’s 20 four times in the first half and came away with six points.
Skowron made two field goals, missed one and had another blocked. Arizona also lost a fumble late in the half, when Williams crushed Jones-Grigsby at the 7-yard line to pop the ball loose.
USC led 14-6 at halftime in a game that was more defensive than anticipated.
Once the second half started, so did the offensive fireworks.
Kessler found Nelson Agholor on a 21-yard touchdown pass and Allen scored his third touchdown on a 1-yard run, putting the Trojans up 28-13.
Arizona finally the end zone in the third quarter, when Baker scored on a 6-yard run, four plays after the Wildcats recovered Justin Davis’ fumble at USC’s 22.
Baker scored again early in the fourth quarter, turning a fourth-and-3 into a 41-yard touchdown reception out of the backfield that cut USC’s lead to 28-20.
Just like in the California game, Arizona failed on 2-point conversion, but recovered an onside kick to get into position for a last-second win.
This time, the Wildcats came up short — or, wide right.
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.