USC's high-powered offense fuels 31-10 rout of Arizona

By Arlie Rahn

Arizona Daily Wildcat

When the Arizona football team left the field Saturday night after its 31-10 drubbing at the hands of Southern Cal, the 58,503 fans in attendance seemed dumbfounded as to why this Trojan team beat up on their Wildcats so badly. The easy answer would be that the Trojans were just too talented for Arizona, but that's not all true. Granted, USC has a great deal of talent, but maybe more valuable is its execution on both sides of the ball.

"They're a good team," UA head coach Dick Tomey said. "They've done a good job of protecting their quarterback against the rush. And the way we play with man-to-man coverage, we have to pressure the quarterback to be successful."

And while the No. 5 Trojans (3-0 overall, 1-0 in the Pacific 10 Conference) were nearly flawless in their execution, the No. 25 Wildcats (2-2, 0-1) could seem to do no right. USC's high-powered offense averaged over seven yards a play and had five plays over 20 yards, whereas the Arizona offense could muster only 3.7 yards a play with only one play over 20 yards. And considering USC made a living on the three-step drop pass, poor tackling by Arizona is what led to many of USC's big plays.

"The three-step drop gets on my nerves," said senior defensive end Tedy Bruschi. "We try to get a rush on them and, boom, they throw a six-yard completion. I don't believe anyone in the nation is quicker than we are. It's a matter of when the receiver catches the ball, we have to wrap him up and stop him right there."

Offensively, Arizona was just out of sync. The UA had trouble completing passes when it counted (4-for-11 in third-down conversions), and never really got the running game started. In fact, this offense only managed 168 total yards against USC. When facing a weaponless Illinois offense, that total might be enough to stay in the game; but when the opponent is a talented USC group, doubling that total might not even be enough.

"I think a lot of times we're beating ourselves on offense," UA receiver Richard Dice said. "Things like blown assignments, penalties, dropped balls and not hitting the right hole hurt us tonight."

One factor that might be the cause of Arizona's lethargic offense is the lack of a breakaway back. The past four years have seen players like Chuck Levy and Ontiwaun Carter bail out Arizona from many third-down situations. Tie that in with a young, inexperienced offensive line, and the end result is a recipe for disappointment.

"Right now, we are a little frustrated as an offense," said senior quarterback Dan White, who finished the game completing 22 of 40 passes for 176 yards. "But we can't make excuses. We have to find a way to move the ball and score points."

Scoring points, however, was not something that worried the Trojans. After 15 minutes of feeling out the Wildcats, USC jumped on the scoreboard four minutes into the second quarter, when backup quarterback Kyle Wachholtz, who entered the game when starter Brad Otton was injured briefly in the first quarter, connected on a 28-yard pass to Keyshawn Johnson. That strike capped off a three-minute, 94-yard drive.

Not content to end there, the Trojans put what might have been a knockout blow on the Wildcats when, at third-and-six, they scored on a 38-yard streak from Wachholtz to tight end Johnny McWillliams with 4:49 left in the half.

"I think if we could have made a stop on that play, it might have turned the momentum around," said sophomore cornerback Kelly Malveaux. "And I think our missed tackles were a big factor in that score and some others."

But Southern Cal didn't stop there. On their first drive of the second half, the Trojans drove the dagger deeper into the back of Arizona when third-string tailback Delon Washington ran for an 18-yard touchdown. Cornerback Rashee Johnson showed the frustration of the Arizona defense as he shoved Washington out of the endzone after the play, earning a personal foul for his efforts.

The Trojans and Wildcats both added 10 more points before the gun went off, with Arizona backup quarterback Brady Batten leading the Wildcats to a touchdown drive with 19 seconds left for the final margin.

"In order to beat a team like USC, we have to create a lot of turnovers and get good field position," Tomey said. "We needed some big plays and we didn't get them. Right now, we are obviously not a very good offensive team."

In addition to studying tape, Arizona will have to heal itself, literally, from this weekend's beating. Freshman strong safety Mikal Smith suffered a possible fractured left foot in the second half and starting free safety Brandon Sanders injured his right shoulder.

"This team still has to do some growing and we have to learn to walk before we run," Tomey said. "With us losing three-fourths of our secondary, we have to get healthy and come back against Cal."

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