Arizona came into Saturday’s matchup against USC with tons of question marks surrounding its defense that lost four players to the transfer portal due to concerns if there would be a season in the Pac-12.
With all the question marks on the defense, no one expected much from that side of the ball. Although it seemed improved, it was not enough as USC went down the field to score the game-winning touchdown giving the Trojans the 34-30 victory.
The loss makes it eight straight wins for USC over Arizona going back to 2012.
On the final drive for USC, Arizona cornerback Christian Rolland-Wallace had the game-winning interception slip right through his hands allowing a Trojans’ wideout inside the Wildcats’ 10-yard line.
After that, USC was able to score the game-winning touchdown overshadowing a solid defensive performance by Arizona and new defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads.
On the offensive end, Arizona was as advertised after a slow start to the game behind quarterback Grant Gunnell, who shined after throwing an interception in the Wildcats’ first possession.
Gunnell finished the game going 24-of-36 for 286 yards with three touchdowns. He also rushed for 40 yards showing off his versatility.
Here’s what Gunnell had to say about his slow start, and what his thoughts on the game as a whole were:
On the ground Arizona, was led by running back Gary Brightwell, who rushed for 112 yards on 21 carries taking the pressure off his quarterback.
Brightwell’s teammate Michael Wiley had 26 total yards from both the rushing game and passing game. Here he is talking about the performance from Arizona’s backfield and what his thoughts were about the defense:
Although Arizona fell short, the defense took strides forward in the right direction holding USC to 173 yards rushing while limiting the Trojans to 5-for-13 on third-down conversions.
Arizona linebacker Rourke Freeburg, who had a critical fourth-down stop late in the second half, talked about the improvements on defense:
It seemed like Arizona had improved on the defensive side of the ball and special teams as well. However, with those steps forward, the Wildcats were unable to come away with the upset win.
Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin talked about those improvements and areas he thought his team needs to get better at to change close games from a loss to a win:
FOLLOW TROY HUTCHISON ON TWITTER!
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writer Troy Hutchison hails from Tucson and is a lifelong Arizona Wildcats follower. He has been involved in sports journalism over the last two years while taking communications courses at Pima Community College.