Arizona vs. USC: Live Game Grades and Analysis for the Trojans

Jason FrayCorrespondent IOctober 10, 2013

QB Cody Kessler had a very good game.
QB Cody Kessler had a very good game.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

USC 38, Arizona 31 ; FINAL

In Ed Orgeron's debut as the interim head coach, the Trojans were able to hold on for a close victory over the Arizona Wildcats. Check out analysis and final grades here. 

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Game Analysis for the USC Trojans:

Pass Offense: Cody Kessler went 15/30 for 297 yards and two touchdowns. It was one of his most effective games as USC's signal-caller. In the absence of Marqise Lee, Nelson Agholor really stepped up. He led the team with seven catches for 161 yards. Kessler repeatedly looked down the field for the Tampa native.

Rush Offense: The Trojans rushed for 249 yards on 45 carries. USC was truly able to impose its will against Arizona's smallish defensive front. Silas Redd led the team in rushing yards with 80, and Buck Allen surprised with two touchdowns on the ground. The offensive line did a very nice job at protecting Kessler. Aside from one bad Kevin Graf holding penalty, the line played well throughout the night.

Pass Defense: Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker had career highs in touchdowns (4) and passing yards (363). Not to pick on anyone in particular, but Torin Harris did not have a very good football game. Three of Denker's touchdown throws came on scrambles and broken plays.

Rush Defense: It was a tale of two halves for this unit. In the first half, the team flew around and didn't offer Denker much time to throw the football. In the second half, Arizona made it a point to get Ka'Deem Carey going. He ended up rushing for 138 yards, and was very effective in breaking tackles. The player of the game on the defense was perhaps J.R. Tavai. He was extremely active all night. 

Special Teams: The special teams unit was very solid across the board. Punter Kris Albarado was able to nail three punts inside of Arizona's 10-yard line. Andre Heidari made his only field goal attempt, and the Trojans were also able to block a punt. 

Coaching: Ed Orgeron brought lots of energy tonight. He was very exuberant and energetic on the sidelines. Unlike Lane Kiffin, Orgeron and offensive coordinator Clay Helton made it a point of trying to attack the field vertically. By doing so, the Trojans were able to create explosive plays that resulted in touchdowns. 

Leonard Williams takes down Ka'Deem Carey in the open field.
Leonard Williams takes down Ka'Deem Carey in the open field.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images


First Half Analysis for the Trojans:

Pass Offense: Cody Kessler looked better throwing the ball in this half than he has all season. He was decisive when choosing to throw the ball down the field. He showed both touch and precision on the two long touchdown throws to Nelson Agholor and Tre Madden. For the half, Kessler went 8/15 for 218 yards and two touchdowns.

Rush Offense: The offensive line protected Kessler very well and gave him time to throw the football. On the last drive of the half, the Trojans did a great job at establishing the run game. The stable of tailbacks rushed 20 times for 97 yards and two touchdowns. Buck Allen came in and looked impressive in limited time. 

Pass Defense: If there was one semi-negative in the first half, it was the pass defense. UA quarterback B.J. Denker was able to elude the USC defense on occasion and make plays through the air. The 56 yard touchdown to receiver Nate Phillips came on a broken play. He's been efficient thus far, going 16/21 for 208 yards and a touchdown.

Rush Defense: The rush defense did a very good job on ultra-talented back Ka'Deem Carey. Carey was held to 50 yards on 11 carries. As a whole, the front seven was incredibly active. J.R. Tavai in particular was extremely energetic, as he led the team in tackles with eight in the first half. There was no rhythm to Arizona's offense, and Denker was often throwing on the run.

Special Teams: The special teams unit was exceptional in the first half. Punter Kris Albarado was able to land two punts inside of Arizona's 10-yard line. Soma Vainuku was able to block a punt, which ultimately led to a USC touchdown. The Wildcats also missed a field goal due to the pressure off of the edge by the Trojans. 

Coaching: It's quite clear that Ed Orgeron injected a lot of energy into this team. One aspect missing from USC in its first five games was the big play. In the first quarter alone, the Trojans scored touchdowns on plays from 62 and 63 yards, respectively. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton took more chances down the field in this half than the team has all year.