Cats comeback falls short

USC finally found a way to win in the fourth quarter. Kris Richard's 58-yard interception with 1:50 left in the contest gave the Trojans a 41-34 win over the Wildcats.

In a battle of seemingly snakebitten teams, the Trojans finally pulled out a close win after dropping five games decided by 11 points or less. Momentum took a 180-degree swing when Bobby Wade was ruled out of bounds after it appeared that he took a USC punt 56 yards for the go ahead score. Three plays later Richard sealed the game.

Once again the Cats fell behind, giving up 28 points in the second quarter. The Trojans led 31-10 before the Cats rattled off 17 straight points to cut it to seven and later tied the game at 34.

"We'll keep fighting until the end," said Wildcat runningback Clarence Farmer.

(AP/John Miller)

Despite being manhandled in the second quarter, the Cats dominated the game offensively. They outgained the Trojans 412 yards to 312 and actually ran two fewer plays. The only stat the Wildcats didn't have the advantage in was interceptions. The Trojans picked off four passes, returning two for touchdowns.

The Cats failed to crack the endzone after getting to the Trojan eight, but still managed to get on the scoreboard first. After misfiring on his first two passed, Jason Johnson found a diving Andrae Thurman for a 41-yard catch. Despite a USC offsides penalty, the Cats couldn't move the ball and settled for a 25-yard field goal.

(AP/John Miller)

SC won a battle of field position and after swapping punts took over near midfield. Like the Cats earlier, the Trojans moved the ball to the Arizona 15 before settling for a chip-shot field goal of their own and a 3-3 tie.

With neither offense doing much, the Wildcat defense took matters into their own hands. Palmer threw behind his intended receiver, but the ball was tipped and fluttered into the hands of Michael Jolivette who raced to the endzone.


(AP/John Miller)

Not too be outdone the USC defense decided to get into the scoring act. Kevin Arbet snatched an ill-advised Johnson pass and streaked 70 yards to knot the game at 10.

Johnson threw another interception on his very next pass attempt. Mike Pollard tipped the pass on the line and Omar Nazel pulled it down to give the Trojans excellent field position at the Wildcat 13-yard line. Arizona appeared to stop USC on third and short but a Wildcat personal foul penalty gave the Trojans second life. On the next play Palmer rolled out and lofted a pass to tight end Alex Holmes out jumped Eli Wnek for the touch down.

Two penalties on the punt return again gave USC good field position to start a drive. Arizona was flagged for both a 2-yard halo violation and a 15-yard facemask. USC used the pass and a good fourth down conversion to drive deep into Wildcat territory. Palmer found Holmes on a slant pass to get inside the Wildcat one and Sunny Byrd leaped over the pile to give the Trojans a 23-10 lead. For the fifth time in seven games the Cats allowed 21 or more points in a single quarter.

Arizona continued to self-destruct before halftime. After two long completions the Cats found themselves in Trojan territory. Then Arizona headed backwards. An illegal crack-back block and a false start backed the Cats up 20-yards in a hurry. A devastating blow to Johnson and the resulting fumble had the Cats so far in a hole that they settled for a draw play punting. USC took advantage and Palmer found Kori Dickerson for the the fourth Trojan touchdown of the second quarter.

Sean Keel nailed a 46-yard field goal before halftime to give the Cats a small amount of joy to take into the locker room trailing 31-13.

The third quarter belonged to the Wildcats.

After pinning the Trojans at the one-yard line and forcing a punt. The Cats took over at the SC 26 after Bobby Wade returned the punt 17 yards to give the Cats excellent field position. After a short pass on first down, Farmer took a toss around the left side and strutted 23-yards for the touchdown.

After the defense forced a three and out, the Cats stormed right back again. John Mackovic went to his bag of tricks and Bobby Wade responded sprinting 19 yards on a reverse. The next play Johnson found Marshall in the corner of the endzone on a pass that skimmed the burned defensive back's fingertips and Arizona had narrowed the gap to 31-27.

USC got on the board again in the second half. After marching 51 yards on 10 plays, including two key third down conversions, the Wildcat defense stiffened and the Trojans settled for a Davis 47-yard field goal that struggled to split the uprights to push the score to 34-27.

The Cats tied the game at 34 when Johnson capped a 64-yard drive with a 10-yard scamper. Johnson rolled out, found no receivers and dove for the pylon. The Cats converted two critical third down conversions on the drive. Johnson found Wade twice on throws of four and eight yards to keep the drive going.

The game came down to the wire. Arizona was driving with just over a minute left in the game when Kris Richard stepped in to pick off a pass and raced 60-yards for the game clincher.

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