Trojans Fight for 17-10 Win

TUCSON, Ariz. - A week after cruising to a 69-point victory, the USC Trojans, led by the play of their smothering defense, escaped with a hard fought 17-10 win over the Arizona Wildcats Saturday night in the desert.

TUCSON, Ariz. - A week after cruising to a 69-point victory, the USC Trojans, led by the play of their smothering defense, escaped with a hard fought 17-10 win over the Arizona Wildcats Saturday night in the desert.

"This was really a tough game tonight with two teams going at it for four quarters," Pete Carroll said after the win. "We played tremendous on the defensive end."

Although USC's shutout streak ended after holding their opponents scoreless for 11 straight quarters, the Trojans' defense came up big once again, holding Arizona's high-powered offense to it's lowest output of the season.

"They were just too good defensively and that was really the story tonight," said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. "We were in it all the way to the end though, but that's just the way it goes.

"You're going to have to score more than 17 to beat them most of the time."

USC was able to slow Arizona's spread offense by getting consistent pressure on Willie Tuitama and limiting tight end Rob Gronkowski to just two catches for 12 yards.

"We knew we had to put the pressure on Tuitama," said Everson Griffen, who recorded 1.5 sacks. "It was exactly what we expected."

Tuitama, who is one of the best quarterbacks that the Trojans will face all season, was held to just 88 passing yards on the game.

"I don't know if I would have believed it if you told me we'd have so much success against their terrific passing game," Pete Carroll said. "We were able to get a great pass rush and disrupt what they wanted to do."

The Trojans biggest stop of the night came on a critical fourth-and-one in the middle of the fourth quarter.

Like they had done all night, the USC defense rose to the occasion and stuffed Willie Tuitama's quarterback sneak for no gain.

"We just went after the sneak and it was a fantastic job by Fili (Moala) and all the guys that were up front," Carroll said. "Everybody had to hit that one right to stop them for no yards."

The Trojans had several defensive players come up with big plays in key situations. Everson Griffen had a sack on third-and-one in the first quarter that took the Wildcats out of field goal range, Kevin Thomas intercepted a pass in the third, Clay Matthews added a quarterback sack and Taylor Mays delivered a handful of hard hits.

"We like it to be a defensive battle," said USC linebacker Rey Maualuga. "We answered the call and did a great job."

Tailback Stafon Johnson was the difference maker on the offensive side of the ball, contributing in a variety of ways.

Johnson had a 54-yard punt return that led to a 43-yard field goal by David Buehler on the Trojans first offensive series. The junior tailback also rushed for a game-high 83 yards on nineteen carries, but his biggest contribution may have been a block.

Johnson, who isn't known for his blocking ability, stepped in front of Mark Sanchez and sent Arizona defensive back Nate Ness airborne with a perfectly timed block, giving Sanchez just enough time to hit a wide-open Stanley Havili for a 30-yard touchdown.

"The name of the game is protecting the quarterback," Stafon Johnson said. "The quarterback is your money maker and without your quarterback a lot of things can shutdown.

"That block was a big thing for me because not only did we get a touchdown but our quarterback stayed healthy."

Havili's touchdown reception was the last score of the night and proved to be the difference in the game.

The Trojans offense didn't have a particularly productive night but did just enough to get a tough win on the road.

"A win is a win," USC quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "We will take it, get out of Arizona and move on to next week."

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions you can reach Kevin Carden
at kevin@scplaybook.com


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