TUCSON -- Notes, quotes and video from USC's 24-21 win over Arizona on Saturday night at Arizona Stadium:
Before the Trojans departed Los Angeles for southern Arizona on Friday afternoon, Lane Kiffin made sure to pound one phrase into his players' minds -- and it sure sunk in, as a number of players brought it up after the game Saturday. Per middle linebacker Chris Galippo, Kiffin told the team: " 'When you want to go win a big away game, you gotta pack your defense and you gotta pack your run game.' " Said Galippo: "I think that's what happened today -- both of those showed up." Added strongside linebacker Michael Morgan, who had five tackles: "It was a big win for the defense and a big win for the whole team. It was especially big for the defense because we haven't been playing too well lately."
Marc Tyler ran for a career-high 160 yards on 31 carries, running the ball 17 times in the second half as he wore down the Wildcat defense. Tyler said afterward that he felt "terrible," with the ankle that held him out of much of the week's practices flaring up during the game. Running backs coach Kennedy Pola, he said, kept yelling at him to get back in the game every time he felt like taking a breather. Said Tyler of the likelihood coming into the game that he would carry the ball as much as he did, and with as much success as he did: "I thought the chances of that happening for me were slim to none. I haven't seen anyone run the ball more than 30 times ever." Arizona coach Mike Stoops praised the junior runner postgame: "Marc Tyler was outstanding tonight," he said. "He was very physical and USC is a good blocking team and did a good job at giving him the space he needed." We'll have more from Tyler, including a video interview, further down in this post.
Sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley started off red-hot, completing 14 of his first 15 pass attempts for 122 yards and a touchdown. From then on, though, he was a lot cooler -- completing just 7-of-20 for 48 yards and an interception. Kiffin called the third-quarter pick -- a solid throw that glanced directly off the body of normally sure-handed tight end Jordan Cameron -- "really tough to swallow," as it killed a good bit of momentum for the Trojans and put the ball back in Arizona's hands. Asked how he felt his day went, Barkley indicated that the Trojans parroted Arizona's bread-and-butter more than usual with quick throws. "A lot of those shorter routes were working, getting yards, getting first downs," Barkley said. "Most of that stuff was underneath, but it was just taking what the defense was giving us."
USC right tackle Tyron Smith said Arizona defensive ends Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore were "really speedy," but added that the Trojan offensive linemen knew what to expect with the two of them. As such, Kiffin called for a lot of short drops for Barkley and didn't allow Reed and Elmore to penetrate into the backfield. "We treated them like any other defensive ends," Smith said. "Of course, they were faster than any other defensive ends that we've faced this season. But we were prepared for it."
Junior Marshall Jones made his first career start at strong safety in place of the injured Jawanza Starling, who hurt his hamstring last week against Arizona State. Kiffin had refused to name a starter this week, but Jones said the coaching staff told him after last week's game that he'd be making the start in Tucson. He had only three tackles, but one of them was a shoestring "touchdown-saving" tackle of Arizona's Juron Criner in the fourth quarter. "You have a different mindset when you come in and you know you're a starter," Jones said. "It's different, but I had a lot of fun. I love being out there, it felt great."
Shareece Wright had talked a lot this week about Criner, but he didn't end up defending much on Saturday, as Stoops and his staff devised ways to move the junior receiver around the line of scrimmage and prevent Wright from keying on him."They did a good job moving him around and working him in the slot, working him against our linebackers," Wright said. Why didn't USC's coaching staff, in turn, have Wright follow Criner along the line wherever he lined up? "We gotta have confidence in our other players, man. At the end, we were starting to do that. We were going to change the game plan and do that but he wasn't in as much."
USC allowed Arizona to convert seven of eight third-down opportunities in the first half. After an old-fashioned halftime talking-to, the Trojans held the Wildcats to three of eight in the second half. "Let me tell you something right now," assistant head coach Monte Kiffin said. "You're doing a good job if you get them to third downs. That means you're doing something good on first and second down. But that doesn't do any good if you don't get off [the field] on third downs. It was really frustrating." Said Galippo about the differences between the halves: "We didn't even really change that much up, schematically. But we needed to get a better pass rush -- that was evident."
Final notes: Injury update: Monte Kiffin said freshman cornerback Nickell Robey was banged up in the second half and had to leave the game. Tight end Blake Ayles revealed that the injury that has kept him out of the last three games is a concussion suffered against Cal last month. It's still causing him headaches, he said. ...Freshman receiver Robert Woods very quietly made eight catches for 41 yards as the leading pass-catcher for the Trojans. Aside from Tyler, only backs Dillon Baxter and Stanley Havili carried the ball for USC, with six rushes for 34 yards...Said Kiffin of senior center Kristofer O'Dowd's final return home to the Tucson area in a sack-free performance for the USC offensive line: "Real special for him. Any time someone leaves their home and goes away, it's a pretty neat thing to be able to finish like this."
Kiffin talked to the media after the game and addressed the validity of a win over a top-20 opponent on the road, Tyler's bang-up performance and plenty of other topics.
See what he had to say:
Tyler had a lot to say after his 160-yard day, including several funny remarks and praise for his pile-driving offensive line.
See all of what he said: