Nobody gave Arizona a shot in this one, especially when you saw the injury report on Thursday. They would be without Nick Wilson, Freddie Tagaloa, and Jacob Alsadek. They were coming off a three-point performance in Seattle. You would have thought that Arizona would have let USC score on every drive, and this would be an ugly game all-around.
But this might have been Arizona's best performance in Pac-12 play. Sure, Oregon State was a convincing win, but that's Oregon State. They've been at the bottom of our power rankings since week one, and they're not likely to get three wins this season.
This was a great all-around performance for the Arizona Wildcats, and it makes you wonder where this was all season. But, nonetheless, this could be the extreme confidence booster heading into Utah for Arizona's Senior Night next week.
Offense: Anu Solomon
This could have gone to Nate Phillips, Johnny Jackson, or David Richards, but when you consider three different receivers for player of the game, it's probably because the quarterback was doing something right against the defense. This did not look like the Anu Solomon we've seen throughout this Pac-12 season. This looked more like the Anu Solomon of last year - the one we saw against Oregon, USC and Washington State last year.
He only finished with a 65.3 QBR, which is not great, but he completed 31 of 46 passes for 352 yards, and threw for three touchdowns, all in the red zone.
He was moving well in the pocket, avoiding the big USC rush, and finding his targets downfield. When Anu Solomon escapes the pocket and starts to run on his own, that's when he looks most comfortable. It just seems to be a matter of confidence. We'll never know what was supposed to happen the play in which he threw his interception. Whether Josh Kern should have turned out or looked back in, or just a bad read by the quarterback.
There were some overthrown passes down the sideline, balls over the head of the receiver over the middle, or just throwing too far out in front on a screen pass....it's just something he needs to work on. But his play throughout the entire 60 minutes is what kept Arizona going.
This was tough, because the defense was doing everything they could against USC and forced many three-and-outs. But looking back through the list of names and thinking about what Arizona was doing on defense, it seems like the linebackers stepped up this game.
DeAndre' Miller and Jake Matthews were constantly being blitzed, and were constantly in the backfield, forcing Cody Kessler off-balance, and stuffing the line of scrimmage. Guys like Anthony Lopez and Tellas Jones were also in the backfield making plays and disrupting the USC offense, but this one goes to the linebackers. Paul Magloire looked like he was being used more in coverage, and is now the team's 4th-leading tackler.
They weren't able to bring down USC's run game, partially because they were being blitzed so often, but they were definitely the key factor for Arizona's pass rush.
Special Teams: Casey Skowron
Casey Skowron was 3/3 vs. USC, nailing kicks from 37, 38 and 44 yards. You needed every single one of those field goals to go through in order for Arizona to remain in the game. If Skowron misses any one of those, Arizona is either tied or down by a touchdown for most of the game.
Those are some of the three longest field goals Rich Rodriguez would actually consider attempting, and Skowron just proved that his number can be called on rather than going for it on fourth down.