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Arizona vs. USC: 3 up, 3 down in Wildcats’ loss to the Trojans

Not a good outing here

Arizona v USC Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats’ Pac-12 South title hopes were seemingly all but ended Saturday, losing to 49-35 to the USC Trojans, after going undefeated in October courtesy of Khalil Tate.

The Wildcats trailed by as many as 22 points in the third quarter, but stormed back to tie it in the fourth quarter, before USC ultimately took control.

Here are three up and down from the game.

Three Down

Arizona’s run defense

It’s bad. Like really bad.

Arizona was able skate by Colorado, UCLA and Cal with performances from Khalil Tate, but when Tate is off, like he was in the first half, it just makes the defense look that much more painful and unforgiving.

USC was just way too physical up front and powerful in the backfield and exposed Arizona, moreso than Colorado did.

Arizona gave up 331 rushing yards to the Trojans. Oof.

Physical teams are a big demand that Arizona cannot handle

The Wildcats just don’t have the personnel to bring the size. The offensive line was getting pushed around and the receivers couldn’t get any space. The defensive line was being blown up, linebackers swallowed up and the defensive backs were getting beat off the line.

Arizona can match up with the high-powered spread offenses and the 3-3-5 defenses, but when it comes to a physical, pro-style team like USC, that’s an uphill battle going nine rounds.

Things are brought back down to earth

The Pac-12 South title run lasted for four weeks, and it was a good four weeks, but this team just couldn’t step into the spotlight and takeover. But Khalil Tate gave this program so much hope, where you kind of felt like Arizona could win the Pac-12 South.

But Tate was off. He was contained for much of the night, and his throws looked like Brandon Dawkins’. When he gets stopped, it seems like this team loses all life.

It’s to be expected with a young team, and Tate has changed the entire outlook of this program, but right now it’s safe to say that Arizona has already over-achieved this season, and you just have to look forward to a pretty favorable schedule ending with Oregon State, Oregon and Arizona State.

But Arizona’s future is bright with all of the young talent.

Three Up

Big stops to pick up momentum

Despite being pounded from the start, Arizona’s defense still provided some opportunities to stay in this game, and they never fully let things get out of hand, as Arizona almost came back.

Arizona’s defense is really weird. It allows teams to eat up yards all the way down the field, and then somehow comes away with a huge turnover or stop.

The tenacity helped in the first half, but USC’s defense was too much for Khalil Tate, which put Arizona in a hole early. But the stops allowed Arizona to crawl back in the second, and continue to fight.

Lucas Havrisik is a good #collegekicker

Lucas Havrisik’s foot has upped Arizona’s special teams this season and he’s given Rich Rodriguez a reliable leg to provide three points from anywhere inside the opponent’s 40-yard line.

Long snapping continues to be an issue, but at least with Havrisik, you know you always have the power and accuracy to get points on a drive.

He knocked down two field goals — 45 and 43 yards — to give Arizona their first six points of the game.

Arizona still showed fight

Just when I was about to shut the game off, Arizona suddenly sparked and made this interesting.

Last season, this team would have folded, and just called it a night. I think that’s a big difference between this year and last.

It would have been easy for Rich Rodriguez and this staff to just give up, but they made this a competitive game in the fourth quarter.

After coming off last season, this is a huge improvement we’ve seen this year. A complete 180.

Young talent on both sides of the ball, Rich Rodriguez might be into something in year six.