For weeks, the warning signs have been there for USC. The curious playcalling and in-game management. One big injury after another. The slow second halves. The penalties, the unbelievably costly and ill-timed penalties. The breakdowns, the turnovers, the mistakes, everything had begun piling up. Alarm bells should have been going off after USC squeaked by Washington and struggled with Utah, but the Trojans kept on winning and still looked like a decent bet to capture the Pac-12 crown.
Not any more.
It all came to a head on Saturday in Tucson, as USC's error-prone football finally caught up to them. Every mishap, every shortcoming, every failing of the Trojans came back to bite them. As well as Arizona played to win this game, USC gave the Wildcats plenty of opportunities to lose it.
USC's first drive stalled because of a penalty, turned into an interception, and ended up with Arizona capitalizing with a touchdown of their own.
T.J. McDonald committed a taunting penalty after a 3rd down incompletion. First down Arizona. The Wildcats eventually scored a touchdown.
Lane Kiffin decided to go for it on 4th and 2 on the Arizona 15 in the first quarter, which probably means Andre Heidari is still hurt. Failed. Arizona capitalized with a field goal.
USC got back to the Arizona 15 again. Fumble!
Jawanza Starling intercepted a Matt Scott pass and subsequently fumbled it back to Arizona. The Wildcats managed a field goal.
D.J. Morgan lost the football fighting for extra yards, setting up Arizona with a short-field to score a go-ahead touchdown in the second half.
Kiffin called an end-around on 4th and 2 on the Arizona 29 to Marqise Lee. Interesting play-design, but it took too long to develop, and Lee didn't have enough forward speed to get to the first down marker.
USC gave up a 3rd and 22 conversion to Austin Hill for 60 yards.
Knowing that Arizona was going to run the football with Scott out, USC STILL conceded two crucial first downs to Ka'deem Carey which burned minutes and timeouts off the clock.
With 20 seconds left and the Trojans only needing a field goal to tie, USC set up at midfield. But instead of spiking the football, Matt Barkley let the clock run, and run, and run, and then deep heaved a ball to the end zone that fell harmlessly incomplete. USC no longer had time to run more than one play and let the chance at a field goal fall by the wayside.
The Trojans piled up 13 penalties for 117 yards. They fumbled the football three times, including once on a turnover they forced. They missed both of their fourth down conversions. Barkley threw two picks. Kiffin made curious playcalls and in-game decisions. Nothing really went right in the desert.
It was the worst possible performance USC could muster before their matchup with Oregon. A clean game today would've probably meant next week's showcase with the Ducks might have seriously propelled them back into the BCS race.
But USC has been its own worst enemy this year, and the unfinished business of winning a title in 2012 will be left unfinished.
SB Nation Snippet
Lane Kiffin got the gift of a lifetime in getting Barkley to return. But is he squandering it? I have a hard time believing Barkley returned for anything other than improved development. He may have got top 5 money in this past draft, but we all knew the potential issues in Barkley's play. He could have been seen as another USC QB bust in the NFL.
It is tough to blame Barkley for everything in yesterday's performance but the flaws in his game were as plain as day. What has Kiffin done to improve Barkley's play?