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USC’s blown lead against Arizona part of ‘growing pains,’ tight end says

By in Press Enterprise on November 7, 2017

By Joey Kaufman

The finishes have been exhilarating.

For many of USC’s victories this season, the Trojans have rallied in dramatic fashion in the fourth quarter.

That included a 49-35 win over Arizona last Saturday, when they moved ahead on a pair of late touchdowns.

Of course, the Trojans also blew a 22-point lead.

With two games left in the regular season, some players thought they could develop more of a killer instinct, avoiding tight finishes.

“When you’re up like that, the natural thing to do is kind of feel lax, kind of take your foot off the pedal a little bit,” tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe said.

Imatorbhebhe added they needed to be better at “just keeping focused, and we gotta keep putting the knife in them.”

Five of the Trojans’ eight wins have seen them either tied or trailing in the fourth quarter. Often, they came from behind. But against Arizona, the lead they surrendered was a season high.

“We’re still growing, and we’re headed in the right direction,” Imatorbhebhe said. “We’re just not quite there yet.”

In November of last season, they outscored teams by an average margin of 20 points, finishing undefeated over the final month.

They were more experienced then, Imatorbhebhe said, citing the departures of upperclassmen on offense, including leading receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and three more offensive linemen. Now, they’re just young.

“That’s part of the growing pains,” Imatorbhebhe said.

USC coach Clay Helton believed preserving a lead against Arizona was itself a challenge.

The Wildcats feature a dangerous offense, led by dual-threat quarterback Khalil Tate, that averaged 49 points per game in its four games in October before Saturday.

If he was concerned about blowing a three-touchdown lead, he did not say so. He was, again, happy about the fourth quarter.

“At the end of the day, you wanna look up and be able to win the fourth quarter and win the […]    

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