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USC’s offense hit with red zone trouble early against Arizona

By in Press Enterprise on November 5, 2017

By Joey Kaufman

LOS ANGELES — In the days before facing Arizona, USC’s coaches were asked how they might contend with the Wildcats’ high-scoring offense.

Both Coach Clay Helton and offensive coordinator Tee Martin pointed to their own unit.

Since Arizona, led by a dynamic quarterback and sudden Heisman Trophy candidate in Khalil Tate, could rack up points, the Trojans needed to total their share and finish drives in the end zone. They had to match Tate’s unit, they reasoned.

Red-zone efficiency has been a frequent issue this season. Through the first nine games, USC had entered the red zone 38 times and left with 21 touchdowns, a touchdown percentage of 78 percent that, as of Saturday morning, ranked No. 77 in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

But the Trojans’ offense faced troubles inside the 20-yard line early on.

On their opening drive, they reached the Wildcats’ 17-yard line. But a quarterback sneak by Sam Darnold on fourth-and-1 was stopped short.

USC’s second drive reached the 1-yard line, but on third-and-goal, Darnold rolled out of the pocket and looked to squeeze a pass toward Steven Mitchell, who was running along the back line of the end zone. Darnold’s pass was picked off by cornerback Dane Cruikshank. The interception marked Darnold’s 11th of the season and prevented them from coming away with any points.

As both drives ended, USC’s offense had amassed 160 total yards, but without a point.

BLOCKED PUNT

The first Gardena Serra High alum to find the end zone on Saturday night was Jalen Greene, not Tate.

When Arizona’s Josh Pollack couldn’t handle a low snap on a punt in the first quarter, Greene blocked the kick and returned it 11 yards for a touchdown, handing the Trojans an early 7-0 lead.

CARR RETURNS

After missing four games in October because of a foot injury, freshman running back Stephen Carr returned to USC’s […]    

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