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USC vs. Arizona: Sloppy play keeps the big game away

Unfinished business status: Remains to be unfinished forever.

US Presswire

With the USC Trojans' tragic loss against Arizona on Saturday, it undeniably kept them from playing in Florida in January. The loss puts the Trojans in a virtual tie with UCLA in the Pac-12 South standings, so the Trojans can still play in the Rose Bowl if they run the table from here on out.

But it will be a tough task, so tough that they still have to play Oregon, Notre Dame, and UCLA.

How did it unravel? USC was suppose to take care of business in Tuscon, they were leading 28-13 in one point, until suddenly they found themselves trailing in the fourth quarter.

You can start blaming the lack of discipline.

The Trojans amassed a total of 13 penalties, which costed them 117 yards. USC was dead last in the conference in penalties, averaging 10 a game. Yes, folks, 10. A team littered with talented players, veterans, and having a great coaching staff should not be sattled with so many penalties.

Is there a solution to this problem? At this point, is Lane Kiffin even trying to find a solution?

Speaking of Kiffin, his dismal play-calling has continued to plague the offense. On a fourth and two call, Kiffin elected to do a reverse play with Lee getting stopped by a Arizona defender to hand the ball back to Arizona. Arizona scores afterwards.

He also didn't give the ball enough to Marqise Lee in the second half. Lee had the best game any USC receiver ever had, 16 receptions, 345 receiving yards, two touchdowns. Yet, Kiffin didn't even know he had Lee in the third quarter as Lee didn't record a reception in the quarter.

But Kiffin shouldn't be completely faulted here, even though he didn't spike the ball to save himself 18 seconds in USC's final drive. No, USC committed five turnovers. Five.

Turnovers happen, but when you commit at that high of a number, you have to attempt to smash your head somewhere.

And it starts with Matt Barkley. Barkley had a huge game, passing for 493 yards (with Lee on his left side) and three touchdowns. But he also threw for two interceptions, almost two more at some point in the game. Barkley's Heisman hopes all but washed away on Saturday, it's Kansas State's Colin Klein's to lose.

Committing to 10 penalties a game, having a high number of turnovers, and poor coaching execution does not equal to a national title team. But we should all know that by now.

Something positive did come out of this game, however. USC elected to start a true freshman at a position of high difficulty, left tackle. And Max Tuerk played it well. Tuerk made a could of false start penalties, but overall protected Barkley well enough that he didn't let a defender pass him.

The Trojans saw their chances of a title die on Saturday, but they could still win big. The aforementioned tough schedule will have the Trojans in Los Angeles against those teams. And Trojans need to feast on some home cooking.