Trojans deflated after loss to Arizona


Trojans deflated after loss to Arizona

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Southern California came into the season with a Heisman Trophy front-runner, some of the most dynamic offensive players anywhere and its two-year postseason ban over.

The Trojans were the preseason No. 1, their aspirations a first national title since 2004.

After a mistake-filled loss to Arizona on Saturday, those national-title hopes have quickly gone out of reach.

At this rate, if USC doesn't play well down the final stretch of the season, it might not even play for the Pac-12 title, much less the BCS championship.

``From here, we are just going to stick together,'' quarterback Matt Barkley said after the 39-36 loss to the Wildcats.

The Trojans went into Saturday's game in control of the Pac-12 South, their national-title chances slim, but at least still there.

USC put up some big offensive numbers against Arizona, none more eye-catching than receiver Marqise Lee's Pac-12-record 345 yards receiving on 16 catches, along with two touchdowns.

Barkley filled up the stat line, too, throwing for a school-record 493 yards and three touchdowns as the Trojans rolled up 618 yards.

USC spoiled it with common themes from this season: undisciplined penalties and Barkley's inconsistency.

The Trojans have been the most penalized team in the Football Bowl Subdivision (10.25 for 84.63 yards per game) and were at their flag-inducing worst against the Wildcats

Safety T.J. McDonald was called for a taunting foul on a third down to keep Arizona's opening drive alive, setting up Matt Scott's 8-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Jackson.

Defensive lineman Leonard Williams also got carried away on a tackle in the first half, ripping off Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey's helmet off for another personal foul.

The Trojans had 13 penalties in all, losing 117 yards and leaving their coach unsure of what to do about their lack of discipline.

``I'm open for any suggestions,'' USC coach Lane Kiffin said. ``I've tried it all.''

Barkley had some problems of his own.

He made a surprising return for his senior season, instantly becoming a Heisman Trophy front-runner.

Like USC's national-title chances, his shot at the Heisman appears to be gone.

Barkley has had some big games this season, but also some so-so ones, held to under 200 yards passing three times.

He opened Saturday's game by airmailing a pass well over Lee's head and had two interceptions in the first half.

Barkley also missed a chance to extend USC's lead in the third quarter, overthrowing Robert Woods on what would have been an 87-yard touchdown after the defensive back trying to cover him fell.

``I'll be thinking about that play all night,'' Barkley after completing 31 of 49 passes. ``I got a little too excited seeing how wide open he was and just didn't put enough air under the ball.''

It wasn't just Barkley.

Running backs Silas Redd and D.J. Morgan both lost fumbles, and safety Jawanza Starling gave the ball right back after an interception, fumbling it away on the return.

USC's defense allowed Arizona to pile up 588 yards and chew up precious time on its final drive, giving up a pair of first downs even though they knew the Wildcats would be running.

USC got the ball a final time with 55 seconds left, but two passes over the middle kept the clock running, leaving no option but to heave the ball into the end zone from Arizona's 48-yard line. Barkley's pass sailed into a crowd of players, but fell harmlessly to the turf, sending the Wildcats jubilantly running across the field and tears streaming down Lee's face.

``We didn't win and that's why I was upset,'' Lee said.

The loss knocked USC (6-2, 4-2) out of the national-title picture and eight spots in the AP Top 25 to No. 18.

The Trojans still lead the Pac-12 South after Arizona State's loss UCLA at home, but lost a chance to get some separation.

The Arizona loss also knocked some of the luster off of next week's game against No. 2 Oregon at the Coliseum.

Instead of a showdown with potential national-title implications, the Trojans will be in the spoiler role for the Ducks' BCS chances while trying keep their Pac-12 title-game hopes alive.

In a season that started with much higher expectations, this isn't what they had in mind.

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Former Giants OL Mitch Petrus dies of heat stroke at 32

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Former Giants OL Mitch Petrus dies of heat stroke at 32

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Offensive lineman Mitch Petrus, a walk-on at Arkansas who went on to a three-year NFL career that included a Super Bowl win with the New York Giants, has died. He was 32.

Pulaski County Coroner Gerone Hobbs said Petrus died of heat stroke Thursday night at a North Little Rock hospital after working outside that day at his family's shop about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of Little Rock.

Like much of the country, Arkansas is in the grips of an intense heat wave. In Lonoke County, where Petrus was working, the heat index on Thursday made it feel like it was than 100 degrees (38 Celsius) outside, according to the National Weather Service.

During his college career, Petrus played alongside Razorback greats Darren McFadden and Felix Jones and later earned all-Southeastern Conference honors.

He was drafted by the Giants in the fifth round in 2010 and got into 11 regular-season games his rookie year, with no starts. In his second season, Petrus played in six regular-season games, starting three of them, as the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl. He played six games for the Giants the following season before being released. He was picked up by the New England and played two games for the Patriots before being released. Tennessee then signed him and he played two games for the Titans before the team released him the following March.

After retiring from the NFL in 2013, Petrus returned to Arkansas, where he was well-known and often appeared as a studio analyst and sidelines reporter during televised high school football games. He also had an interest in politics, serving as Republican state Sen. Dismang's chief of staff during the Legislature's 2018 session, when Dismang was the chamber's president.

"With his energy and how positive he was, he was just a perfect fit for that session," Dismang said Friday.


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Michael Vick thinks Dwayne Haskins is in the perfect situation with the Redskins

Michael Vick thinks Dwayne Haskins is in the perfect situation with the Redskins

Though Michael Vick was drafted first overall by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2001 NFL Draft, he didn't immediately become the starter. Instead, he spent most of his rookie season watching and getting accustomed to the NFL before assuming the starting job in 2002 and launching his exciting career. 

Rather than being thrown right into the fire, Vick was given time to learn and transition to the pros.

Now the newest No. 7 to enter the league, Dwayne Haskins, could find himself in a similar situation. With only one year of real experience in college, the Redskins could opt to let Haskins continue to adjust from the sideline and work under the veteran passers on the roster. 

To Vick, that path will make the transition much smoother.

"It's not difficult at all when you have an opportunity to sit behind guys like Case Keenum, who has a ton of experience and knows how to play the game. [Or] Colt McCoy," Vick said Friday on The Sports Junkies when asked about how hard the jump to the NFL will be for Haskins.

While Haskins will most likely take the starting role in the long run, Vick is fine with Keenum or McCoy taking the starting spot to begin the season.

Seeing that Haskins could benefit from the tutelage of the quarterback room in a situation where he's not being put under maximum pressure, Vick strongly believes Haskins progression will be better if it comes naturally.

The now-NFL analyst even mentioned that he talked to head coach Jay Gruden at a golf event recently and stated that Gruden told him, "It's going to take some time" with Haskins. That may not be what some fans want to hear, but Vick knows that time behind the veterans may be exactly what Haskins needs.

"It's not like he's been rushed out there to play. He has some time to develop," Vick said. "That's the most important thing for him right now."

"That's very fortunate for Dwayne to be in that position," he added.

Even as a high-profile pick coming into the league Vick's ascension to starter took time, and that decision seemed to work out pretty well for him.

The Redskins have an opportunity to do the same with Haskins, letting him ease into the NFL and take in everything he can from two veterans. According to Vick, it's the perfect scenario for a rookie QB to be in.

"You get to soak up everything, you get to gain the whole experience without having to be under pressure," Vick said. "That makes it extremely easy when you step out there for the first time."