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No. 17 USC bottles up Khalil Tate to lead No. 22 Arizona at halftime

No. 22 Arizona had designs on a surprise Pac-12 South title after a terrific run in October but things haven’t played out to script in the first half of their trip to the Coliseum against No. 17 USC on Saturday night.

The Trojans pounced early to take a 21-6 lead into the locker room after two quarters, using a big special teams play to supplement their solid defense on Wildcats’ star Khalil Tate to look a little more like the team we all expected to see at the beginning of the year.

The home team struck first on the scoreboard by getting a rare special teams touchdown, with Michael Pittman Jr. blocking a punt that Jalen Greene scooped and scored with from 11 yards out. That ignited the crowd in Los Angeles and seemed to set the tone for the cardinal and gold.

Quarterback Sam Darnold threw a horrific interception (his 18th turnover of the year) in the end zone but was otherwise pretty sharp in the first half, completing just 10-of-15 passes for a pair of touchdowns and 147 yards. He was really playing second-fiddle in the offense though as tailback Ronald Jones was the real star of the show, rushing for 69 yards and generally getting whatever he wanted on the ground (including a 98 yard score that was called back due to a receiver holding call).

The real story of the game was the Trojans’ defense though. They limited Tate, the dynamic Wildcats signal-caller, to just four completions for 29 yards in the air and most notably was bottled up running the ball with just 15 on the ground. Arizona, which had allowed five sacks all season, uncharacteristically gave up two in the first half too.

We’ll see what adjustments both sides make but there’s some strong #Pac12AfterDark potential for the second half — especially given all the upsets and crazy endings we’ve seen today. The winner can basically take control of the Pac-12 South with a victory so things could get very interesting despite the home team being up by two scores.