USC Trojans running back Ronald Jones II (25) rumbles through the Arizona Wildcats defense during the second quarter of the University of Arizona Wildcats vs. USC Trojans college football game on Oct. 15, 2016, at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz. Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star

Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star

The Arizona Wildcats lost to USC 48-14 in front of an announced crowd of 55,463 Saturday afternoon at Arizona Stadium.

The loss was Arizona’s fourth in a row and dropped the Wildcats to 2-5, 0-4 in the Pac-12. It’s the first four-game losing streak the UA has endured during the Rich Rodriguez era.

The 34-point margin was the largest of the season for Arizona and the biggest in the series since 2006. The previous eight meetings were decided by eight or fewer points.

Including the 2014 Pac-12 Championship Game, the Wildcats have lost 11 of their last 14 conference games.

About the only highlight for Arizona in the second half was senior Matt Morin entering the game at quarterback and throwing a touchdown pass. Morin, usually the Wildcats’ third-string tight tend and holder, replaced Khalil Tate late in the third quarter. Morin played quarterback in high school.

Tate, making his first career start, struggled from the get-go. He completed only 7 of 18 passes for 58 yards with one interception. He also rushed for 72 yards and lost a fumble.

USC QB Sam Darnold threw five touchdown passes, including three to JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had nine catches for 132 yards.

USC won its third in a row to improve to 4-3, 3-2.

Arizona has a bye next week before hosting Stanford on Oct. 29.


THIRD-QUARTER UPDATE:

It didn’t get much better for the Arizona Wildcats in the third quarter.

In fact, it got worse.

USC leads Arizona 41-7 at the end of three Saturday afternoon in front of a dwindling crowd at Arizona Stadium.

Trailing 34-7 at the half, Arizona got the ball first. Struggling freshman quarterback Khalil Tate completed two passes – one more than he did in the first half – and helped the Wildcats advance to their 47-yard line. But on third-and-10, Tate missed an open Shun Brown.

USC responded with a six-play, 85-yard touchdown drive, capped by Sam Darnold’s third touchdown pass of the day to JuJu Smith-Schuster. Darnold has five touchdown passes in all. Smith-Schuster has nine catches for 132 yards.

On the final possession of the quarter, UA coach Rich Rodriguez took out Tate and inserted Matt Morin. The senior’s main position is tight end. He’s also the Wildcats’ holder. He played QB in high school.

QBs Brandon Dawkins (concussion) and Anu Solomon (knee) did not dress.


HALFTIME UPDATE:

It took three games, but Khalil Tate finally is starting to look like the 17-year-old freshman that he is.

With Tate struggling – and not getting much help from his friends – the Arizona Wildcats trail USC 34-7 at halftime of their game Saturday afternoon at Arizona Stadium.

Tate has completed only 1 of 7 passes for 4 yards. He also has two turnovers. He is making his first career start in place of the injured Brandon Dawkins (concussion) and Anu Solomon (knee).

The second quarter began inauspiciously for Tate and the Wildcats. Tate darted up the middle for 23 yards. But at the end of the run, USC safety Chris Hawkins got his helmet on the ball and jarred it loose.

Adoree’ Jackson returned the fumble to the UA 10-yard line. Two plays later, Darnold hit Daniel Imatorbhebhe for a diving 8-yard touchdown to make it 21-7.

Tate, with help from Nick Wilson, then led the Wildcats on a 74-yard drive. They needed 75. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, USC snuffed out Tate on a keeper. He had no choice but to throw the ball away.

Wilson had a 39-yard run deep into Trojans territory to spark the drive but appeared to suffer another leg injury and left the game.

The UA defense stopped USC on consecutive possessions. However, on first-and-10 from the 13, Tate threw an interception to Iman Marshall. JuJu Smith-Schuster scored three plays later on a 2-yard swing screen.

USC fumbled the point-after try, and Michael Barton returned it for an apparent two points. However, Arizona got called for a personal foul on the return, negating the score.

USC added another TD with 23 seconds left in the half on a 39-yard pass from Sam Darnold to Smith-Schuster. It was Darnold’s fourth TD pass of the half. Smith-Schuster broke several tackles en route to the end zone.


FIRST-QUARTER UPDATE:

The Arizona Wildcats trail USC 14-7 after one quarter of their game at steamy Arizona Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Freshman quarterback Khalil Tate is making his first start in place of the injured Brandon Dawkins and has the UA’s lone touchdown.

Arizona did not get off to a good start. USC took the opening kickoff and drove 73 yards in 10 plays to take a 7-0 lead. Ronald Jones II capped the drive with a 5-yard run. After he crossed the goal line, Jones’ helmet crashed into UA cornerback Jace Whittaker’s left knee. Whittaker left the game but later returned.

After the UA defense forced a rare three-and-out, Tate went to work. He capped a five-play, 38-yard drive with an easy 3-yard TD run.

USC responded with a methodical but effective 14-play, 75-yard drive. It ended with Sam Darnold’s 11-yard TD pass to Deontay Burnett.

After a sack, Arizona faces second-and-22 to start the second quarter.