LOS ANGELES - The Arizona Wildcats shuffled their defensive lineup again Saturday, hoping that a dash of Hank Hobson, some Jowyn Ward and a healthy Marquis Flowers would somehow help solve the most glaring problem of their snakebit season: stopping the run.
It helped - sort of. USC rushed for just 114 yards against the Wildcats' beleaguered defense and, for the first time in three weeks, an opposing running back failed to record his best-ever game.
But then USC quarterback Matt Barkley threw for a program-record 468 yards and receiver Robert Woods finished just shy of setting another mark, and the Trojans gained 582 total yards. USC scored on all but three drives and didn't have to punt once, and, well…
The school that produced "Desert Swarm" was swamped. Again.
"It's very frustrating, it's very disappointing," Arizona safety Robert Golden said. "It's not about being young. It's not about immaturity. It's about guys getting out there and playing."
The Trojans scored at will on the way to a 48-41 win before 63,707 sunburned fans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Since defeating Northern Arizona in their opener, the Wildcats have lost four games in a row - their worst start since 2005. The UA is winless in three Pac-12 games, and hasn't defeated a Division I-A team since last Halloween.
When opportunities presented themselves Saturday, Arizona's defense shrunk. Linebacker Derek Earls let a sure interception go through his hands - and directly into those of tight end Xavier Grimble, who gave the Trojans a 24-6 lead in the second quarter.
Cornerback Shaquille Richardson intercepted a pass but was frequently lost on the field; on one play, he decked a player - and took a pass interference call - rather than challenge a 50-50 ball.
On Saturday, "we came up with one play, basically, all day," UA coach Mike Stoops said.
"You've got to have some consistency right now, and you have to have some playmakers," he said. "We're just lacking in those two areas."
Led by Woods, the Trojans' star receiver, USC took leads of 17-0 and 24-6 before the Wildcats rallied in the second half.
Freshman Ka'Deem Carey rushed for two third-quarter touchdowns, and quarterback Nick Foles found Juron Criner for a 12-yard score, cutting the Trojans' lead to 41-34 with just over 11 minutes remaining.
But with the game on the line, Arizona's defense couldn't deliver a stop.
The Trojans drove 79 yards in five plays, with Curtis McNeal's 9-yard touchdown run giving them a two-score cushion.
The UA chose to punt from midfield down by 14 points, made a stop - its second of the day - and scored with 1 minute left. But an onside kick failed, and USC ran out the clock.
The Trojans (4-1, 2-1) avenged a 2009 loss to Arizona at the Coliseum; the Wildcats' win helped them secure a spot in the Holiday Bowl.
Bowl talk, even memories, seem like ancient history now.
Foles completed 41 of 53 passes for 425 yards and four touchdowns, but was intercepted twice by USC's T.J. McDonald.
Place-kicker Alex Zendejas missed a PAT attempt, and another one was blocked, forcing the Wildcats to attempt a two-point conversion in the third quarter; it was successful.
Arizona gained 554 yards of total offense and scored touchdowns on all five of its red zone trips.
But the Wildcats' defense never gave the offense a chance.
Barkley found Woods on USC's second offensive play; the Trojans' receiver turned upfield, evaded Trevin Wade's attempt at a tackle, and cruised 82 yards for a touchdown.
Woods caught 14 passes for 255 yards, 6 yards short of breaking the Trojans' all-time record. Barkley completed eight of his first nine attempts for 186 yards and two touchdowns. His 486 passing yards was a program record, better than anything Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart - the Trojans' two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks - ever produced at the Coliseum. Arizona and USC combined for 1,136 yards of total offense.
"It's kind of what the world is coming to, it seems like, with these offenses," Stoops said. "They get harder and harder to stop."
But it shouldn't be this easy. Arizona has surrendered 1.31 miles' worth of offense in its last four games. The last three games have featured record-setting performances by a UA opponent.
The Wildcats don't have the depth to swap out more starters, and are not nearly experienced enough to expect better returns. Defensive coordinator said Saturday that the Wildcats "got who we got."
At this point, it's a scary thought.
"We've got to dig deep, reach down and dig it out of ourselves," Kish said. "There's no free agency in this market."
• What: Arizona at Oregon State
• When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday
• TV: Fox College Sports