Arizona USC Football

UA safety Tristan Cooper and cornerback Jace Whittaker break up a pass intended for USC wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown during the first half.

The Arizona Wildcats lost to USC 41-14 Saturday night in Los Angeles. Here are some pertinent notes, quotes and statistics:

NOTES

* Arizona lost to USC for the seventh straight time. For the third time in the past four meetings, the Wildcats’ margin of defeat was at least 14 points. They trailed by at least 22 points in the third quarter in all four games.

* Arizona surrendered a season-high seven sacks and has allowed 11 in the past two games. Khalil Tate was sacked six times while completing only six passes. USC’s sack total was its highest since 2013.

* The Wildcats had only 167 yards of offense through three quarters, averaging 3.21 yards per play. They gained 218 yards in the fourth quarter, when the game was out of reach.

* Arizona allowed 14 points in the fourth quarter after yielding 24 the previous week. The Wildcats surrendered three fourth-quarter points in their previous three games combined.

* Arizona got shut out in the first half for the first time this season. It was also the first time USC had blanked an opponent in the first half since Nov. 10, 2018, vs. Cal. The Wildcats’ 14 points were a season low.

* UA junior WR Brian Casteel had four receptions for a career-high 101 yards and two touchdowns. It was the first two-score game of his career and Arizona’s first 100-yard receiving game of the season.

* Junior DT Trevon Mason recorded his first career sack and finished with six total tackles. He had a career-high seven last week against Washington.

* Junior LB Tony Fields II led the Wildcats with 10 tackles against USC. It was his third double-digit tackle performance of the season, all coming in the past four games, and the 13th of his career.

* Arizona fell to 2-6 on the road under Kevin Sumlin. The Wildcats are 7-4 at home under Sumlin.

* USC improved to 23-3 under Clay Helton at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. The Trojans are 13-17 in road and neutral-site games under Helton.

QUOTES

Sumlin on why he pulled Tate for Grant Gunnell in the third quarter: “Basically, we needed a spark. We got Grant in there. As the game got out of hand, we left him in there to get experience and move the football. He showed some things. It's good experience for him.”

Sumlin on who will start at QB next week at Stanford: “There's no quarterback controversy right now. We’re moving on from this. The depth chart is still the same.”

Sumlin on struggling against USC’s blitzes: “We’ve gotta be better up front. We got to the perimeter a couple times early in the game. We weren't consistent in the running game, which put more pressure on us to be able to throw the ball. They pressured us with edge blitzes, safety blitzes. A couple times it was just a flat bust in protection, where we just turned a guy loose off the edge.

“Later in the game Grant hit running backs a couple times hot, because they didn't cover them, and made yards. You’ve gotta get the ball out of your hands sometimes if they bring more than you have to protect. But you also gotta block them when you're supposed to block them.”

Sumlin on Arizona’s field-position deficit because of turnovers and poor punting: “We’re not able to flip the field early in the game, and then we turn the ball over. It's very difficult. They’re playing hard. When we keep giving our opponent short fields, it’s inevitable (that they’ll score). The turnovers are one piece, but we've got to be able to flip the field too and play a field-position game with this team. We didn't do that tonight.”

Sumlin on Arizona’s offensive line injuries: “There's no excuses at this point of the season. Everybody’s got injuries. That's football. Does it affect you? You bet. But guess what, that's where it is. … Shoot, that team that we just played had a bunch of injuries.”

Arizona LB Colin Schooler on the loss: “I don't think we played very well as a team today at all. I think we need to be prepared better mentally as a team. I feel like us as leaders need to get everybody mentally focused in. And just move on and get better from this game.”

Schooler on having to defend short fields: “Our job is to stop them from scoring. No matter what yard line we get put on, that's supposed to be our job, and that’s all we need to worry about.”

CB Jace Whittaker on having to defend short fields: “It's definitely hard, but you can’t always get what you want. When you go out there, you still gotta stop them. That's what we're supposed to do.”

RB J.J. Taylor on his message to his teammates: “Keep your head up. It’s life. We’re all men. We learn from our mistakes. If we let mistakes keep us down, we’re never gonna do anything in life.”

Helton on defending Tate: “We talked about getting to the quarter, and to have seven sacks on the night, I was really, really happy with the pressure. Most importantly, just containing the quarterback.

"We had issues in the first half of the season, and I credit Clancy (Pendergast, the defensive coordinator). I thought he did a tremendous amount of studying, along with the defensive staff. They went out and studied NFL teams … that have played Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes and some athletic quarterbacks. … Really seeing what others are doing to defend it, and put in some of those things this week. I thought our kids thrived off of it. … They did a really nice job against one of the better athletes in the country.”

STATS

* Arizona had 22 first downs; USC had 16.

* Arizona had 142 net rushing yards; USC had 201.

* Arizona had 385 total yards; USC had 448.

* Arizona averaged 5.1 yards per play; USC averaged 6.8.

* Arizona had five penalties for 31 yards; USC had 10 for 100.

* Arizona had a net punting average of 33.0 yards; USC’s average was 44.5 yards.

* Arizona converted 5 of 16 third downs; USC converted 7 of 15.

* Arizona’s average starting field position was its 23-yard line; USC’s was its 40.

* Taylor rushed for 80 yards on 16 carries.

* Gunnell completed 16 of 26 passes for 196 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

* Schooler had nine tackles and a fumble recovery.

* USC LB Kana’i Mauga had 13 tackles, two TFLs, a forced fumble and an interception.

* USC LB John Houston had eight tackles, 2.5 TFLs and a fumble recovery.

Contact sports reporter Michael Lev at 573-4148 or mlev@tucson.com. On Twitter @michaeljlev 

Reporter

Michael is an award-winning journalist who has been covering sports professionally since the early '90s. He started at the Star in 2015 after spending 15 years at The Orange County Register. Michael is a graduate of Northwestern University.