What a difference a week makes.
The Trojans came back from last week's defeat to Arizona State by topping the Arizona Wildcats 48-41 at the Coliseum on a record-breaking day. USC quarterback Matt Barkley threw for a school record with 468 passing yards in a game. Safety T.J. McDonald pulled in two interceptions and a game-clinching onside kick recovery, a week after the two were plagued by turnovers and penalties.
Wide receiver Robert Woods garnered 14 receptions for 255 yards and two touchdowns in the victory, coming just five yards short of the USC record for receiving yards in a game.
The game was a bona fide Pac-12 shootout, with the two teams combining for 1,136 yards of total offense (893 passing) and 63 first downs.
USC led from wire-to-wire, and didn't even punt in the contest, but had to snag an Arizona onside kick with 1:52 left in the game to polish off the victory heading into a bye week.
It takes two teams to put on an offensive show, and Arizona's passing game certainly held up its end of the bargain. Nick Foles went 41-of-53 for 425 yards and four touchdowns, completing passes to 12 different receivers.
But Foles was outdone by Barkley on this day. The junior quarterback completed 32 of 39 passes, averaging 12 yards per attempt, breaking Carson Palmer's record for passing yards in a game.
"It's crazy to think about because I grew up looking up to Carson Palmer," said Barkley. "He's one of my heroes, so to be on that list is pretty cool."
"Matt is putting the ball right on the money," Woods said of his near-record-breaking day. "All we're doing is running our routes. The ball is on point every time. He makes it so easy for us."
On defense, T.J. McDonald redeemed himself early on after drawing three personal fouls last week against Arizona State. The safety intercepted Foles twice in the first quarter, both in USC territory, after the QB had not thrown an interception all season. Those picks helped the Trojans build a 17-0 lead by the end of the quarter.
"To get them early changed the momentum of the game," McDonald said. "It pumped up the team and they were able to go put points on the board. It feels really great and gives our defense a lot of confidence."
The Trojans maintained a 27-12 lead at the halftime horn in a dynamite two quarters for Barkley. He distributed touchdowns of 82 yards to Woods, 38 yards to Marqise Lee, and seven yards to Xavier Grimble, all part of a 22-for-26, 301-yard effort in the first half.
Barkley's only true hiccup of the game came in the third quarter. With USC up 34-20, Shaquille Richardson intercepted the sophomore quarterback around midfield. Two minutes later, Arizona RB Ka'Deem Carey ran 16 yards for a touchdown, and suddenly the Wildcats were within a score of the lead at the end of the third.
The lighting of the Coliseum cauldron re-ignited the USC offense, with Barkley connecting to Lee for 45 yards on the first play of the fourth. Lee totaled eight catches and 144 yards on the day. Barkley followed with a one-yard touchdown sneak to make it 41-27.
The teams traded touchdowns (story of the day), and with 1:56 left, USC had a chance to erase any doubt on a fourth and one. But an incomplete pass gave the Wildcats the football.
Foles completed five passes in 52 seconds to cut the Trojans lead to 48-41, and only McDonald's onside kick recovery could prompt the remaining 'SC faithful to exhale.
"We missed some tackles in the second half and the rushing slowed down," Kiffin said of the ultimately close affair. "I'll take it whenever we can end the game with a quarterback playing the best game in the history of USC, throwing it to Robert, who's having the greatest game as a receiver in USC history."