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USC beats Arizona 38-31 in first game in the post-Lane Kiffin era

Nick Bromberg
Dr. Saturday

Wondering if USC would look anything like it did with Lane Kiffin at the helm in its first game without Kiffin?

No, no it didn't.

The Trojans threw downfield early and effectively in their 38-31 win over Arizona Thursday night. It was interim coach Ed Orgeron's first victory as a head football coach since his Ole Miss team beat Northwestern State in 2007.

Orgeron's team that year went winless in the SEC and he was fired at the end of the season. Kiffin was fired after USC's 62-41 loss to Arizona State on Sept. 28 and Orgeron, who served on his staff at Tennessee and as associate head coach at USC, was named interim coach.

In his brief tenure as USC coach, Orgeron has made fun a priority -- the man brought back desserts, after all -- and there were plenty of smiles on the USC sideline. Heck, the defense even broke into a little dance between the third and fourth quarters. Being up 28-10 at halftime will help bring the swagger back.

Though that swagger likely wavered in the fourth quarter. Arizona scored 14 unanswered to cut the USC lead from 21 to seven with four minutes to go. However, USC was able to salt away the game thanks to running back Silas Redd, who helped run the clock down with 43 yards rushing on the Trojans' final drive.

USC wasn't at full strength to start the game; wide receiver Marqise Lee missed the game because of the knee injury he suffered at Arizona State, and so did receivers Darreus Rogers and De'Von Flournoy and linebacker Morgan Breslin. Plus the Trojans lost running back Tre Madden, he of four 100 yard-games, during the win to a hamstring injury.

But other players stepped up, including quarterback Cody Kessler and receiver Nelson Agholor, who thrived in offensive coordinator Clay Helton's first opportunity to be the team's playcaller. Agholor entered with 11 catches for 192 yards through the first five games and connected with Kessler on a 62 yard touchdown in the first quarter. He finished with seven catches for 161 yards. Kessler was 15 of 30 for 297 yards and two touchdowns.

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