Wildcat tight end Brad Wood hangs onto the ball for a first-quarter touchdown. (photos courtesy Associated Press)
LenDale White scored a career-high four touchdowns, rushed for 179 yards and No. 1 USC won 42-21 Saturday for its 27th consecutive victory.
Playing at the Coliseum for the second time this season, the Trojans (5-0, 3-0 Pac-10) also won their school-record 23rd home game.
``It took us a long time to gain control of this game,'' coach Pete Carroll said. ``The expectations we have for ourselves are so high, we feel the frustration.''
Dwayne Jarrett added two touchdowns for the Trojans, who hit the road again for their next two games, including next week at Notre Dame.
White and Reggie Bush, who had 110 yards and sustained a minor right knee sprain, each ran for 100-plus yards for the third consecutive game and first time in USC history. Steve Smith added seven catches for 134 yards.
``We had to come out pounding the ball,'' White said. ``Our offensive line did a great job. Every time I got the ball, they had a great surge. They deserve all the credit.''
After rallying from an 18-point halftime deficit at Arizona State and a 13-point, first-half deficit at Oregon the last two weeks, the Trojans again looked stagnant early against the Wildcats (1-4, 0-2).
``No team is going to roll over because they're playing the Trojans,'' linebacker Oscar Lua said. ``We came out a little flat. It was kind of a disappointing day for the defense as far as letting them score.''
USC owned a huge statistical advantage, but Arizona gave the Trojans fits most of the game despite being 38 1/2-point underdogs, the largest spread in college football this week.
Sophomore cornerback Wilrey Fontenot pulls down an interception in the second quarter. (AP)
The Trojans piled up 724 yards in total offense to Arizona's 245, but it wasn't reflected in the easy victory that 90,221 fans had expected. The Wildcats trailed by a touchdown entering the fourth quarter.
``We were hanging with them punch for punch the entire game,'' Brooks said. ``We felt that we could actually compete with them, and we did for 2 1/2 quarters.''
The Trojans failed to clean up the penalties that had plagued them the previous two weeks. They were penalized six times for 60 yards in the game.
``That is what it takes to disrupt a rhythm,'' Carroll said.
Arizona kicker Danny Baugher put the Trojans in poor field position most of the first half, averaging 46 yards a punt and keeping leading rusher Bush from returning any punts in the game.
Leading 35-21 with 10 minutes remaining, USC's Collin Ashton tipped Richard Kovalcheck's pass to Ryan Ting, who intercepted it and stopped the Wildcats' last scoring threat on USC's 6-yard line.
``They kind of got a piece of it and it just ricocheted,'' Arizona coach Mike Stoops said. ``They make you do a lot of things that are probably unnatural.''
USC's Matt Leinart was 26-of-40 for 360 yards, two touchdowns and one interception before being replaced by John David Booty with 6:22 remaining.
``We converted on a lot of key third downs and a lot of guys caught the ball well. We just made some plays,'' Leinart said. ``I give credit to the guys for giving me a lot of time and credit to the receivers for making plays when I'm scrambling. Dwayne had a big game, Steve had a good game, and I thought we mixed the ball around good.''
Arizona quarterback Richard Kovalcheck is the first to throw for three TDs against USC in three years. (AP)
``After playing them, it's a little downhill from here,'' he said. ``We've seen the best team in the nation and we competed with them and did some good things.''
Arizona's Syndric Steptoe had five kickoff returns for 159 yards. Mike Thomas led Arizona with four catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns.
The Trojans dominated the fourth quarter, getting touchdowns on a 29-yard run by Jarrett and a 6-yard run by White.
USC came out strong with a 2-yard touchdown run by White to start the second half for a 21-7 lead.
``I feel like I'm always in a groove,'' White said. ``When my team needs me, I'll be there for them.''
But the Wildcats answered with their longest scoring play of the season, a 42-yard pass from Kovalcheck to Thomas, to trail 21-14.
White's second 1-yard TD of the game kept USC ahead 28-14.
Arizona got within a touchdown on Kovalcheck's 1-yard pass to Gilbert Harris at 1:47 of the third. Steptoe's 76-yard kickoff return to the USC 22 set up the score.
USC took a 14-7 lead into halftime when Jarrett caught a 22-yard pass from Leinart at 1:17 of the second.
The Trojans scored on their first drive of the game, when White ran in from 1 yard at 9:12.
The Wildcats were forced to punt on their first two possessions, then Michael Johnson recovered a fumble by USC's Desmond Reed. They capped a five-play, 56-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Kovalcheck to Brad Wood that tied the game 7-7 with 7 seconds left in the first quarter.