Darnold throws for 5 scores, USC routs Arizona 48-14
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Sam Darnold threw for five touchdowns – three to Julu Smith-Schuster – to lead USC to a 48-14 rout of Arizona on Saturday, the Trojans' third straight Pac-12 victory.
Darnold, a redshirt freshman who didn't start until the fourth game of the season, completed 20 of 32 attempts for 235 yards and ran for 54 yards in six carries before sitting out the fourth quarter. He threw for 186 yards and four scores as USC built a 34-7 halftime lead.
''Not to blow his head up too much but he's playing really good football right now, way beyond his years, his maturity level,'' Trojans coach Clay Helton said.
Darnold was more upset about the plays he didn't make.
He said he is taking his job ''week by week.''
''If I progress, I progress'' Darnold said. ''That's part of growing, mentally and physically.''
Smith-Schuster finished with nine catches for 132 yards.
The Trojans (4-3, 3-2 Pac-12) rolled for 575 yards and remained a half-game out of first place in the Pac-12 South. Arizona (2-5, 0-4) lost its fourth in a row.
USC won away from home for the first time since the interim label was removed from Helton's title.
Wildcats true freshman Khalil Tate, just shy of his 18th birthday, completed 7 of 18 passes for 58 yards in his first collegiate start. Playing in place of injured Brandon Dawkins, Tate threw an interception and fumbled the ball away, leading to two USC touchdowns. He ran for 72 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
''He's a true freshman so we wanted to rattle him a little bit and get some hits on him,'' USC defensive back Chris Hawkins said.
Coach Rich Rodriguez said Tate is not the nervous type ''…but there are times when a 17-year-old freshman looks like a 17-year-old freshman.''
USC: The Trojans are rolling and in the thick of the wide-open scramble in the Pac-12 South. After opening conference play with losses to Stanford and Utah, USC has beaten Arizona State, Colorado and Arizona. California and Oregon are next before a Nov. 12 matchup at No. 5 Washington.
ARIZONA: The Wildcats have been hit by injuries, particularly at quarterback, and are in a tailspin that began with an overtime loss to then-No. 9 Washington.
USC: After their first road win since coach Clay Helton had the interim tag removed, the Trojans don't play again until Oct. 27 against California.
ARIZONA: The Wildcats get their first bye since the 2014 season and they could use it to get Dawkins and others healthy. Arizona is home against Stanford on Oct. 29.