Ollie Jung | Daily TrojanCertain individual performances in sports stick with you forever. It hasn’t been too long since Sam Darnold, as a redshirt freshman quarterback, spearheaded a heroic comeback against Penn State last January, but I know the furious final minutes of that miracle will stick in my mind for decades to come. I’ll also always remember last Thanksgiving, when Adoree’ Jackson single-handedly cut Notre Dame to ribbons as a defender, runner, receiver and returner as the crowd braving rain at the Coliseum began to smell roses.But great games can go against your team, too, and those memories remain just as vividly. I will never forget Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey during the 2015 Pac-12 Championship: Head coach Clay Helton had shed his interim label after guiding USC to the conference championship game just months after the Steve Sarkisian circus, and the Trojans were riding high off a statement victory over UCLA in a de facto Pac-12 South title bout.Then McCaffrey lit USC up with 461 all-purpose yards, scoring three touchdowns on a rush, reception and — to twist the knife — a trick-play pass. The Cardinal dominated the Trojans 41-22 to take the conference crown and resign a deflated USC team to the Holiday Bowl.It takes a perfect storm of sorts to set the stage for games like these: the right teams at the right time with the right stakes — and with one transcendent talent. Saturday’s game between USC and Arizona has those elements. The Pac-12 South is essentially on the line as the regular season winds to a close, and the Wildcats bring a four-game win streak into Los Angeles. Though USC bulldozed them 48-14 in Tucson last year, every other meeting between the two programs in the last decade has ended as a one-possession game. Many expect a closely fought battle, but it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see one special player step up and take over the game a la McCaffrey or Jackson.Or Darnold? Unfortunately for Trojan fans, the man who looks most likely to dominate Saturday’s contest isn’t USC’s Rose Bowl hero and former Heisman contender — it’s his counterpart on the Wildcats’ sideline. Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate has owned the headlines in this week’s lead-up — and for good reason. The sophomore only seized the first-string job in early October, but he has already replaced Darnold in the Heisman race by averaging an absurd 210 rushing yards per game across his four starts, including a 327-yard effort at Colorado. Tate already has close to 1,000 yards — more than Trojan junior running back Ronald Jones II — and eight scores on the ground this season, in addition to his 784 yards and six touchdowns through the air. With Tate under center, Arizona has scored at least 45 points in every game, and it gashed Washington State for 58 points last week.Unsurprisingly, the Trojans’ focus in practice all week has been containing the Wildcats’ unique threat. USC faced Tate briefly as a freshman, when he came in for garbage time in last season’s blowout, but he has since evolved into a track star, breaking off runs of at least 70 yards in four consecutive games. It will be a tall order to stop Tate, especially considering how Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush torched the Trojans on the ground for 106 yards and two touchdowns last month.In truth, it feels like another embarrassing USC loss could be brewing on Saturday: Tate is the hottest player in college football right now, and the momentum and skillset he brings into the Coliseum feel eerily similar to the Fighting Irish’s rhythm two weeks ago. Not to mention the Inglewood native will be home, looking to impress in front of friends and family.But occasionally, teams step up to be the immovable object to an unstoppable force. Leonard Fournette was the runaway Heisman favorite on a 7-0 LSU team in 2015 — until Alabama held the superstar to 1.6 yards per carry and sent the Tigers into a three-game tailspin. Perhaps USC can do the same this weekend, whether the defense chases Tate down or Darnold simply outguns his adversary. Despite the colossal disappointment of missing the College Football Playoff, the Trojans are still arguably the favorite to take home the conference championship, and five straight wins to end the season, culminating in a Pac-12 title in Santa Clara, would be as strong a silver lining as you could wish for.In order earn that silver lining, however, USC will have to execute on Saturday. Arizona is arguably the biggest hurdle remaining in the program’s pursuit of its first Pac-12 crown since 2008 — which marked the last of seven consecutive championships. It’s tempting to dub the Wildcats this season’s Trojans while watching the team’s midseason surge under a new quarterback. But this weekend is Homecoming: It’s about repeating tradition, not passing the torch.Ollie Jung is a senior majoring in print and digital journalism. He is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, Jung Money, runs Fridays.
West Virginia (11-1) stunned all those red-clad fans at the Georgia Dome by jumping to a 28-0 lead by the opening minute of the second quarter. The Bulldogs (10-3) rallied, twice closing within a field goal in the second half, but they couldn’t finish one of the greatest comebacks in bowl history. “I think we took to heart some of the criticism of our league and the fact that no one was predicting us to win,” West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said. “Basically, we were playing in their home environment, their home state.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson Give most of the credit to Slaton, who wasn’t even the Mountaineers’ best freshman runner in fall camp and didn’t crack the starting lineup until the sixth game of the season. Georgia certainly had no answer for the speedy back, who squirted through big holes and left defenders such as All-American safety Greg Blue in the dust on a pair of 52-yard touchdown runs. Slaton eclipsed the previous Sugar Bowl rushing record, a 202-yard performance by Pitt’s Tony Dorsett in a national championship-clinching victory over Georgia in 1977. “It was just our speed,” Slaton said. “They couldn’t match up with us.” The Mountaineers saved their biggest surprise for the end. Georgia was poised to get the ball back when West Virginia dropped back to punt on fourth-and-6 at the Bulldogs 48. Phil Brady hauled in the long snap but took off running, gaining 10 yards on the fake and a game-clinching first down. ATLANTA – Enough with those jokes about the Big East. West Virginia clearly deserved its place in the Bowl Championship Series. Steve Slaton rushed for a record 204 yards and three touchdowns to lead the No. 11 Mountaineers to a 38-35 victory over eighth-ranked Georgia, which couldn’t take advantage of the home-field edge Monday night in the first Sugar Bowl played outside of New Orleans. “We were definitely playing for a return,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “We didn’t think they would do that. Give them a lot of credit. It takes a lot of nerve to do that.” The last of Slaton’s touchdowns gave the Mountaineers a seemingly comfortable 38-28 lead with 8? minutes to go. D.J. Shockley brought Georgia back with his third touchdown pass, a 34-yarder to Bryan McClendon with 5:33 left, but never got his hands on the ball again. The teams combined for 1,003 yards, much of it coming in a wild first half that ended with the Mountaineers holding a 31-21 lead. “West Virginia did a heck of a job jumping on us,” Richt said. “The only consolation is we didn’t lay down and die.” The 72nd Sugar Bowl was shifted to Atlanta after Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans, flooding the Big Easy and leaving the Superdome in no shape to host a Pop Warner game, much less a major bowl. While poignant, the Sugar was the least heralded of the BCS bowls, a distant fourth to the Fiesta matchup between Notre Dame and Ohio State, the Joe Paterno-vs.-Bobby Bowden showdown at the Orange and, of course, the national championship game between No. 1 USC and No. 2 Texas at the Rose Bowl. But the Fiesta a 34-20 romp for Ohio State didn’t come close on the excitement meter. And both the Orange and Rose will be hard-pressed to produce a game this thrilling. West Virginia also did its part to stymie criticism of the Big East. OK, so the league isn’t as strong since Miami and Virginia Tech bolted to the Atlantic Coast Conference, but the Mountaineers proved they’re one of the best teams in the country. They certainly came out with a chip on their shoulder, facing the champion of the powerful Southeastern Conference just 75 miles from its Athens campus. West Virginia, which had lost 11 of its last 12 bowl games, was up 28-0 by the opening minute of the second quarter, with Slaton and Darius Reynaud scoring two touchdowns apiece. Slaton showed his speed on the first of his 52-yard runs, which capped West Virginia’s opening possession. His other first-half score came on an 18-yard burst through a tiny hole, the freshman prancing across the goal line in front of Blue. Reynaud caught a 3-yard pass from Pat White, then caught the Bulldogs off guard on a 13-yard reverse that left all but a couple of defenders running the wrong way. But Georgia didn’t fold. Kregg Lumpkin got the Bulldogs on the scoreboard with a 34-yard touchdown run, sparking a little life in the mostly Georgia crowd. They were roaring by the time the teams trotted to the locker room, having cut the deficit to a more manageable 10 points. Thomas Brown had a 52-yard touchdown run for the Bulldogs, getting loose after appearing stuffed at the line by the Mountaineers. West Virginia kept the big plays rolling when fullback Owen Schmitt, a transfer from Division III Wisconsin-River Falls, rumbled for 54 yards on a third-and-1 play. But the Georgia defense finally arrived, stuffing Slaton for a 3-yard loss on another short-yardage play at the 7 and forcing the Mountaineers to settle for Pat McAfee’s 27-yard field goal. Georgia reclaimed the momentum before halftime with an 11-play, 80-yard drive. The Bulldogs converted on fourth-and-1 at their own 42, then Shockley bailed them out on third-and-10 by scrambling away from pressure and delivering a 32-yard pass to Mario Raley. Shockley followed with a 15-yard run, then connected with Leonard Pope on a 4-yard touchdown pass with 58 seconds left in the wild half. With 62 points by halftime, the teams set both Sugar Bowl and BCS records for one half. Running up and down the field with little resistance, Georgia piled up 311 yards and West Virginia had 200 of its 294 yards on the ground. The only thing separating the teams was turnovers. Shockley and Danny Ware both fumbled the ball away, and the Mountaineers capitalized each time with TDs. Late in the third quarter, Shockley tossed a 34-yard touchdown to A.J. Bryant, pulling the Bulldogs to 31-28. They never got any closer. Shockley completed 20-of-33 passes for 277 yards and also rushed for 71 yards on eight carries. But it wasn’t enough against West Virginia, which ripped through the Bulldogs for 382 yards rushing. Schmitt had 82 yards on the ground and White rushed for 77. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. 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