USC Trojans Hang On for 19-17 Win over Gophers
September 3, 2011

The Kill era (as opposed to the “Kill Brewster” era) started at the Los Angeles Coliseum with a 19-17 loss to 25th-ranked Southern California. The Gophers came back with a pair of second-half touchdowns and had the ball in the final minute before the Trojans sealed the win with an interception in the first game for Minnesota coach Jerry Kill.

“We had opportunities to win the game and didn’t do some of the things early and I take responsibility for that,” said Kill. “We looked nervous and uncomfortable in the first half. We settled down in the second half.”

Robert Woods caught 11 passes, three of them in the end zone, for 115 yards in the first half for USC and had 17 catches for 177 yards in the game. Junior quarterback Matt Barkley completed 34 of 45 passes, at one point connecting on 16 in a row, for 304 yards.

Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray left the game in the third quarter with arm and leg cramps, leaving it to freshman Max Shortell to direct the offense to a touchdown to bring Minnesota within two points.

Chris Hawthorne missed a pair of field goals for the Gophers. The first, a 51-yard attempt on the opening drive of the game, was partially blocked. The second, from 42 yards on the final play of the first half, only looked that way. Hawthorne did have a 21 yarder that was good in the second quarter, cutting USC’s lead to 12-3, but Barkley and Woods connected again with 49 seconds left in the half to give the Trojans a comfortable cushion at halftime.

The Trojans scored on their first possession, a 66-yard drive that finished with a 7-yard pass to a wide-open Woods in the left side of the end zone. USC missed a two-point attempt, as it did on its next touchdown, with 9:25 left in the second quarter. This drive took only three plays for the Trojans to cover 54 yards, with Barkley rolling right and finding Woods for 9 yards on the first play. After freshman D. J. Morgan carried for a first down at the Minnesota 43, Barkley launched a pass to the left side for Woods, who had Kim Royston beat and pulled in the pass in the end zone despite being interfered with by Royston.

Woods, who had a 97-yard kickoff return after Minnesota had taken a third-quarter lead in a 32-21 USC win in Minneapolis a year ago, caught his third touchdown, a quick 2-yard pass from Barkley, in the front right corner of the end zone, to make the score 19-3.

The Gophers got a break on USC’s opening drive in the third quarter. The Trojans had reached the Minnesota 24 but a late-hit foul on offensive lineman John Martinez moved the ball back 15 yards. The Trojans went for it on 4th and 6 from the 35, but the snap sailed over Barkley’s head. As the teams fought for the loose ball, it was batted back and finally recovered by Minnesota’s Mike Rallis on the USC 30.

Gray hit tight end Eric Lair for 17 yards, then ran for 4, and Duane Bennett finished it by cutting through the line for a 9-yard touchdown run.

Late in the third quarter Gray came out in favor of Shortell. “I’m not sure why it happened,” said Gray of the cramps that caused his departure. “I’ve been hydrating all week. Today it just came out.”

With 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter Minnesota took over on its 17. Shortell hit a leaping Marcus Jones for a 23 yard pass on the first play, and the drive continued deep into USC territory, with the Gophers getting to the 12 after another pass to Jones, this one for 22 yards. Gray came out of the tunnel of the locker room, apparently ready for action again, but Shortell had the Gophers moving. Shortell passed to Brandon Green on the 6, and Green ran for the final yards to bring the Gophers to within 19-17 with 8:03 left.

A pair of penalties left the Trojans facing a 2nd and 20 from their 20 yard line, but Curtis McNeal got loose for a 27-yard run. The drive finally stalled, but McNeal’s run allowed USC to run more time off the clock and finally punt from the 37 with 2:11 left. Troy Stoudermire made a fair catch of the punt at the 9, and the Gophers came out to try and move into field-goal position.

Passes to Malcolm Moulton and Da’Jon McKnight got the Gophers to their 27. Shortell scrambled for a yard, leaving a 3rd and 1 at the 28. Shortell tried to connect with McKnight along the left sideline, but Torin Harris intercepted at the Minnesota 42 with 53 seconds left to end the Gophers’ hopes.

“I’m a competitor. There were two guys going after it,” said Kill of the interception. “Our guy played hard and their guy played hard and their guy made a play.”

The Gophers will open their home season next week against New Mexico State.

Back to Main Page