LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- After making its first trip to California in 66 years, Auburn ran out of gas.
Quarterback Carson Palmer scored on a one-yard run with 86 seconds remaining as 19th-ranked Southern California clamped down in the second half and posted a 24-17 victory over Auburn in the season opener for both schools.
The teams battled to a 14-14 halftime tie as Auburn (0-1) totaled 204 yards. But the Tigers managed just 35 yards in the second half as tailback Carnell Williams battled cramping in his legs.
"They started putting nine in the box, and when they do that, you've got to throw it," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. "We couldn't throw it and catch it well enough. We had two drops that hurt us."
Coming back from a season-ending broken collarbone, Williams had 97 yards and a touchdown in the first half but was held to minus-3 yards on seven carries after intermission.
"I can't say what happened in the second half. It just seemed like we fell apart," Williams said. "I didn't do a good job finding holes. My knee is OK. The cramps bothered me a little bit. It was in the back of my mind."
Beginning his senior season, Palmer overcame a pair of interceptions and a key fumble by Kareem Kelly, leading the Trojans 50 yards on 13 plays to the go-ahead score.
A 10-yard punt return by Kelly set up USC (1-0) at midfield. Palmer found Kelly for 18-yards on 3rd-and-11 to the Auburn 33, then hit Sunny Byrd for another first down at the 22. After a nine-yard pass from Palmer to Malaefou MacKenzie, Sultan McCullough carried four times for 13 yards.
Two plays later, Palmer snuck in to break a 17-17 tie and end a drive that consumed more than 8 1/2 minutes.
"We expect to have long drives, to take seven or eight minutes off the clock," Palmer said. "We know what we are doing now."
Palmer completed 23-of-32 passes for 302 yards and a touchdown while Auburn counterpart Daniel Cobb was just 10-for-21 for 132 yards.
"It's unfortunate that he got a couple picks, but I thought he played beautifully," USC coach Pete Carroll said of his quarterback. "He was on time, in command. It was really good to see him in control and taking charge. That's exactly what your quarterback is supposed to do."
"A fifth-year starting quarterback beat us," Tuberville said. "He did a good job. We played hard and made plays but not enough points. In the second half, we weren't able to run the football, and that was the difference in the game."
The Trojans scored first on a 14-yard pass from Palmer to Kelly less than three minutes into the game. But Auburn tied it 3 1/2 minutes later as Williams ran 23 yards for a touchdown that came one play after Palmer was intercepted by linebacker Karlos Dansby.
USC regained the lead three minutes into the second quarter on a three-yard run by McCullough, who led the Trojans with 58 yards on 20 carries.
The Tigers used their own marathon drive to tie it before halftime, marching 91 yards in nearly seven minutes. Cobb tried to run it in from the 1-yard line but coughed up the ball. Tailback Ronnie Brown recovered the fumble and reached the end zone 11 seconds before intermission.
The teams traded field goals, with David Davis putting USC in front with a 37-yarder midway through the third quarter and Damon Duval tying it for Auburn with a 39-yarder on the second play of the final period.