It wasn't pretty, but USC beat Arizona State 38-17 in front of an announced Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum attendance of 80,154.
Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley (20-of-33, 222 yards, three touchdowns, three interceptions) had another game riddled with interceptions but receiver Marqise Lee, who had been recently climbing up the Heisman race ladder, put himself on at least the third rung with an incredible effort that included a mind-boggling end around late in the game.
Lee caught 10 passes for 161 yards and one touchdown despite having some issues before the kickoff.
Apparently Marqise Lee had an allergic reaction to something before the game, Kiffin said.
— Joey Kaufman (@joeyrkaufman) November 10, 2012
Head coach Lane Kiffin has been under heavy criticism for series of incidents that have embarrassed the school, the latest revolving around a student manager that intentionally deflated some footballs in last week's loss against the Oregon Ducks.
Lane Kiffin addressed the situation after today's game.
Lane Kiffin: "That was an unfortunate situation, what happened with the ball deal. And it was such a story, unfortunately."Robert Laberge/Getty Images
— Pedro Moura (@PedroMoura) November 10, 2012
All eyes were on Kiffin tonight but this time, he seemed to quiet his critics. The much-aligned Trojan defense only gave up three points in the second half. More telling, USC was only flagged four times for 30 yards—going into this game, USC was the most penalized team in the country.
While USC was a 10-point favorite against Arizona State, this game was a trap sandwich; it came after the Oregon game and right before the Trojans' cross-town rivalry game with UCLA.
While there will still be some lingering criticism from Deflate Gate, the head coach rallied the troops to win a game that USC could have easily lost. The Trojans didn't get their first lead in the game until midway through the third quarter when running back Curtis McNeal galloped five yards into the end zone to give USC a 21-17 lead.
The good news is that USC can control its destiny toward a Pac-12 Championship game if it wins out.
Its prize? Probably the Oregon Ducks.