USC vs. Arizona State: 10 Things We Learned from the Trojans' Loss
The USC-Arizona State matchup was a statement game for both teams. Unfortunately, only the Sun Devils decided to show up in a 62-41 victory. You can always learn things from a USC game, but there is a ton to take away when the Trojans get knocked into a different zip code. It doesn't happen very often.
Where do you begin?
Is Arizona State actually that good? Was it just a bad day for USC? Does a coaching change need to happen?
There is a lot to discuss after this lopsided Pac-12 win.
Lane Kiffin Needs to Go
It's so easy to pile on head coach Lane Kiffin.
He seems to be the scapegoat every time something bad happens with USC. But when is enough going to be enough? The Trojans continue to play with little heart. When the team could use an energy boost, Kiffin can be found on the sidelines with his arms folded. He often looks like he has no idea what he's doing, and those vibes trickle down to the players.
You see very little energy with this team on a weekly basis.
Pat Haden and company were on the sidelines towards the end of the game. The writing seems to be on the wall with Kiffin. Things seem to only be getting worse. It's time for USC to shake things up before it's too late.
Cody Kessler Is Progressing
Cody Kessler played a fairly solid game. He completed 69 percent of his passes while throwing for 295 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Yes, he did have two interceptions, but one of them wasn't his fault, as Marqise Lee dropped a pass that was picked off a by defender.
For the most part, Kessler made quicker and smarter decisions with the football. He was also quite accurate on his throws, giving USC receivers a chance to make plays. Kessler still needs to make gigantic steps in order for this offense to get to where it needs to be, but this was clearly his best game yet.
That has to give USC fans some type of hope, right?
Arizona State's Defense Should Still Be Respected
Arizona State entered this contest with a shaky defense. The big boys finally stepped up in a big way.
The box score isn't kind, as USC did manage to produce 527 yards, including 247 yards on the ground. However, the defensive line generated consistent pressure, and the secondary did a nice job of tackling in the open field.
Can the run defense be better? Absolutely. But Will Sutton and the rest of the gang finally showed up and made plays behind the line of scrimmage. That's what made this defense so special last season, and it must continue if the Sun Devils can take that next step.
Don't sleep on Arizona State's defense.
USC's Defense Still Needs Work
USC came into this game with one of the better defenses in the country.
Uh, that won't be the case any longer.
The Trojans allowed 611 total yards, including 260 on the ground. The Sun Devils averaged more than seven yards per carry, and quarterback Taylor Kelly threw for 351 yards. Yes, there were a couple of great goal-line stands, but there were also plenty of missed tackles and wide-open receivers downfield. In fact, wide open may actually be an understatement.
USC's offense is the weak link, but this game proved that the defense also has work that needs to be done.
Marion Grice Is the Real Deal
If you weren't familiar with Marion Grice before, you should be now.
One of the most underrated running backs in the country rushed for 63 yards, had 35 receiving yards and scored four touchdowns. He also made an impact on special teams.
Is there anything he can't do?
Doesn't look like it. Grice is extremely fast and difficult to tackle in the open field. He does a nice job of getting to the outside and making people miss, but he's also extremely effective as a receiver. He doesn't just slip out of the backfield for cheap receptions over the middle; he can run downfield and make difficult catches in tight coverage.
Grice is a player who should get a lot more attention, and maybe this performance will help him out.
Arizona State Is Still a Pac-12 Contender
It's time to start believing in Arizona State as a Pac-12 contender.
Forget about the beat down from Stanford—when the Sun Devils are playing their best ball on both sides, this is a tough team to beat. The offense is loaded with playmakers, the defense is capable of getting after it, and they don't take their foot off the gas pedal.
Are the Sun Devils the most polished team in the conference? No. But they are certainly capable of beating anybody if they can continue to play at this level.
The Sun Devils have another big game next week against Notre Dame. If they win that matchup, watch out Pac-12.
Silas Redd Still Isn't Ready...
Silas Redd looked like he was going to make his season debut. He worked out during the pregame, threw on his uniform and looked ready to go.
He didn't see a single play.
Redd continues to nurse a knee injury, but he is obviously making progress to the point he was eligible to play. There are now reasonable questions why he didn't see any reps during the game. Not even during mop-up duty to knock off some of the rust?
It's no secret that Redd is a terrific running back when healthy and would be a valuable piece to this offense. Not seeing him on the field was somewhat disappointing. With a bye week taking place, there should be no excuses when USC plays Arizona.
But It Still Doesn't Matter
Even without Silas Redd, the USC running game is glowing with potential. The offensive line did a nice job of opening up running lanes, and the young runners took full advantage.
Tre Madden led the way with 128 rushing yards, while freshman Justin Davis had a breakout game with 122 rushing yards and three touchdowns. As a team, USC rushed for 247 yards and four touchdowns, averaging an impressive 6.7 yards per carry.
It would be nice to see what Redd could add to this talented backfield. But it's clear why the coaching staff isn't in a real hurry to throw him back into the rotation.
Marqise Lee Is Hurt...
Forget the score, forget everything else about this game. Wide receiver Marqise Lee suffered an injury, and it looked pretty serious. Kiffin said postgame that the injury is to Lee's knee, which is never a great sign.
Lee is not only the best receiver in the country, but he's also one of the few bright spots on this offense. He's a game-changer, a reliable option and can make big plays in the most important moments. USC can't afford for him to miss any playing time if this offense is going to take steps in the right direction.
Of course, we'll find out the severity of the injury later, but for now, this is the cherry on top of the sundae of disaster for USC.
Other Receivers Need to Step Up
Until Lee can bounce back (assuming he isn't out for the year), it's next guy up for USC. Nelson Agholor will now take on the role as the No. 1 receiver, which isn't a bad option. The problem is that he's really all USC has left.
What other receiver can make plays?
Victor Blackwell? Robby Kolanz? Really?
Heading into this game, Lee was the only receiver who hauled in double-digit passes. Other receivers struggle to get open and have a hard time holding onto the ball once they create separation. If Lee misses any playing time, the wide receiving corps is a gigantic question mark, which doesn't help an offense that was already down in the dumps.