Even though the Trojans were improving, it was likely to happen sometime.
USC was inconsistent in their first two games scoring a total of seven points in both second halves against Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Utah Utes. A more complete game resulted in a 38-17 win over Syracuse Orange.
This game was supposed to be very close with the home team slightly favored. The winner is expected to be the Pac-12 South Division champ. ASU had not beaten the Trojans since 1999.
It was billed to be a match of two good passing teams, an inconsistent but decent Trojan rushing attack, with good defenses but penalty prone and turnover deprived teams.
However, the Trojans went into this game with weaknesses in pass defense, penalties, run blocking and turnover margin.
Just when it seemed like the Trojans would get back in the game in the first half, they self-destructed. Trailing 14-6 USC had the ball on the ASU 12 and Matt Barkley threw an interception to ASU LB Vontaze Burfict who was playing out of position. His long return set ASU up for another TD for a 21-6 lead.
Just when the Trojans got back in the game and took a 22-21 lead in the third quarter and had the momentum, they self destructed. A pass interference helped ASU score another TD to take a 28-22 lead. Then Marc Tyler fumbled at the ASU 25 after several good runs.
USC was driving for a go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter and Barkley fumbled at the ASU 18. A questionable personal foul call on T.J. McDonald (his third of the night) helped ASU go ahead 36-22. Then Barkley threw a pick-six interception as he was being tackled to make the final score 43-22.
USC outgained ASU 402 to 392 total yards with a 35:31 to 24:29 time of possession advantage, but four turnovers and other mistakes killed them.
The Trojan special teams played well with freshman kicker Andre Heidari’s 3-for-3 field goals and long kickoffs, punter Kyle Negrete averaging 47.5 yards per punt, Robert Woods’ 47-yard kickoff return and Nickell Robey’s 44-yard punt return; while containing ASU returns. Woods also had eight catches for 131 yards and Marqise Lee added four for 50 yards and one TD.
This game will test the Trojans’ motivation and it will be good to return home and regroup to play Arizona Wildcats on Saturday.
Here are the five things that we learned from the Trojans in this game.
*Week 4 AP Ranking