USC vs. Arizona State: Game Grades, Analysis for the Trojans

Sean Frye@Sean_E_FryeFeatured ColumnistSeptember 27, 2015

Southern California's Cody Kessler (6) throws a touchdown pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Arizona State on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

USC fans have to be asking themselves, "Where was this team a week ago against Stanford?" 

The Trojans completely dominated the Arizona State Sun Devils Saturday night on the road 42-14. Quarterback Cody Kessler threw five touchdowns, and the USC defense held Arizona State scoreless in the first half despite multiple drives into Trojan territory. 

Last week, the sky was falling in Los Angeles. Now, the Trojans look geared up for a bounce-back campaign in a wide-open Pac-12. 

With that, let's check out the game grades and analysis for each of the Trojans' positional units. 

USC Game Grades
Positional UnitFirst Half GradeFinal Grade
Rush OffenseC-C-
Pass OffenseA-A+
Rush DefenseB-C
Pass DefenseBB+
Special TeamsAA
B/R Game Grades

Rush Offense: USC didn't run the ball well Saturday night, with 76 yards on 32 carries. It didn't need to, necessarily, but it didn't. Kessler was firing, and so the Trojans backed off the run game. The Trojans didn't turn the ball over on any designed runs and were able to run the clock out as the game dragged on. 

Pass Offense: Kessler had a game to remember in Tempe, Arizona, tossing for 375 yards and five scores on 19-of-33 passing. He did have that interception on the first drive of the game, but it ended up being a moot point. Max Browne also completed his only pass attempt of the day for four yards and got some valuable, if unexciting, experience playing in the Pac-12. Kessler's favorite receiver was undoubtedly Adoree Jackson, who had just three catches but 131 yards and a score coming from 80 yards out. JuJu Smith-Schuster also hauled in two scores and had 103 yards receiving on five grabs. 

Rush Defense: It was vice versa on defense for the Trojans. While Kessler was clicking, Mike Bercovici couldn't get going for the Sun Devils. That forced Arizona State to go to the ground, where it racked up 182 yards on 35 carries as a team. The team was led by DeMario Richard, who had 131 yards on just 14 carries. Richard scored ASU's only two touchdowns and had an impressive day, but that is simply a silver lining to an overall awful game for the Sun Devils. 

Pass Defense: As was just mentioned, Bercovici couldn't find the same magic that let him haul that Hail Mary touchdown against USC a year ago. He was 23-of-44 passing—barely over 50 percent—with one pick, no touchdowns and 272 yards. The Trojans secondary bent but ultimately didn't break. 

Special Teams: Alex Wood was 6 of 6 on PATs—no field goal tries—and Jackson had some nice returns. All good on this front for the Trojans. 

Coaching: Not only did Steve Sarkisian completely outwork Todd Graham, but he also did it after a huge upset loss to Stanford. Over the week, he put together a perfect game plan and got his guys to execute it flawlessly. This is one of Sarkisian's best games he's ever coached at USC and certainly will give the Trojans back some of their preseason momentum.