Arizona State Dominates USC, Cruises On To Win Their First PAC-12 Gameby Tyler Pollard on Sep. 29, 2013, under Arizona State Sun Devils
Tempe, Ariz.– Coming into Saturday’s game, the Arizona State Sun Devils defeated the USC Trojans only once in the last 13 seasons. They bucked the trend tonight, in a dominating 62-41 performance.
“Really proud of our players in a big win for our program,” ASU head coach Tood Graham said. “This game was big for our program.”
Arizona State finally saw how good they can be as a team when they play mistake free football. Coming off their first loss of the season, the tale of the tape for the Sun Devils in their past two games had been missed opportunities. They cleaned that up by only turning the ball over once on offense while going six of eight in the red zone against the Trojans defense, who coming into the game had the top red zone defense in the country.
Offensively the Sun Devils dominated. They put up 612 yards on one of the top ranked defenses in the country.
Taylor Kelly threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns while completing 23 of 34 passes. He also lead the team with 79 rushing yards. A big part of Kelly’s success tonight was a result of how well the offensive line played, keeping him upright all throughout the night.
“As a unit we saw things very well tonight,” senior center Kody Koebensky said. “Taylor and the whole offense did a great job of seeing where things were coming from.”
Marion Grice, the nations leading scorer coming into the game, scored four touchdowns to increase his season total to 12 touchdowns through four games.Two of his four total touchdowns came on the ground, contributing to his 63 yards rushing, while catching the other two to add to his 37 receiving yards.
Jaelen Strong, the standout junior college transfer, had another big night as he caught 7 passes for 103 yards. It was Strong’s third straight 100 plus yard receiving game as he has become Taylor Kellys go to target this year.
Defensively the Sun Devils had a few miscues, in giving up big plays in the running game but overall played very well. They forced four Trojan turnovers which contributed to the 20 points they had off turnovers.
Safety Alden Darby, had two interceptions, taking one of his interceptions 46 yards for a touchdown, a touchdown that would prove to be the momentum changer in the game.
USC sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler was 20-39 passing and threw for 295 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Kessler’s interception to Darby earlier in the third proved to be a costly one, as USC was never able to come back from it.
USC’s tailbacks Tre Madden and Justin Davis were the biggest bright spots for USC, as they combined for 244 yards on the ground and were responsible for all six of USC’s touchdowns. Madden had three touchdowns while running for a game leading 128 yards, while Davis also had three rushing for 122 yards.
Marqise Lee, who broke the all time USC receiving record in this game, was held to 92 yards on 7 catches. Lee was taken off the field on a stretcher in the third quarter after an apparent leg injury.
The game was back and forth for much of the first half, but Arizona State pulled away late, scoring 42 points in the second half.
On the games first drive Arizona State came out and did just what it needed to do against the Trojans defense. As Kelly marched the Sun Devils down the field on a 10 play 75 yard drive that ended in a 1 yard Michael Eubank touchdown to put the Sun Devils up 7-0. Senior tight end Chris Coyle caught two passes for 56 yards on the drive.
After the Trojans and Sun Devils exchanged three and outs following ASUs early touchdown, the Trojans offense finally started to get going late in the first. On an 8 play 89 yard drive that saw the Trojans rush for 68 yards, the Trojans answered back with a Justin Davis 26 yard yard touchdown run tying the game up at 7-7.
More of the same to open up the second quarter as with 13:20 left in the second quarter, Kessler put the Trojans up 14-7 after a 7 play 77 yard scoring drive. Kessler was 5-5 with 50 yards passing on the drive.
After scoring a touchdown on their first drive, ASU was shut down offensively until halfway through the second quarter when Kelly connected with Grice on a back shoulder fade for an 11 yard touchdown, tying the game up at 14-14. Kelly got the drive going early on with a 40 yard run off the option, and was able to throw two straight back shoulder fades to march the Sun Devils down the field and into the endzone.
Red Zone efficiency would plague the Sun Devils on their next two drives as they weren’t able to capitalize in the red zone on two straight drives following back to back USC turnovers on offense.
After an interception from cornerback Osahon Irabor put them on the Trojans 34 yard line, Kelly and the offense was able to get the ball all the way down to the Trojans two yard line before a holding call forced them to settle for a 28 yard field goal from freshman kicker Zane Gonzales to put them up 17-14.
On the next possession, Arizona State was again put in good field position after Madden fumbled at his own 47 yard line. Moving the ball down the field and inside the 10 yard line again, the Sun Devils again failed to convert on third down, settling for another Gonzales field goal to make it 20-14 Arizona State heading into the half.
The Trojans, who received the ball to start the second half, came out firing to take a 21-20 lead off a 24 yard touchdown run up the middle from Madden to cap of a quick, three play 75 yard scoring drive. On the drives second play Kessler was able to connect with Lee for a 51 yard catch to make him the all time USC leader in receiving yards.
Arizona State would then respond with 28 unanswered points, all in the the third quarter.
Following the Trojans touchdown, Arizona State came back with a quick score of their own as Kelly connected with DJ Foster deep on 74 yard touchdown pass to make it 27-21. The throw was the longest pass of Kelly’s career.
Arizona State then capitalized on the change in momentum as they forced Kessler throw an interception to Darby, who returned the interception for a touchdown to make it 34-21 Arizona State with 13:05 left in the third quarter.
In their next offensive possession the Sun Devils didn’t let up on the scoring. On a six play 55 yard drive they were able to make it 41-21 off an eight yard touchdown pass from Kelly to Grice, their second connection of the game.
Later in the first it was Grice who ran it in for his third touchdown of the game with a nine yard touchdown run. This touchdown put the Sun Devils 48-21 as they headed into the fourth quarter.
USC was able to finally answer back in the fourth quarter with back to back touchdowns. The first one came off Madden 48 yard touchdown reception from Kessler 48-27, Maddens third touchdown of the game. After recovering an onside kick following the touchdown, the Sun Devil defense gave up another touchdown on a 15 yard touchdown run from Davis making it 48-34 ASU.
ASU then answered with two touchdowns of their own on 28 yard run from Grice and a 1 yard run from Deantre Lewis, blanketing their lead as they went up 62-34.
USC would manage one more touchdown before the final on a 58 yard run from Davis, but it was Arizona State who would cruise onto their first Pac-12 victory of the season with a 62-41 final.
It was the game Arizona State needed to win. It was also a game they needed to win for confidence going into Cowboy Stadium in Texas to face Notre Dame next week, their last out of conference game of the year.
For the first time all year Arizona State fans, coaches, players, and the rest of the Pac-12 saw a glimpse of just how deadly this team can be when it plays up to its potential. It’s a glimpse that will for sure scare some Pac-12 teams across the South heading into conference play soon.
As for USC, this loss may spell the end of the Lane Kiffin era.