Some would call it a revenge game, others a lopsided loss, but we all can agree that Arizona State’s 42-14 loss to USC was the worst game in Head Coach Todd Graham’s tenure with the Sun Devils.
This was supposed to be two great teams in the PAC-12 going at it, but from the kick-off something seemed off for ASU.
On the first play from scrimmage USC’s Cody Kessler found JuJu Smith-Schuster for 52 yards, putting the Trojans at the ASU 23-yard-line. Two plays later Kessler found Steven Mitchell Jr. for a ten-yard gain to the 11-yard line. The glimmer of hope came when Kareem Orr intercepted Kessler at the 2-yard line.
On ASU’s first possession Demario Richard opened the drive with a 61-yard run to the USC 37. ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici found DJ Foster on 3-and-8, setting the Sun Devils up at the 24-yard line. Richard ran for one yard before fumbling the ball, which USC recovered. The preceding drive ends in a touchdown for USC on just three plays, the touchdown coming from a 80-yard catch and run by Adoree’ Jackson.
From this point on it was downhill for ASU, missing a 47-yard field goal on their next drive and two possessions later Bercovici threw an interception.
Sep 26, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici (2) drops back to pass in the second quarter against the Southern California Trojans at Sun Devil Stadium. The Trojans defeated the Sun Devils 42-14. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Nothing seemed to be going right for the Sun Devils, they would force USC to lose yards on second down, but give up a huge play on third down to extend the drive. It seemed like every time ASU looked like they would score the drive wither stalled, or they turned it over. Late in the first half Bercovici lead a fabulous drive down the field, but on first-and-one on the one-yard line fumbled, which USC returned 94 yards for a touchdown. On the kick-off Gump Hayes runs the ball to the four-yard line and fumbles, “giving” USC yet another touchdown. At halftime the game was over, USC leading 35-0.
Arizona State finally got on the board in the third quarter, on a Richard’s reception. The deficit was too much for Todd Graham and company to overcome, falling 42-14.
Sep 26, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler (6) looks to pass in the first quarter against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The key to USC’s success on offense was Kessler. He was 19-for-33 with 375 yards, five touchdowns, and one interception, but the defense was able to stop the run only allowing 76 total yards on the ground. Kessler found seven different receivers, including Jackson would have 131 receiving yards. Many of those receiving yards came after the catch, as ASU struggled to wrap-up players after the catch.
The opposite was true for ASU; they found productivity in the running game, with 180 rushing yards. The passing game needed some work; Bercovici was 23-for-44 with 272 yards and one interception. Even with a solid running game and driving the ball deep into Trojan territory, ASU would implode once they looked like they could score.
Sep 26, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils defensive back Kareem Orr (25) celebrates an interception in the first quarter against the Southern California Trojans at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Though it was a terrible game to watch (or be at) of you were an ASU fan, there are some ‘small victories’ as I like to call them that the team can take into next week. The first was the team’s mentality to this game, though they were down they never showed signs of giving up. They battled, though they were down, and were rewarded with two touchdowns to USC’s one in the second half. The second victory I saw was ASU’s ability to run the ball. I would not be surprised if the Sun Devils come out next week with a different style game plan on offense. Offensive Coordinator, Mike Norvell, will need to re-evaluate the talent and have a game plan to their strengths heading into next week. As of right now the run game is ASU’s strength.
With the loss ASU is now 2-2 on the season, and 0-1 in PAC-12 play. The road does not get any easier for the Sun Devils as they travel to UCLA next weekend to face the Bruins.