“The first half was all USC as they managed to put up 31 points on the Sun Devils after only scoring 14 vs Notre Dame last week. The Trojans offense was clicking early and playing up to their potential thanks to Sam Darnold’s 3 touchdown passes in the game. The Trojans defense also held the Sun Devils in check with 5 sacks in the game”
“The Trojans had hit rock bottom entering Saturday’s contest following a 49-14 loss to Notre Dame, while embarrassed on national television.
USC had turned the ball over eight times in their last three games. They didn’t lose the football once on Saturday night. The Trojans allowed 377 rushing yards to Notre Dame. ASU had just 79.
Lastly, USC had over 600 yards of total offense, a feat the Trojans had only accomplished three times since the start of the 2015 season.”
“On the first play of the night, D.J. Calhoun sacked Sam Darnold, pushing USC 10 yards back. From then on, it got ugly defensively.
USC wide receiver Deontay Burnett beat Chase Lucas on an out route, as Darnold mustered a 32-yard touchdown pass into the end zone. The Trojans led 7-0 two and a half minutes into the game.
The first of Arizona State’s three scores all game came five minutes later when Brandon Ruiznailed a 39-yard field goal, making the game 7-3.
Then, the Trojans began to pour on the points — 24 unanswered points to be exact.”
“As has become the norm during the Clay Helton era, the Trojans play their best football in the face of adversity. "They are special individuals and they had their jaw set tonight. When they walked into the locker room, you could see how they were going to perform," said Helton. "They came out here tonight with a sense of urgency." The Trojans jumped out to a 31-3 lead, silencing the critics who were ready to write-off the season after the Notre Dame loss.”
“USC was thumped 49-19 by No. 9 Notre Dame last week, a loss that all but knocked the Trojans out of the national-title picture.
Instead of remaining on their heels, the Trojans attacked Arizona State from the start, taking shots down the field early to set up a running game that ran around and right through the Sun Devils.
Darnold completed 19 of 35 passes for 266 yards, and Tyler Vaughns had six catches for 126 yards with a pair of scores. Jones helped the Trojans pick up 341 yards rushing after they were limited to 76 against the Fighting Irish.”
““The message of the whole entire week was to have fun and get back to our swagger,” linebacker Cameron Smith said.
That was a message repeated over and over by Trojan players in the aftermath of Saturday’s win. From Smith and Hawkins to Darnold, Josh Fatu, Rasheem Green, Nico Falah and Jack Jones, fun was the buzz word. Go out and have fun.
It started even before USC left for the desert. Many around the program wondered if the Trojan coaches understood what did and didn’t need fixing in the aftermath of that loss in South Bend, especially after the Trojans practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday with no discernible tweaks. But there were little changes which helped break USC out of the Notre Dame daze.
“We practiced the same, but I think this is a much looser team. We came out very loose and really ready to play,” Hawkins said.”
“The Trojans came to play in the first half on Saturday night.
Sam Darnold, who was throwing more interceptions this year than people were accustomed to, came out on fire. Sam threw for 126 yards on 7-12 passing and added two touchdowns.
The Trojans were on fire.
It appeared that all the Trojans needed was a game against Arizona State to feel better about themselves.
USC went to the second quarter up 14-3 and had all of the momentum.
The Trojans put together drives of 75, 75, 80, 51, 88, and 77 yards to put the Sun Devils underneath their cleats in the first half. USC was looking to put the Sun Devils out of their misery early and often in the first half.
To say it was ugly, would be a gross understatement.”
“The defense also got a lift with the return of outside linebacker Porter Gustin and defensive tackle Josh Fatu.
Gustin hasn't played or practiced since the first half of the Texas game and Fatu missed the trip to South Bend after getting in a car accident and suffering a concussion.
"It's pretty good just having more bodies and people to make plays," Houston said. "It was a good time having them back."
"It was great having them back because they are great players and it was just great playing with them," Green said. "It's real fun playing with Fatu and Porter."“
“When Darnold hums, USC is a different team. Defenses loosen. Holes materialize. Jones eased through one such hole in the second quarter, then stepped out of a tackle and high stepped like a Rockette past another before zooming 67 yards for a touchdown.
It was a masterful performance for USC’s running game — and a confounding one. The Trojans looked unstoppable on the ground early in the season, but the ground efficiency soon disappeared. Last week, against Notre Dame, USC averaged 2.5 yards per carry. Against Arizona State, USC averaged 8.4, ignoring sacks.”
“At Notre Dame, USC’s often-uneven offense was held scoreless in a first half for the first time in seven seasons.
At Arizona State, it scored 31 points over the first two quarters and amassed almost 400 yards, a total which at that point had eclipsed its offensive production in three previous games this season, at Cal, at Washington State, at Notre Dame, when the unit had failed to muster much more than 300 yards.”
“After missing five games because of a fractured right big toe and a torn biceps, Gustin returned on Saturday to a limited role. Gustin participated in only one practice this week, on Thursday, and coach Clay Helton said during the week that even if Gustin played, he’d be limited.
Jordan Iosefa started the game at the “predator” linebacker position, shifting from inside linebacker, but Gustin played often on third downs.
Gustin’s return comes at a fortuitous time for USC. His replacement, Christian Rector, led the Pac-12 Conference in sacks but sustained a broken hand in practice this week.”
“Through the first eight games, some frustration seeped in, part of an effort to live up to lofty preseason expectations. Following a humiliating, playoff-eliminating loss to rival Notre Dame on Oct. 21, many of the players grew a little edgy.
Center Nico Falah said they had been “uptight.”
“I felt we were just concerned with our high ranking at the time and we’re expected to win, all that stuff,” Falah said.
Safety Chris Hawkins described them as “tense” and in need of establishing a tighter bond.
“Last year, we were a close team,” Hawkins said. “Like, it was an unbreakable team. This year, I felt we were a team, but it was a lot of individuals.”
Hawkins, one of the four captains, met with Coach Clay Helton on Thursday in his McKay Center office and raised these concerns. The coach and the player agreed: the team needed to find a way to play a little more at ease.”
“Two of his three touchdown throws were gorgeous examples of his passing excellence. One was a dime over the top to Deontay Burnett. Another found Tyler Vaughns in a gap between three defenders.
Two things held Darnold back from a better performance in Tempe. The first was yet another fumble. Though it was ultimately meaningless on a fourth down attempt, the quarterback’s lack of ball security remains a concern.
In a passing sense, Darnold also struggled with accuracy. It’s no secret that he struggles with the long ball and the majority of his worst incompletions were thrown downfield. Still, with a 54 percent completion rating, the need for improvement in that department stands.”
“In addition to Jones’ long runs and a 39-yard keep by Darnold, Arizona State gave up pass plays of 47, 37 and 32 yards.
USC put its 49-14 loss to Notre Dame to bed early.
The Trojans had touchdown drives of 75, 75, 80 and 88 while rolling to a 31-10 halftime lead against an Arizona State defense that had given up only 17 points in its previous two games, both victories.”
“Last week the USC defense was gashed for over 300 yards rushing and looked as though they could not tackle or make plays in the opponent’s backfield consistently. Whatever happened last week was quickly forgotten, and the Trojans front seven looked like men on a mission against ASU.
The Trojans collected six sacks—three from Uchenna Nwosu and three from Rasheem Green—and had a interception returned for a touchdown complements of Ykili Ross.”
“What we saw last night was 1) simplified game plan 2) TOP win (USC 34:03 vs. ASU 25:37) 3) sound gap control with no glaring physical defeats 3) defense got off blocks well (best all season by far) 4) good secondary play for both safeties/nickels (no dime packages) and cornerbacks 5) excellent pass rush using just the four DLs producing six sacks and 6) a pick six in the fourth quarter. The defense was excellent on 3rd/4th down conversion attempts holding ASU to just 2 of 14…an incredible job while also controlling Neal Harry to only three receptions (one broken play for 70 yards). Green and Nwosu combined for six sacks after the prior week’s zero.”
“What a refreshing sight to see the Trojans running game (341 yards rushing) come alive and the passing game was excitingly effective (266 yds.). After an opening drive sack of Sam Darnold, the Trojans proceeded to drive the ball 75 yards, capped by a 32-yard TD pass to Deontay Burnett (49 yds., 1 TD) and things snowballed the rest of the way. The Trojans’ young receivers finally emerged as a group and really showed outstanding promise, especially Tyler Vaughns (126 yds., 2 TDs) and Michael Pittman (23 yds.). The Trojans’ offensive line had a challenged beginning, but by the second quarter tailback Ronald Jones ll was looking like an All-Pac-12 selection, exploding for a game-high 216 yards to go along long with two TD jaunts of 67 and 63 yards, respectively. However, Darnold was sacked three times early into the second quarter, but who’s quibbling? OC Tee Martin had Sam Darnold (19-35-0 for 266 yds. and 3 TDs) rolling out more than ever to buy time, and the effect allowed Sam to work his magic.”
“Clancy Pendergast put together a terrific scheme with two new starters (Iosefa, Langley – 6 tackles) and he also benefited from the timely return of Josh Fatu and Porter Gustin, as well as the absence of ASU running back Kalen Ballage. It was unclear going into the game how much Fatu and/or Gustin would play, and their actual stats weren’t much (Gustin had one solo tackle, Fatu none) but Josh was able to provide a second option along with Brandon Pili at nose, which helped solidify the middle, and Gustin made his impact clear on a pair of 3rd downs when he pressured the QB to step up into the arms of Rasheem Green for two sacks. Green added a 3rd sack, and Uchenna Nwosu had three sacks of his own, for a total of six sacks on Manny Wilkins. Wilkins only passed for 259 yards with 70 of them coming on one play to N’Keal Harry.”