It took an incredible string of plays including two touchdowns in just 1:32 minutes off the game clock, a touchdown on a free play on a fourth down and an onside kick, but the USC Trojans improved to 1-0 in an oh-so-exciting way.
The game started nicely for USC on defense with both LB Ralen Goforth and CB Olaijah Griffin making nice defensive plays on the opening drive for ASU. Still, the Sun Devils got into the red zone seemingly with ease before their first drive was ultimately stymied by an overthrown ball by QB Jayden Daniels, leading to a field goal and an early 3-0 lead.
USC’s first offensive possession of the 2020 season saw a bit of what we thought we’d see after preseason pressers with the coaching staff had preached physicality on both sides of the ball.
Merlin Robertson didn't want any of Stephen Carr pic.twitter.com/QwZ0iEmo8f— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) November 7, 2020
However, USC’s opening drive would be cut short as QB Kedon Slovis couldn’t quite get it done through the air, becoming an underlying theme for 3.5 quarters of this one. A muffed punt by ASU CB Jack Jones did give the ball back to USC at the 20 but running back Vavae Malepeai fumbled going into the end zone, leaving red-zone trip No. 1 without points.
The physicality continued for USC on both sides of the ball and after a defensive stand, WR Drake London put that physicality in video form on this reception with impressive contact balance and strength after the fact.
Stephen Carr punched in the next play for a two-yard touchdown and USC took their first lead of the game, 7-3.
Amon-Ra St. Brown got in on the physicality as well.
With all the pre-game talk was about the passing ability of ASU QB Jayden Daniels and star WR Frank Darby, the Sun Devils rushing attack actually showed promise early and often for the Sun Devils as Chip Trayanum ran in a 25-yard touchdown run and freshman Rachaad White hauled in a pass out of the backfield for 55 yards and a score, showing impressive speed and conversely some pretty terrible tackling from USC’s defense.
Aside from the poor play-calling and ball security issues for USC, they didn’t seem to catch their rhythm until they absolutely needed to offensively, in the fourth quarter, down multiple possessions. Those poor play-calling issues saw them get stuffed on fourth down three times, with three run attempts stuffed in the middle.
Then they attempted a pass on a fourth-down conversion attempt. And good things happened.
USC would subsequently recover the onside kick before Kedon Slovis would fire this laser, and game-winning touchdown.
Slovis extended his FBS-leading nine straight games with at least two touchdown passes.
USC’s pass coverage unit was as impressive as anything in this one, limiting Daniels and the Sun Devils aerial assault to just 134 yards in the air and just 11-23 passing.
Slovis finished the game completing 40-of-55 attempts for 381 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. London led all receivers with eight catches for 125 yards and the game-winning score while St. Brown hauled in seven catches for 100 yards.
McCoy’s debut saw him finish with five receptions for 51 yards and the aforementioned touchdown.
Vavae Malepeai led all Trojan ball carries with 60 yards but the Trojans totaled 175 on the ground including touchdowns from Markese Stepp and Carr as they ran for 53 yards and 45 yards, respectively.
On defense, Talanoa Hufanga led the team with 10 total tackles while Chris Steele and Isaiah Pola-Mao each recorded two pass breakups. Marlon Tuipulotu finished with two total tackles for loss and eight total tackles on the afternoon.
USC’s pass defense truly was special in this one.
There’s a lot to clean up for USC but a lot to lean on in this victory. This team has resolve and it has muster.
And it has Kedon Slovis.