Coming off one of their worst losses of the season against the Utah Utes, the USC Trojans came into the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils with a lot to prove. The Trojans got off to a sluggish start giving up 24 point to the Sun Devils. It was only a matter of time though before the Trojans got their offense going. The game became a back and forth affair, eventually giving way to the Sun Devils, who had the exclamation point with a 45-yard touchdown run to seal the game away.
The Trojans came out of last week’s loss against the Utes with a lot of questions that needed to be answered. One of these questions was who the signal caller would be for this week’s match-up against the Arizona State Sun Devils. With JT Daniels and Matt Fink both injured, head coach Clay Helton announced that redshirt freshman Jack Sears, who went to the same high school as former USC quarterback Sam Darnold, will start in his first college career game. After a rocky first quarter, Sears began to settle in and did not disappoint. finishing 20 for 28 for 235 yards passing and two touchdowns. Even though the Trojans lost, Sears showed that he can lead a college football team.
Apart from the 92-yard punt return touchdown that the Trojans gave up to N’Keal Harry, the Trojans had a solid day on special teams. The USC special teams did not wait to catch fire, as Tyler Vaughns returned Michael Sleep-Dalton’s punt 82 yards for his very first punt-return touchdown. In addition, kicker Michael Brown went five for five on extra points to add on to his successful season so far. However, the biggest factor that allowed the Trojans to stay in this game was because of their punter, Reid Budrovich. Budrovich was called on to punt a whopping seven times. Finishing with 309 yards punting with a long of 53 and three of those punts inside the 20, Budrovich proved that his early season woes were no more.
USC Run Defense
The Trojans came into this game looking to contain powerhouse running back Eno Benjamin, who coming in had 568 rushing yards. Unfortunately, they did not have much success. Giving up 185 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries to Benjamin was something the Trojans definitely did not want to do. In addition, the duel-threat ability by quarterback Manny Wilkins made it even tougher for USC to play the defense they wanted to play. When all said was done, the Trojans gave up an unprecedented 283 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. If USC wish to win its remaining games, Helton and the defense will need to prevent numbers like these from happening again.
There was 10:22 left in the game and Helton had to make the biggest decision of the game. Confronted with a fourth and one at the Sun Devil 20-yard line, Helton sent out the field goal unit; only to then call a timeout and change his mind to go for it. The Trojans did not make it and turned the ball over on downs. By going for a field goal, USC would have tied up the game and given itself a chance to win. However, this was not the only bad case of a play call as there were other questionable calls throughout the game. In some instances, it might have been better to go for it on fourth down, while other times Helton should have given Sears more chances to throw the ball deep. Either way, the play calling by the USC coaching staff in this game caused their fourth loss of the season.