USC Wins Ugly Again

USC’s torrid start helps it weather mistakes in win over Arizona State

Ryan Kartje (LA Times)  —  It was a picture-perfect start, a record-setting, statement-making first quarter for the ages. And within a couple of hours, it was very nearly squandered.

Fresh off its most disappointing defeat of 2019, with coach Clay Helton under fire and its season on the brink, USC burst out of the gates Saturday intent on taking out its frustrations on Arizona State. Quarterback Kedon Slovis came out firing, with 297 yards and four touchdowns in the first quarter. The Trojans’ defense came out ferocious, with just a single yard allowed over that same stretch.

But over the next three quarters, that near-perfection nearly came apart at the seams. What began as a smooth sail to bowl eligibility became a rocky ride just to stay alive, one the Trojans were lucky to survive in a 31-26 victory.

With Arizona State driving and just 30 seconds remaining, it was Christian Rector who ultimately saved them. The senior defensive end leaped in the air, tipped a third-down pass, and dived forward to cradle it for the interception USC desperately needed.
The Trojans (6-4, 4-2) are now bowl eligible, after missing a bowl game last season.

USC couldn’t have asked for a smoother start, as Slovis completed his first 11 passes to open the game, slicing and dicing a defense that ranked among the Pac-12’s best. He hit Drake London from eight yards to cap a steady opening drive. He found Kenan Christon in the flat for a score, then downfield for another as Christon broke tackles to complete a 58-yard play.

With the Trojans backed up on their next drive inside their 5-yard-line, Slovis sent another pass soaring downfield toward a pack of three Sun Devil defenders. But Amon-ra St. Brown burst past the crowd to catch the pass in stride. Ninety-five yards later, USC had its fourth score in the game’s first 14 minutes and a 28-7 lead.

USC running back Kenan Christon carries the ball during the Trojans’ win over Arizona State on Saturday.

For Slovis, who grew up not far from Sun Devil Stadium, it was a historic start to a much-anticipated homecoming. After one quarter, Slovis had 297 passing yards, more than any college quarterback in a quarter over the past 15 years.

A week after throwing four interceptions in a loss to Oregon, the freshman was on a jaw-dropping pace. Slovis, who left the game for two drives because of cramps, would end up with 432 yards and four touchdowns.

This was pure, unadulterated domination. Arizona State, which was without its own freshman starting quarterback, Jayden Daniels, could barely move the ball. It seemed only a matter of time before the rout was on.

Except, the rout never arrived. Instead, as the Trojans’ offense stalled and the defense diminished and special teams looked far less than special, USC found itself up just a single score with three minutes remaining and Arizona State marching.

A near-perfect start had become a perfect storm.

USC would ultimately hang on, holding off Arizona State over the final minutes. But the fact that the Sun Devils were even in the game at all, following a phenomenal first quarter, was certainly a cause for concern.

latimes.com

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UtahTrojan
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RialtoTrojan
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There is plenty of blame to go around over yesterday’s loss of the final three quarters. My theory is that Graham Harrell has been introduced to a drinking game which involves downing a beer after every touchdown his team scores. At the end of the first quarter Harrell’s voice was heard over the head set…”Shrow it to Schrombody.” After that Helton took over. Helton could throw Harrell under the bus but he has Baxter to use as this year’s extension scapegoat, Harrell is third in line. By this I mean Helton earned a pass last season by blaming the assistant… Read more »

TrojanRJJ
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Looks like Chris Peterson was correct. He said it takes about 18 months to change a team’s culture. It appears that it what it has taken Chip Kelly at UCLA. About 18 months. Right now, three Pac 12 teams are playing good football: Oregon, Utah & UCLA. UW and WSU are playing OK ball. The rest of the league, including USC, is at Mountain West level. The Utah/UCLA game is an interesting one. I really doubt Utah blows UCLA out (as has happened in the past). Because it is in SLC, I think Utah wins a close one but UCLA… Read more »

HOF19
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Boy are the USC messages boards gonna be doom and gloom if SC does not hire Meyer. The reaction I think would even be more interesting is if what if the university announces after they hire someone that they never even interviewed Meyer and never had any intention to interview him.

Chris
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I’ve 180’d on him since first rumors started flying. I now believe he’s absolutely the best candidate, and more than just football reasons. Chris Arledge has great article on this. Everyone interested in USC athletics should give it a read.

Allen, it may be worth a link to here.

LawyerJohn
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SC had to win that game, and they did. Now for the final weeks of Pac-12 football: Utah has to lose one, and it would be a monstrous upset to lose to sucla, at arizona or colorado. But stranger things have happened. sucla suddenly has momentum and incentive to win the South by beating Utah, and then SC. I wouldn’t want to play them. (Oh, we do) The Utes then go on the road to Arizona, where the Aztecs’ inability to get 2018-type production out of Tate is puzzling. If Tate regains his form, the Utes won’t walk all over… Read more »

Chris
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I root for coach O and he is doing a great job, his team is playing hard, but all of the coaching is being done by his coordinators. Kudos to him for getting two great coordinators, Brady is there to coordinate passing game. The guy is smart enough to know he can set the culture and let super good coaches do their thing. I’m sure when Aranda and Brady are gone, which they will be, he will hire great assistants again. Clay had that chance, but failed. Keeping Baxter and Clancy was all on him. This team could have been… Read more »

Jamaica
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If LSU does get into the playoffs and does win the Nattie, just think of the posts coming about Haden not thinking Coach O was good enough for USC HC….. He might be sweating a little if he is paying any attention to all this or, he could just laugh it off with the millions he made as AD in his pocket thank you? Another prime example of the Peter Principle (along with Nikias, Swann, Sarkisian & Helton) I’m not putting Kiffin in there due to his having the full force of the sanctions to overcome and somehow keeping the… Read more »

TrojanRJJ
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Jamaica, Ed should give Pat a very expensive Christmas gift. Ed belonged at LSU. He is the perfect fit. Ed would have been a far superior choice than Sark and then Clay, but Ed would not have fit as well as he does in his native state LA. The city LA was never meant for Ed.

Jamaica
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Now that Alabama lost, it is apparent there is going to be lots of talk about them still getting in the playoffs versus other teams even with a conference championship under their belt. We’ve seen this before with the SEC & Big 10 conferences. If I were Larry Scott (sorry about even thinking this), I’d call Dr. Folt and suggest she & Bohn hire a HC that can break through this roadblock, being a program that has the willingness to play better non-conference games, that the other conferences have put together. Yes Oregon has a chance to get in, but… Read more »

ATL D.D.S.
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Actually, Jam, it is LSU that has had the hardest schedule this year, compared to AL.

Carter
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UCLA’s schedule of San Diego State, Cincinnati and Oklahoma is one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation, as all three are in the top 25, even though Oklahoma had a miserable time with Iowa State yesterday, which is never a gimme win. And the Bruins by beating Utah and running the table against SC and Cal thereafter, would be PAC-12 South Champions. And I am not putting any money on its not happening. As to losing season ticket holders, the scheduling of night games that start after 6 pm will continue to erode the base faster than any… Read more »

Steveg
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Had they lost I would probably feel no different than I do now after the win. RJJ is right, ASU lost it to USC, and some of the play by USC was terrible. I can’t figure out how they can pass block, but not open a hole for an RB. Slovis was incredible as were his receivers. One thing I noticed was he wasn’t the same after coming back in, and Fink was doing a good job. Get this season over. Cal played good ball last night and will probably stop USC cold.

TrojanRJJ
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SC did not win it. ASU lost it. The plays that decided the game: 1. ASU TE dropped a perfectly thrown ball for a missed TD 2. ASU kicker missed an extra point 3. ASU true frosh QB missed two wide open receivers in deep slants. True Clay Helton “vampire ball” that sucks the life out of you. John defines below the reason for Bohn’s simple choice. It is about the money. People are not going to get excited and pay money and buy gear for Helton Vampire Ball. They will lose more season ticket holders if he returns. John… Read more »

Jamaica
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Winning ugly is right again RJJ, if ASU could have executed their plays, they would have come back which is what you kind of expect in these games when USC gets ahead in the first half and then hangs on the rest of the game like the BYU game and games before under Helton. He’s such a weak leader in demanding, discipline & detail, you want to cry sometimes looking at a team that is trying to win for their “favorite Uncle” and it shows something is missing. If Bohn watched this game and has a keen eye, then he… Read more »

LawyerJohn
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Went to a small restaurant on Main Street, Alhambra, with big screens side-by-side showing the LSU-Alabama, and SC-ASU games. Asked the server why I was the only one there, and he replied that it was NFL football that drew a crowd, not college ball. I thought, “That’s their loss, my gain.”,,,,

Ordered a big hamburger and coke, and then watched an incredible passing-catching-running display of first quarter action, 28-7 Troy. I said ‘game over,’ left the premises and went back to my work place.,,,

What a grand, short afternoon!

fast fred
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Thank you LJ–we both agree about college vs. pro ball—-however, for the most part, I think we are in the minority!