Instant Recap: USC uses explosive plays to win against ASU

The Sun Devils’ defense could not tackle in the open field

ASU football welcomed No. 21 USC to Tempe with at least a share of first place in the Pac-12 South division on the line. 

But, the Trojans (7-2, 5-1 Pac-12) left Sun Devil Stadium with a 48 to 17 win over the Sun Devils (4-4, 3-2 Pac-12). 

ASU senior linebacker DJ Calhoun missed his first tackle of the season, which helped USC score on its opening drive. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold finished a 9-play, 75-yard drive with his 18th touchdown pass of the season to junior wide receiver Deontay Burnett

The Sun Devils second drive of the game started at its own 2-yard line, but a 70-yard catch and run by sophomore wide receiver N’Keal Harry set up a 39-yard field goal by freshman kicker Brandon Ruiz. With 6:50 left in the first quarter, USC led 7-3. 

Prior to Saturday, ASU’s defense had committed the fewest penalties in the country, but 15-yard infractions on back-to-back plays set up a late 42-yard touchdown pass from Darnold to redshirt freshman wide receiver Tyler Vaughns, and USC led 14-3 at the end of the first quarter. 

The Sun Devils inability to tackle in the open field led to another explosive touchdown for USC, this time a 67-yard rush by junior tailback Ronald Jones II. USC opened a 21-3 lead early in the second quarter. 

After USC fumbled the ball at the 10:11 mark of the second quarter, ASU started at its own 45-yard line. But, the drive ended with fourth-consecutive punt, and ASU had more punts (5) than first downs (2). 

On its ensuing drive, USC gained 52 yards on two competitions. These plays set up Vaughns’ second touchdown of the game, a 19-yard pass from Darnold, and USC led 28-3 with 6:06 remaining in the first half. 

On the touchdown, ASU redshirt junior defensive back Dasmond Tautalatasi was ejected from the game for targeting the helmet of Vaughns. 

In the bizarre ending to the first half, redshirt junior quarterback Manny Wilkins threw a desperation pass to sophomore wide receiver Kyle Williams

Williams was initially ruled down at the one-yard line and both teams went to their respective locker rooms. But, after the play was reviewed, the ruling on the field changed to a touchdown. Both teams came back on the field for the extra point, and USC led 31-10 at the half. 

ASU opened the second half with the ball and drove 75 yards on 11 plays, culminating in a 1-yard rushing touchdown by Wilkins, and USC’s lead was trimmed to 31-17. 

But, USC needed only three plays to gain 77 yards, and the drive ended with Jones’ second touchdown of 60-plus yards. USC led 38-17 with 10:10 remaining in the third quarter. 

After ASU’s next drive ended with the second sack of Wilkins, USC drove the ball to the ASU 20, but freshman place kicker Chase McGrath missed a 38-yard field goal wide left, and the Trojans still led 38-17 with 5:03 remaining in the third. 

On its next drive, ASU went for it on fourth down and seven. Wilkins could not complete a pass to Williams in tight coverage. A USC defender appeared to be draped all over Williams, but the pass interference call never came, and ASU turned it over on downs. 

USC’s next drive started with 1:12 left in the third quarter and ended with a 33-yard field goal by McGrath. The Trojans led 41-17 with 10:36 left in the fourth quarter. 

ASU's next drive ended with their eighth punt of the game. With the game well out of reach, USC removed some of their starters. The Trojans drove to the ASU 10, but turned the ball over on downs with 1:36 remaining in the game. 

Redshirt sophomore Blake Barnett took over at quarterback and freshman Eno Benjamin took over running back for what appeared to be ASU's final drive. But on the second play, Barnett's pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown, and USC led 48-17 with 1:03 remaining. 

The game ended shortly thereafter, and ASU will have to wait at least one more week to capture the program's 600th win. They look to rebound next week at home against Colorado. 

 Reach the reporter at or follow @joejacquezaz on Twitter.

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