Mammoth-sized defensive miscues led to the Sun Devils falling behind early

A fight for control of the Pac-12 South ended with ASU football getting knocked out

Ding, ding. That was the sound of the imaginary bell that kicked off the expected fierce match between ASU football and the USC Trojans (7-2, 5-1 Pac-12). Instead, the Sun Devils' (4-4, 3-2 Pac-12) defense that was the liability for the first five weeks reared its ugly head once more on Saturday. 

Previous games had Sun Devil fans feeling like it was all coming together. 

The fight was a rough one with ASU giving up big play after big play. In the first half alone ASU gave up scores of 32, 42, 67 and 19 yards.

USC redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold had his way with the Sun Devils' secondary, as he threw for 266 passing yards and three scores. 

Not to mention, Darnold went the entire game without an interception — a feat he has only accomplished for the second time this season. 

USC redshirt freshman wide out Tyler Vaughns was the recipient of two of Darnold's perfect touchdown tosses

“Tyler has been a big part of the passing game for a while now. I think the way he works and the fact that every single play the ball is coming to him is huge,” Darnold said. “That’s a really great mentality to have as a receiver.”

Vaughns only has three receiving touchdowns on the year — two of which he caught against ASU.

The first half punches continued to rain on the absent ASU defense. Early in the second quarter USC’s junior tailback Ronald Jones II took an off-tackle run 67 yards down the right sideline for another Trojans’ touchdown. 

“We just didn’t show up to play,” ASU head coach Todd Graham said. “We were absolutely awful in the first half. We had two first downs in the first half. We gave up big plays when we haven’t been giving up big plays like that. I think they converted like four third down and 10+ in the early going. We just didn’t show up to play well.”

Jones finished the night averaging 12 yards a carry. ASU on the other hand ran the ball for a measly 79 rushing yards — 2.7 times fewer than Jones.

However, the abysmal first-half missed tackles and defensive miscues didn’t finish off the Sun Devils alone — or at least in theory. 

ASU’s offense struggled to get past the 50-yard line, let alone score. 

Down 31-10 at halftime the Sun Devils’ hopes for a third-straight victory had all but vanished.

Ultimately a night of gut-wrenching defensive miscues by the Sun Devils would end with a final 64-yard touchdown run from Jones II. For a guy that ran for 120 or more rushing yards in just two game this season, Jones II had 216 before the third quarter even ended. 

“We faced a really good team. I know we got too high over our heads. We prepared ourselves, but a couple of us didn’t come ready to play today. You win together, you lose together,” senior linebacker DJ Calhoun said.

This was expected to be a heavy-weight bout for control of the Pac-12 South, but it was ultimately a case of one fighter simply not being ready — that fighter was ASU.

Reach the reporter at or follow @Anthony_Totri on Twitter.   

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