ASU football torched by the Trojans

An abysmal effort has the Sun Devils reeling.

LOS ANGELES — The final scoreline of the ASU football team's game Saturday looked like one would expect it to when a 4-0 and 1-3 team face off.

It was just flipped.

The Sun Devils (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) ceded 34 unanswered points to USC en route to a 41-20 final scoreline that was much closer than the game was played.

After last season's loss at the hands of USC and slow starts on offense to begin this season, offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey's gameplan was clear at the beginning: quick, efficient plays.

It worked in the first quarter, as the Sun Devils kept the ball for 10:06 and out of the hands of the Trojan offense. It translated to the scoreboard, too, as senior kicker Zane Gonzalez sandwiched two field goals around a touchdown throw from freshman quarterback Sam Darnold to junior wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Then, it all stopped working.

"It wasn't any one thing in particular," Graham said. "We just did not play very well as a football team and didn't do anything very well, coach or play."

Led by the duo of Darnold and Smith-Schuster, who combined for two more scores, USC went on a 34-0 scoring run in the second and third quarters, outgaining ASU 336-59 in the process. The possession battle that ASU won so handily in the first quarter became much closer, with the Trojans winning 16:03 to 13:53.

"We didn't win any phase tonight," Graham said. "We played poorly. There's not much you can say about it."

The Trojans could have kept ASU's offense on the sidelines all game if they wanted, but USC motored up and down the field. None of its scoring drives lasted over three minutes, making the onslaught more remarkable.

Darnold sat in the pocket, firing passes to eight different receivers for 352 yards while ASU had no answer for the true freshman.

While each score was increasingly backbreaking, the first score of the second half was emblematic of problems ASU had all night.

On second-and-10 from his own 33, Darnold fired a pass to Smith-Schuster that should have gone for just a few yards, but the speedy receiver broke a tackle from redshirt senior cornerback Gump Hayes and raced towards the end zone to put the final nail in Sparky's coffin.

"That's amazing that a hitch route going to the house like that," Graham said. "That's very poor tackling on that one play."

But it wasn't just Hayes on that play. ASU could barely corral USC's running backs and receivers, giving the Trojans an extra yard or more on nearly every play.

Things went from bad to worse at the end of the first half when redshirt sophomore quarterback Manny Wilkins stayed down on the field following a sack and needed medical attention. Wilkins would not return and Graham said there is no update. Wilkins will have x-rays done in Phoenix.

In total, Wilkins finished his night 13-for-24 for 148 yards and an interception.

Redshirt freshman Brady White replaced Wilkins and did not fare much better, throwing for 80 yards on 6-of-13 throwing, but did score ASU's first touchdown on a pass to redshirt junior tight end Raymond Epps.

Despite 123 yards gained in the final stanza bringing its total over 300 for the game, there's no hiding the ineptitude of ASU's offense Saturday, which the Trojans exposed all night.

"We just played really poorly," Graham said. "We couldn't do much. We didn't have much offense at all."

With their collective tails between their legs, the humbled Sun Devils head back to Tempe still with just one loss, but a lot more room to grow.

"We'll go back and go to work," Graham said. "You have to. You don't have any choice."


Reach the reporter at mtonis@asu.edu or follow @Tonis_The_Tiger on Twitter.

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