(Los Angeles, CA) PAC-12 football finally kicked off albeit over two months late due to the Coronavirus situation that turned the world upside down and sideways.
Interestingly enough, the best game on paper at least for the preseason publications was the Sun Devils in the Los Angeles Colosseum facing the Men of Troy.
Most National Publications had both teams contending for the South Division title.
In most years an opening game loss in a marquis matchup like this could be overcome, but with the abbreviated six game schedule in 2020, the loser is put behind the eight ball from the get-go.
Southern Cal led the all time series 23-13 having won four of the last five games. These two teams usually play close nail biter games like the past two games seasons where the Trojans won in Tempe 31-26, and in 2018 the Devils a 38-35 victory in Los Angeles.
The Trojans had eighteen starters back for this season, including super sophomore quarterback Kedon Slovis. He earned the PAC-12 freshman offensive player of the year and Freshman All American honors.
Senior defensive lineman Brandon Pili didn’t suit up in the game due to an injury.
ASU returned Sophomore Jayden Daniels three other offensive starters. Arizona State had a big hole to fill with the departure of Eno Benjamin to the NFL.
The Sun Devils defense will be the backbone of this year’s team. Eight starters are back this year on defense.
Ranked in the Top 25 in turnover margin the previous two seasons, this years defense looked very different as they implemented a 4-3 base defense.
ASU had a Top 30 for their recruiting classes the past two seasons, but this team is still young.
Las Vegas had the Trojans a twelve point favorite.
The Devils got the ball first after USC deferred after wining the coin toss.
After an initial first down, Jayden Daniels sucked the defense in on the corner off a fake handoff ad scampered thirty eight yards up the right sideline putting the Trojans back on their heels.
The drive stalled but a Christian Zendejas field goal skimming off the right upright got ASU on the board first 3-0.
USC didn’t do much on their first possession, but a muffed punt by the Sun Devils put the Trojans back in business at the ASU twenty yard line.
An SC fumble into the end zone from three yards out gave the ball back to the Sun Devils on a touchback.
The Trojans drove down the field again with Slovis scrambling for 24 yards. Steven Parr took the ball in from three yards out to put SC up 7-3.
Daniels was not on his passing game in the first quarter, going 3-8 for a scant fifteen yards.
Arizona State held the Trojans on the first possession of the second quarter and got the ball back turning away a fourth down and one attempt at the fifty yard line.
ASU took advantage of the possession as Chip Trayanum went off tackle from the twenty five to give the Devils back the lead 10-7 with 10:39 left in the half.
After a USC turnover, Rachaad White went 55 yards off a swing pass to give ASU a 17-10 lead that they took into the halftime locker room.
Daniels was inconsistent going 9-16 for 113 yards, but one play covered 55 yards on White’s touchdown run after catch. His legs bailed out the Devils at times with 5 rushes for 55 yards.
ASU had 122 rushing yards for 235 total yards. The Trojans had 260 yard in total offense with Slovis going 17-26 for 162 yards.
Wideout Frank Darby sustained a rib injury in the first half and didn’t return in the second half.
The Trojans didn’t have any luck taking the second half kickoff but going three and out.
A carbon copy for the Devils first possession as they as they had to punt after three downs as well.
Fifth year senior Chase Lucas forced a Trojan fumble as the Arizona State defense came out off the locker room with a renewed sense of toughness.
On a third and fourteen, SC got caught in man to man coverage with Daniels recognizing the defense took off for a thirty three yard play.
A play later at the 6:47 mark in the third quarter, Trayanum broke loose for seventeen yards and found the end zone again to extend the Sun Devils lead to 24-14.
The Trojans kept adding to their woes by taking the ensuing kickoff game five yards deep in the end zone and only able to advance it to their own ten yard line, setting up a long field for Slovis and the offense.
Southern California shook that off and drove eighty five yards but gambled on a fourth and one from the Sun Devils five yard line and were denied giving the ball back to ASU. Another bullet dodged by the Devils and another missed opportunity by USC.
Out of shadow of their own end zone, White took the offense on his back and rushed forty two yards on three carries. Quickly the Sun Devils were into SC territory to end the third quarter.
Once again, Daniels saw the Trojans in man to man coverage on a third down and losing, scrambling for a key first down to keep the drive alive.
Zendejas split the uprights from forty one yards out as the drive stalled and ASU kept extending its lead now at 27-14 with 11:23 left in the game.
ASU locked down the secondary forcing the Trojans to run the ball and it cost USC as on another fourth and one, the Devils stripped the ball and got the ball back after a play review with 6:04 left in the game.
With 4:38 left and the Sun Devils facing a third down and nine yards to go for a first down, SC took a time out to try to get possession of the ball back. The defense held, but the Trojans were forced to take their second time out, leaving them only one and down by double digits.
ASU just sat back in their zone and forced Slovis to throw short passes. A hiccup on third down by the Devils defense cost them thirty five yards, but the clock was now more of the enemy than the opponent.
On a key defensive play on second down, Jermayne Lole stunted off the left side to sack Slovis, but USC retaliated on the next play with a tipped ball off the intended receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown landing in the hands of Bry McCoy to score and the Trojans crept closer 27-21.
The onside kick was recovered by the SC at the forty five and now suddenly the pressure was on the Sun Devils.
On a fourth and four, the USC offensive line was penalized making a more difficult fourth and nine. Lightning struck on the next play as Slovis threaded the needle to Drake London and the improbable happened as Southern Cal had its first lead with 1:20 left in the game.
The task for ASU now was to get into Zendejas’s field goal range around the Trojans thirty five yard line.
Forced to pass, Daniels threw three consecutive incomplete passes and now the Devils needed to convert a fourth and ten to keep their hopes alive, but his pass fell short of the intended receiver and that’s what sealed the game and a huge comeback for USC.
USC did more than enough to lose this game, 1-3 on fourth downs, 3 turnovers, no points off two Sun Devil turnovers a and 2-4 in the Red Zone.
When they needed to turn on the switch they found it in the hands off Kedon Slovis. The kid from Scottsdale had the last laugh today as USC breathed a sigh of relief.
Final Score: USC 28 ASU 27