Three weeks left in the season and USC finds itself experiencing an eerie case of déjà vu. As we pointed out on Wednesday, this is the exact same situation USC stumbled into in 2007, having struggled despite high expectations and needing to beat ASU and UCLA to top the Pac-10. This time a trip to the Pac-12 title game is on the line as well as is the pride that has diminished week after week this season.
But before we get there, let’s revisit that 2007 game to gain some perspective of how USC can once again convince the nation that they are still a top team.
Having lost to Stanford shockingly, and then falling again to Oregon weeks later, the 2007 Trojans had some serious convincing to do if they were to be the Pac-10 Champions at the end of the season. There are still no words to describe the loss to Stanford, so one can imagine just how important it was five years ago for the Trojans to finish the season with a statement about who they were.
That statement came at the expense of the ASU Sun Devils. Going into the game, the Trojans were an unlikely candidate to reach the sacred ground of the Rose Bowl. At the end of it, USC left no doubt.
QB John David Booty threw for 375 yards against the seemingly-defenseless Sun Devils, tying a career-high record of four touchdown passes on the way. Being that he missed three games with a broken finger and had been inconsistent all season, this was an incredible performance from him. He put on his field general pants and commanded his troops, methodically dropping bombs when and where he pleased. ASU had no solution to the onslaught from Troy, and USC did indeed look like a top dog once again.
USC opened with a 51-yard touchdown drive after seven plays. The score came on a 4-yard pass from Booty to Vidal Hazleton. On his first drive, Booty went 6-for-6 for 45 yards.
The rout was on.
To their credit, ASU hung in there in the first quarter of the game. After the Trojans scored, Rudy Burgess took the kick return 98 yards to the endzone to tie it 7-all, becoming the first Sun Devil to return a kick for a touchdown at home in 21 years. The came back from being down 17-7 in the first quarter to tie it up until the final five minutes of the first half, before USC ultimately went up 27-17 when the clock ran out.
Then the Trojans really blew a hole in this thing when they scored 17 more unanswered points in the third quarter. The dagger came near the end of the third, when on fourth-and-two Booty hit Fred Davis who took it to the house for a 34-yard score.
On the other side of the ball, the Trojan defense absolutely overwhelmed and suffocated Sun Devils QB Rudy Carpenter, sacking him six times and even forcing him to sit out a few plays wit a cut lip. DE Lawrence Jackson made Carpenter taste the turf four of those six times, the most in a single performance out of USC since 1989. After shutting out ASU entirely in the third quarter, the Sun Devils would not score again until the scrub defense came in, but by then, the damage was done.
USC easily won 44-24 and silenced all questions about their prowess that year.
Fast forward to 2012, the Trojans need to have a similar showing against ASU. The Sun Devils have lost their last three games and are looking like their typical selves, starting strong only to go 6-6 on the year. If USC wins big, they will carry that momentum into Pasadena the following week against UCLA and keep the Bruins quiet in LA for one more year.
Just like they did in 2007.