USC vs. ASU: Trojans evaporate in the desert


Sep 28, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils running back Marion Grice (1) celebrates after scoring an 11 yard touchdown as USC Trojans linebacker Anthony Sarao (56) looks on during the first half at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

In a key matchup against the Arizona State Sun Devils, the USC Trojans managed to show up for roughly two quarters before being picked apart in a 62-41 blowout loss.

The loss drops the Trojans to 3-2 overall, and 0-2 in Pac-12 play.

The 62 points scored by Arizona State ties Oregon for the most points USC has surrendered.

After allowing an average of 264 yards a game, the Sun Devils managed to rip the Trojans for 611 yards.

The Trojans needed to rely on their stout defense to allow time for the offense to gel, but that quickly went out the window as the Sun Devils opened up the game with a 10 play, 75-yard touchdown drive.

Rather than serving as an anomaly, it was a precursor of what the Trojan defense would endure throughout the game.

Time and time again, the Sun Devils were able to pick up large chunks of yards through the air, particularly when they attacked the middle of the Trojan defense.

Sun Devil quarterback Taylor Kelly finished the game  23-of-34, good for 351 passing yards and three touchdowns.

For much of the game, the Trojan defense failed to generate consistent pressure on Kelly and were only able to come up with one interception, courtesy of Su’a Cravens.

However, the impact the interception had on the outcome of the game was nonexistent.

The loss resembled USC’s last visit to Sun Devil Stadium in which the Trojans committed turnovers and continuously shot themselves in the foot.

USC began the game with enough offensive balance and variety to only trail by six at halftime.  After capturing the lead early in the third quarter, the Trojans quickly became unraveled and Arizona State never looked back.

Running backs Justin Davis and Tre Madden combined for 250 rushing yards and four touchdowns in what was the tandem’s best performance of the season.

Cody Kessler began the game better than he finished, amassing 295 passing yards on 20-of-29.

Other than the two interceptions he threw, one of which was not his fault, and the other resulting in a pick-six, Kessler looked composed and played well — when he was given time to go through his progressions.

Adding injury to insult, Marqise Lee left the game with an apparent knee injury suffered while he returned a punt in the fourth quarter.

Lee has been a mainstay on special teams, which at times has been puzzling, and why he was returning the punt with the Trojans trailing by four scores and the game seemingly over is highly questionable.

Prior to leaving the game, Lee moved into second place on the Trojans’ all-time receptions list, and to first in receiving yards.

Joining Lee on the injury front in varying degrees throughout the game were Dion Bailey, Cravens, and Kevon Seymour.

The lack of healthy bodies the Trojans recently brought to the NCAA’s attention reared its ugly head more than it previously had.

Where USC goes from here remains to be seen.  There is growing frustration with the program, primarily targeted at Lane Kiffin, but a midseason coaching change appears unlikely.

Considering the damage the NCAA sanctions have already inflicted on the team, if USC continues to suffer similar losses as they play through the season, it may greatly affect recruiting and further setback USC’s ability to return to prominence.