With both teams facing a second loss on the season, USC vs. ASU was previewed as a must-win, desperation fight to the death. Instead, it was a first half massacre with the Trojans getting the best of the Sun Devils.
Here’s a look at who stood out in USC’s 42-14 victory for all the right reasons and all the wrong reasons:
Who were the studs?
Adoree’ Jackson: There was a noticeable lack of Adoree’ Jackson on offense in USC’s loss to Stanford. The same could certainly not be said of the Trojan’s latest showing.
Jackson calmed the early chaos by speeding by Sun Devil safety Demario Richard for an 80-yard touchdown to open the scoring. In the second quarter, it was his video game-esque running on a 45-yard bubble screen which set up JuJu Smith’s first touchdown.
Not satisfied with impact on offense alone, Jackson sent the entire Sun Devil punt coverage unit running the wrong direction then cut back and returned the kick 45 yards to the ASU 9-yard line.
Cody Kessler: In perhaps the best pure performance of his career, Kessler’s numbers are secondary. Yes, he threw four first half touchdowns, finishing with five total, but those were just the payoff for his exceptional play in getting the Trojans there.
Facing an aggressive Sun Devil defense which prides itself on rushing the passer, Kessler was calm in the face of pressure. He took what the defense gave him, not just underneath, but mid-range and long as well. He threw the ball away when necessary, shrugged off defenders to extend plays, and used his feet to keep Trojan drives alive. This was the kind of performance that justifies preseason Heisman hype for the Trojan quarterback.
Su’a Cravens: Cravens is on his way towards earning a permanent spot on the studs list. He began his night by forcing a fumble to get the Trojans back on track after a Kessler interception on the opening drive. Later he blew up an ASU screen despite being engaged with a blocker. Unsurprisingly, he led the team in tackles with six.
ASU’s Poorly-Timed Turnovers: Call it the Oregon special. On a night when the Ducks were getting manhandled themselves by Utah at home, USC took a page out of their book by building an insurmountable lead by capitalizing on opposition mistakes.
Namely, the poorly-time Arizona State turnovers which gave the Trojans opportunity after opportunity to complete the blowout. With four ASU turnovers in total in the first half, USC generated 28 points thanks to Sun Devil miscues.