USC football vs. ASU final score: Amazing comeback makes up for terrible opener

The USC Trojans and ASU Sun Devils kick off their seasons at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Nov. 7, 2020. (John McGillen via USC Athletics)
The USC Trojans and ASU Sun Devils kick off their seasons at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Nov. 7, 2020. (John McGillen via USC Athletics) /

USC football tried to crash the hype train early against ASU, but an epic fourth-quarter comeback resulted in the unlikeliest of victories.

Welcome to a new season of USC football. It’s as frustrating as you probably remember it.

On the plus side, the Trojans still have a ton of great players who are capable of taking even the worst of performances and turn them into victory.

That’s what USC managed with an unlikely 13-point comeback in the final minutes against ASU.

USC football 28, ASU 27

The lowdown: The first half was defined by sloppiness and turnovers on both sides, which was to be expected.

ASU muffed a punt, Vavae Malepeai fumbled on the goal line, the Sun Devils fumbled again and Slovis threw a red zone touchdown.

Meanwhile, the Trojan offense carved out some success on the run with short touchdowns scored by Stephen Carr and Markese Stepp.

ASU’s offense found its own success against USC’s new-look defense, breaking off big plays including a 25-yard rushing touchdown and a 55-yard passing score to hold a 17-14 lead at the half.

USC didn’t take advantage of the half time break. They came out and were promptly forced to punt. A Tyler Vaughns fumble doomed another drive. The defense gave up a 17-yard rushing touchdown and a field goal as ASU built a 27-14 lead in the fourth quarter.

Hopes of the Trojans launching a comeback were seemingly squashed when Stepp joined the turnover party with a fumble after a successful fourth-down conversion.

USC didn’t quit though. Slovis led a drive capped by a wild tipped touchdown pass to Bru McCoy. Then Parker Lewis executed a perfect onside kick recovered by McCoy. Then Slovis converted a fourth-and-nine with a touchdown over the middle to Drake London through triple coverage.

The comeback defied belief, but it got USC the win.

The takeaway: USC is the same frustrating ball of disappointment and underachievement they were last year.

The vaunted Air Raid offense failed its first test of the season while any Heisman hopes for Kedon Slovis met a premature death. Marvin Lewis got the better of Graham Harrell in every way.

Todd Orlando was in a tough spot debuting his defense against Jayden Daniels and the Sun Devils, but he proved to be only a marginal improvement on Clancy Pendergast. His defense was bright until it wasn’t. When things broke down, they resulted in touchdowns and third-and-long conversions.

And yet, the Trojans fought on. To their credit, the dug deep and produced the big plays when they needed them most.

In the Pac-12 South and in the playoff race, USC lives to fight another day.

Player of the game: Marlon Tuipulotu. He was USC’s biggest bright spot with eight tackles and two tackles for loss including the Trojans’ lone sack of the outing.

Stat of the game: USC made it inside the ASU 25-yard line four times and failed to score points.

Next on tap: The Trojans will travel for another Pac-12 South battle with a desert school, the Wildcats of Arizona.

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