USC struggles but defeats Arizona State, 42-28

It wasn't easy but USC won its first road game of the season in beating Arizona State, 42-28, in Tempe.

Sometimes, you need a cold shower to shock your nervous system. That’s what we have to imagine last night’s puzzling victory against the Arizona State Sun Devils was. The Box Score will tell us a multitude of stories. Score aside, you must like the numbers you saw from the USC defense. Eight total sacks are nothing to bat your eyes at, and you love to see the team walk away with a turnover. But still, surrendering 28 points to a beaten-down Sun Devils squad is a tough pill to swallow. Let’s get into the great, the good, and the not-so-hot.

Coming Out Party?

When your wide receiver room is as talented as the USC Trojans, you’re not necessarily itching to label someone as your wide receiver. I’ve given massive props to true freshman Zachariah Branch and returning speedster Tahj Washington (who hauled in another 40+ yard score) but have been a bit mum on the son of the GOAT wide receiver, Brenden Rice. I don’t know if Rice will establish himself as the true number one for the Cardinal and Gold, but you must love what you see from the big-bodied Rice. With seven catches, two of which scored big, Rice looked dominant. I anticipated the Arizona transfer, Dorian Singer, would emerge as this type of receiver for Williams, but it’s good to see Rice have a breakout game like this.

In the run game, we probably had the MVP in Marshawn Lloyd. We’ve been talking about the abilities of the Mississippi State transfer since the pre-season. While Austin Jones was the incumbent starter, the talent of Lloyd has seemingly pushed him to number on the depth chart. While the defense (which we’ll get to) was one of the potential Achilles heals people for the Trojans heading into the year, some were worried that the offense would be too one-dimensional with such a heavy emphasis on the passing game. If Lloyd can continue to rumble like this, it could be a serious game-changer as the Trojans continue to voyage into PAC-12 play. We all expect to see shoot-outs for the Oregon, Washington, and maybe even Notre Dame match-ups. A solid and effective run game could give the Trojans a serious advantage in controlling the clock.

A Confusing Tale

If I told you the Trojans had a line of eight sacks and a pick, you’d have to think the Trojans would let up under 14 points. Despite smothering the Sun Devils in some aspects, the Trojans were once again susceptible to the big play. A 25+ yard score in the 3rd and a 50+ yard score in the 4th kept the Sun Devils within a score each time late in the game, a situation that baffled the Trojan faithful. If you’re Grinch and co., and you’re doing all the right things to pressure the quarterback, you can’t allow their pedestrian offense to break the defense for those scores. Grinch will catch a Colorado team that, despite a devastating loss to the Ducks, still bodes a reasonably potent offense. You can expect somewhat of a bounce back from Deion’s team as they host the Trojans next week. Bright spots for the Trojans: I’ll continue to shout out Solomon Byrd, who is, without a doubt, the best player on this defense. I was also impressed with true freshman Tackett Curtis, who had two sacks from the linebacker spot. Jamil Muhammad and Byrd also made his presence known in the Sun Devil backfield. If the Trojans want to achieve their goals, they’ll need someone in the defensive backfield to step up in a big way.

Three Phases of Football

We only really cover the Trojans’ special teams when Branch houses a return, but we have to give some props to Denis Lynch, who powered in two field goals, including a 53-yarder. Kicking can make or break teams, and having a boot that can hit constantly and from a long distance is an excellent asset for Lincoln Riley and the Trojans.

In the end, the Trojans offense again took care of business, and the defense allowed things to be much closer than they should’ve been. Grinch needs to shore up his side of things, or these PAC-12 games can continue to be nail-biters for everyone following the Cardinal and Gold.