TEMPE, AZ – Pac-12 play continued for both squads as the USC Trojans (6-4, 5-2) their way to the 31-26 win over the Arizona State Sun Devils (5-4, 2-4).
It was the Kedon Slovis show in this one, as the Arizona native returned home to deliver the big win for the Trojans, throwing for 347 yards and four touchdowns in the first half alone.
Marred mostly by sloppy play and costly mistakes in the first half, the Sun Devils would actually have to rely on another freshman quarterback, Joey Yellen, to replace the injured Jayden Daniels, who was out with an injury.
“I had a full week to prepare,” Yellen said. “I felt we had a good plan going in to this, and we executed for the most part except for a few plays.”
Starting with the ball first, USC would jump out to the early 7-0 lead, after Slovis and Trojans would drive 75-yards on 11 plays, connecting on an eight-yard touchdown pass from Slovis to Drake London.
After a quick three-and-out by the Devils, the Trojans would get the ball right back, where they would then capitalize on another Slovis touchdown, this one to freshman running back, Kenan Christon from eight-yards out, to make it 14-0.
Head coach Herm Edwards noted that this was again an instance where ASU won the coin toss, but deferred their decision, which ultimately came back to haunt them. “We’ve done this twice now,” Edwards said. “We need to fix that, cause that’s not good. We look up at the clock and it’s seven nothing, then it’s 14 nothing.”
Needing a response, luckily ASU would rebound quickly, getting right back into this one as they were sparked by a 97-yard kick return by receiver Brandon Aiyuk who got it down to the Trojan three-yard line. Three plays later, the Devils would find the endzone, scoring on a Yellen touchdown pass to Kyle Williams from five-yards out to make it 14-7.
Unfortunately for ASU, the Trojans would continue to score at will, finding the endzone on back-to-back drives of 75 and 98 yards respectively, to eventually make it 28-7 after just the first quarter.
Not backing down, ASU would begin to rally, making some major adjustments. Trailing 28-7, Edwards told his guys, especially his defense to “just play the coverage correctly” he said.
Coming up big in the second quarter, Yellen and the Devils would drive 71 yards on three plays, punctuated by a Frank Darby touchdown from 62-yards out to make it 28-13 with 6:47 to go in the half.
A missed extra point by the Devils would perhaps be the play to come back and bite ASU, though as the team still trailed 28-13 at the half, holding the Trojans to zero points that quarter.
Putting the first half woes behind them the Sun Devils would respond in the second half, scoring on their first drive to make it 28-20, when Yellen would find Aiyuk from two-yards out.
A few series later, the Trojans would get on the board again, this time connecting on a Chase McGrath field goal from 41-yards out to give the Trojans the 31-20 lead, virtually putting this one away for good.
Showing their resiliency, ASU wouldn’t back down, climbing back in to score a touchdown from Yellen to Darby again, but chasing points from that missed PAT earlier and the Devils would fail on the two-point conversion attempt to bring them within three points.
ASU would use a stifling defense to hold the Trojans from here on out, holding USC to zero points for the rest of the game, even allowing the offense to get one last chance to drive the field with over three minutes left to possibly steal the game.
Edwards would tell his freshman to “just keep smiling, you’re doing great,” he said. Yellen would finish the day with 292 yards passing with four touchdowns to just two interceptions.
“He’s not afraid to throw the vertical ball on the field,” Edwards said. “He might take more chances than Jayden [Daniels].”
However on that last drive ASU would have a chance to win this one as they were driving the field, but a few missed opportunities would prevent the Devils from coming back in this one. A wide open touchdown pass was dropped, that essentially set-up the costly Yellen interception throw to USC’s Christian Rector that iced the game.
ASU would go on to lose this one by a 31-26 final, falling to 5-4 (2-4) on the season.
“We just keep shooting ourselves in the foot,” ASU receiver Frank Darby said. “It’s frustrating you know, we worked too hard for two weeks.”
As for the Devils, they will travel to Corvallis next week to take on Oregon State, meanwhile the Trojans will face Cal to stay in the Pac-12 South hunt.