ASU vs. USC: Sun Devils Dominate Second Half, Defeat Trojans 43-22

ASU got the big win they needed with a thumping of USC at home. Now they need to follow this up with continued good play.

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USC vs. ASU: Sun Devils Dominate Trojans Behind Cameron Marshall, 43-22

Arizona State went into the 4th quarter with a 28-22 lead, led by Cameron Marshall and Brock Osweiler. In a stunning performance, the Sun Devils went from six point lead to 21-point victory, dominating the Trojans in the final minutes.

61,495 fans watched the Sun Devils finally defeat the Trojans, a victory 12 years in the making. This game was a huge relief for ASU fans who had big dreams for the maroon and gold before the season, only to see them fall 17-14 on the road in Illinois last week.

Matt Barkley and the Trojans started the quarter on offense with the ball on their own 37-yard line, quickly driving into Sun Devils territory. They made it all the way to the ASU 14-yard line before Barkley was sacked, in the process fumbling the ball -- recovered by the Sun Devils.

Once again, the Trojans had a costly turnover in a key spot. Two fumbles recovered and an interception by Vontaze Burfict gave the Devils a lot of momentum in this game.

Off the turnover, the Devils drove down the field, gobbling up 3:33 of game time and scoring a big touchdown. They added the two-point conversation to take a commanding 36-22 lead with only 6:48 left in the game.

ASU kicker Alex Garoutte sent the ball out of bounds on the kickoff, giving the Trojans the ball at their own 40-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Barkley was wrapped up and made an ill-advised pass that was intercepted for a touchdown by Shelly Lyons. With 6:37 left in the game, ASU was up 43-22.

The Trojans were unable to come up with any kind of rally, going four-and-out with 4:58 left in the game. The ball was turned over to the Devils on the USC 30-yard line, where they ran the clock as much as they could through the use of running plays.

With the win, the Sun Devils move to 3-1, with a 1-0 record in Pac-12 conference play. They are now in the driver's seat in the Pac-12 South, as they and UCLA are the only teams with an undefeated mark in the division (Colorado has yet to play a conference game, and Arizona, USC and Utah have all lost once).

There were a lot of key performers in tonight's game, and we could spend all night recounting the dominating performances from the Sun Devils, but we will go with a "Three Star" format for the victory.

Third Star: Brock Osweiler. The ASU field general led an efficient offense all night long, completing 25 of 32 passes for 223 yards and 2 touchdowns. Osweiler picked up key yards on the ground on several occasions, giving up his body for the cause. He is the best quarterback to play for Arizona State since, well, it's hard to say. Did anyone like Rudy Carpenter?

Second Star: Jamal Miles. The shifty back was exciting to watch all evening, from kick returns almost broken free to swing passes turned into touchdowns. Miles made a career-high nine catches against USC, picking up 55 yards and scoring a key touchdown in the second quarter.

First Star: Cameron Marshall. The horse of the Sun Devils did not disappoint against the Trojans, torching USC for 141 yards on 25 carries. His 70-yard touchdown run in the first quarter set the tone for the game and put the wheels into motion for a successful night. His epic performance is reminiscent of Ryan Torain.

Post game quotes here

For more on the Sun Devils and to celebrate with the home fans, check out House Of Sparky.

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USC vs. ASU: Halftime Report, Sun Devils Lead 21-9 Thanks To Defensive Effort

Sun Devil Stadium was overcome by a brief haboob in the first quarter, and the storm caused windy conditions and general malaise -- mainly on the USC Trojans sideline.

Brock Osweiler and the Devils overcame two fumbles (one recovered, one overturned on a review) to score a 2-yard touchdown on a pass to Gerell Robinson. After just a minute and a half, ASU had a 14-3 lead over the Trojans.

The wind blew in from the southwest, crossing the stadium towards the northeast. It wrecked havoc on the kicking game (Alex Garoutte's kickoff was fielded at the 18-yard line) and Matt Barkley's passes were affected by the abrupt change in conditions.

The Trojans converted a fourth down attempt at the 50 yard line, proceeding to get 15 yards later in the drive on a senseless personal foul called on, you guessed it, Vontaze Burfict, who can't seem to control himself in his third season at Arizona State.

The ASU defense was still able to stop Barkley and the Trojans from inflicting too much damage, holding them to another field goal -- this time a 29-yard kick from Andre Heidari.

The Sun Devils couldn't move the ball on their next possession, forced to punt inside their own 15 yard line. A great punt return gave the Trojans the ball at ASU's 12 yard line, but then the impossible happened -- Vontaze Burfict picked off Matt Barkley, running the ball back 36 yards and giving ASU all the momentum. 

Jamal Miles, Cameron Marshall and Kyle Middlebrooks came to life on this drive, catching swing passes and running up the field to pick up huge chunks of yards at a time. Osweiler was accurate on his reads, finding his open runningbacks as they swung towards the sideline.

The biggest swing pass of them all came with 2:07 left in the half, when Osweiler hit Miles in stride to give the Devils a 21-6 lead.

USC wasn't about to let the half slip away. Barkley hit Robert Woods for a 57-yard gain, bringing the ball to the ASU 14 with a minute a half to play. The Sun Devils once again held the Trojans to a field goal, bringing the score to 21-9 ASU.

At the half, the Sun Devils look confident and ready to win their first game against USC in 12 years.

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ASU Vs. USC: 4th And Goal - How the Sun Devils Can Bring About The Fall Of Troy

It's a new week and time for a new "biggest game of the season" for the Arizona State Sun Devils.  This time, however, the hype is justified.

Coming of a disappointing road loss to the Illinois Fighting Illini last week, the Sun Devils return home to to open Pac-12 conference play against their old adversaries, the USC Trojans.  The Devils haven't defeated USC since 1999, a span of 11 straight defeats.

However, this just may be there year where the streak ends.  If Arizona State will indeed bring about the fall of Troy and begin their run at the Pac-12 South crown, this is what they must do.

1st - Don't Give USC Extra Benefits

No, this isn't rehashing the Reggie Bush soap opera.

A team as talented as the Trojans does not need the help of the Sun Devils habitual mistakes. They are good enough to beat ASU without the aid of pointless 15-yard personal foul penalties or bad punting. USC can beat the Devils without being given two-points off blocked extra points.

There's a reason USC has won every game against the Sun Devils since 1999.  They're good. Very good.

However, for the first time since the streak started, ASU is just as good, maybe even better. This 2011 Sun Devil team is loaded at talent on both sides of the ball and is in prime position to line up against the Trojans and hand them a defeat.

ASU was able to walk the razor's edge with their mistakes against Missouri, but fell victim to them in Champaign.

If the streak is going to end at 11, so must the excessive Sun Devil mistakes.

2nd - Win the Two Offensive Line Battles

Simply put, this game will be decided by the play of the two offensive lines.

Both teams live and die by their passing games, and each possesses a top-flight quarterback and the weapons to make opposing defenses lose sleep.  However, each offense can quickly be neutralized if the opposing pass rush can get to Brock Osweiler and Matt Barkley.

Last week, the Devils were done in by an offensive line that allowed six sacks of Osweiler and committed five penalties.  By the final drive, Osweiler was rattled, and it showed in his accuracy, or lack thereof on his last throws.  This was after a sack had resulted in a fumble, which the Illini soon converted into the winning touchdown. The Trojans have a fearsome defensive front led by end Nick Perry, who has the skill to single-handedly destroy the rhythm the Devils' offense requires.  The Sun Devils need to replicate their protection performance from the Missouri game if they want to walk out of Sun Devil Stadium as the victors.

There is no debate that Matt Barkley is in the discussion of best quarterbacks in the nation not named "Luck".  He's the reigning Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week after his five touchdown performance last week against Syracuse and his rapport with wide receiver Robert Woods may be the nation's best. The Sun Devils must absolutely prevent him from getting comfortable in the pocket and carving up a lackluster ASU secondary.  That task will be made far more difficult without Junior Onyeali, whose likely out for the year with a knee injury.

Can Davon Coleman and Jamarr Jarrett get past star tackle Matt Kalil and get to Barkley? Will defensive coordinator Craig Bray rush the linebackers more to help out?

The answers will decide the fate of the Trojan's impressive winning streak.

3rd - Limit Robert Woods

Fact: Robert Woods is going to make a lot of catches and gain yards.

That is a virtual certainty. What the Sun Devils can't afford is to let Woods go off on another ridiculous 17-catch performance like he had in the season opener against Minnesota.

What ASU has to do is mitigate the damage of those receptions.  Woods makes the majority of his catches in the short-to-intermediate range and the secondary must ensure that's where they end.  Woods has the ability to easily turn a six-yard route into a 60 yard touchdown.  Of the 81 completions thus far for USC, Woods has 33.  ASU knows where Barkley will be looking.

With the shaky performance thus far from cornerbacks Deveron Carr, Osahon Irabor and Alden Darby, look for the Devils to shade some safety help over to help limit Woods' damage.

4th - Run

72nd.

That's the rank of the ASU rushing offense, a number skewed greatly by the 217 yards they gained in their opener against UC Davis of the FCS.

In their two games against FBS competition, the Sun Devils are averaging 3.2 yards-per-carry.

That's not going to cut it.

One of the primary, and justified, criticisms of ASU's offensive scheme is that it too often eschews the run in favor of the pass, as was tragically illustrated by the game-turning fumble in Champaign.

This is made all the more dumbfounding when you consider the talent of ASU's backfield.  Cameron Marshall will one day play on Sunday.  Jamal Miles and Kyle Middlebrooks are explosive players, capable of taking each touch to the end zone.

The remedy for this starts up front with an offensive line that has not been able to generate any kind of drive off the ball on running plays.  The lanes for the backs simply have not been there.

A prolific running game is a great way to help the defense keep the Barkley-to-Woods combination off the field.  And score some points, too.

Goal - Forget History So You Don't Repeat It

Most of the pre-game coverage surrounding this match-up has centered on the Trojans' domination of ASU for over a decade.  It's already been mentioned four times in this article.

That was then.  This is now. 

There is no Carson Palmer.  No Todd Heap.  No Troy Polamalu.  No Derek Hagan.

There is only the 23rd ranked team and division rival coming into Sun Devil Stadium.  They are standing in the way of a Sun Devil team that has both the ability and the will to become the dominant power in the new Pac-12.

Throw away the history books. Ignore the ESPN cameras. Disregard the attempted smack talk. Focus only on the white jersey in front of you and the task at hand.

If the Sun Devils can do just that, they will end one streak while starting another.

 

For more in-depth analysis of ASU football, listen to the Speak of the Devils podcast, now on iTunes.

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ASU Injury Update, Good News For A Change: Marshall, Elder Looking Good; Onyeali 4-6 Weeks

For an ASU Sun Devil football team that's taken its share of injury blows, Thursday's report from head coach Dennis Erickson comes as a relief. From the sound of things, running back Cameron Marshall is making progress with his ankle and safety Eddie Elder should play on Saturday against USC in the first conference game of the season.

"Cam (Marshall) is better, looks like he'll play. Eddie Elder got cleared with the concussion and so he's ready to go. Aderious (Simmons, OL) will probably be a back up, he's a lot better. Hopefully, he don't have to play him," Erickson said.

There was also good news for start defensive lineman, Jr. Onyeali who suffered a knee injury early in the game against Illinois. Originally, there was a chance that the pass rusher would miss the entire season but after having surgery the news is better.

"Jr. (Onyeali) had his surgery. It looks like he can probably be back in four to six weeks, right in that area. Talking with doc when they went in today, because they didn't know, they had to shave down the meniscus and all that stuff so it's a four to six week deal depending on the rehab and all that," ASU's coach reported.

If Marshall can't play or is limited, expect to see backup RB James Morrison in short yardage situations.

As for the report of smack talk coming from the Trojans and directed at Vontaze Burfict, Erickson said he "doesn't read that stuff".

"I'm sure they're trying to get in his head. Everybody we play does. We'll see how he plays."

At the same time, Erickson added, "He's got to play like he plays and not hold down the aggressiveness that's made him a great football player. But again, snap to whistle. Not after or before, that's the biggest issue."

Asked about the improvement the defense showed against Illinois, Erickson pointed out that the Illini aren't the offensive team that Missouri or USC are. "They are playing better but now have to face (USC wide receivers) Robert Woods and Marqise Lee."

Asked who would cover Woods, he said, "Whoever volunteers."

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ASU Defense Suffers Another Injury Blow, Junior Onyeali Needs Surgery

The Arizona State University defense was supposed to be a strength of the team heading into this season and if they had remained healthy they could have been one of the best in the country. The unit was dealt another blow this week with the announcement by football coach Dennis Erickson that DE Junior Onyeali needs surgery on his knee.

"He's having surgery Thursday for a meniscus tear,'' Erickson said on the Pac-12's weekly coaches teleconference. "The issue is where (the tear) is when they get in there. That's what they're dealing with right now. For sure, it's going to be six weeks and depending on where it's at, it could be a season-ending injury for him." - as reported by Doug Haller, AZ Central.com

Onyeali injured his knee early in the game against Illinois on Saturday. He was looking forward to a great season after being named Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year last season when he led the team in sacks. He shared his goals with SB Nation Arizona's Jose Romero before the season, "Get a lot more pressure on the QB and get better in the run this year."

The Sun Devils defense already lost CB Omar Bolden (ACL), LB Brandon Magee (Achilles) and DE James Brooks (transfer) before the season started. 

Safety Eddie Elder also suffered a concussion on the Illinois game. His status for Saturday's Pac-12 conference opener with USC is still unknown.

For more on the ASU Sun Devils, visit House of Sparky.

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