Cruel Déjà vu for Sun Devils

LOS ANGELES - In a season full of heart ache and tough losses for Sun Devil fans, none better sums up the roller-coaster ride of a season than the 34-33 loss to USC. This defeat leaves the Sun Devils needing in all likelihood to win the final three games of the season in order to reach a bowl game.

Two blocked kicks, an interception thrown for a touchdown, and six straight possessions ending with a punt after the opening touchdown drive, and the Sun Devils still found themselves in a position at the end to win the game; unfortunately, there was one final miscue that sealed the win for the Trojans: a 41-yard missed field goal by Thomas Weber with 1:34 remaining.

"About as crazy as they get," Arizona State (4-5, 2-4 Pac-10) head coach Dennis Erickson described the game. "It was a back and forth, see-saw football game. A play here, a play there, you can think of a thousand things in a game like that that made a difference when it gets down to that point. Obviously the key play today was the blocked extra point for two points, that's a three point turnaround right there. That was the difference in the football game.

"To let that happen is totally ridiculous."

Ridiculous may not even be strong enough a word to sum up this contest for the Sun Devils who nearly matched USC (6-3, 3-3) in yardage 398-402 while running 70 plays to USC's 80.

Starting the game on offense, the Sun Devil attack wasted no time being creative as the first play of the game featured a pass by running back Jamal Miles to T.J. Simpson for 54 yards to put the Trojans back on their heels.

Three plays later, the visitors were on the board with a 10-yard pass from Steven Threet to Gerell Robinson. Threet finished the night completing 24 of 40 passes for 228 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions, one a desperation pass as time expired.

Down a score within two minutes of the kickoff, the Trojans buckled down, forcing the Sun Devils to punt on six straight possessions, and scoring two touchdowns of their own, the last one coming just 3 seconds before halftime as they held a 14-7 lead after 30 minutes.

Threet, who wasn't sharp in the first half opened the second stanza on the wrong foot.

After ASU forced USC to punt to open the half, and the Sun Devils driving in Trojan territory Threet rushed a throw to the flat that was easily picked off by Malcolm Smith and returned for a 74-yard touchdown to give a USC a 22-7 lead let alone a plethora of momentum.

While it looked like a lopsided loss in the making, ASU stood strong and got the continuous swing of impetus back in their favor as Threet threw his second TD of the game to Robinson and got the Sun Devils within a score.

Not wasting anytime the Trojans began marching again and got a touchdown from fullback Stanley Havili, and just when the game seemed to be swinging back in favor of USC…

LeQuan Lewis made a big play for the second consecutive week with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to once again bring the Sun Devils within a score.

A team that has shown resiliency all season, but come up close several times, there was a feel that maybe this one would be different. There wasn't hopelessness when USC went up, and this team kept fighting, led by one of their captains, Omar Bolden.

After making an interception in the end zone to save the team a score following the blocked punt, Bolden came up big again with an interception returned for a 66-yard touchdown off a pass that skimmed off the hands of USC receiver.

ASU scored yet again on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Threet to Miles giving the Sun Devils a 33-29 lead barring the extra point.

While nothing can be assumed when it comes to kicking in college, one would think ASU would have their blocking schemes set with a chance to go up five and less than seven minutes remaining, especially after having a crucial extra point blocked earlier in the season, but as they say, when it rains, it pours.

Weber's extra point attempt was blocked and returned for two points by Torin Harris and the furious swing of momentum continued.

Just when it seemed like the storm couldn't get any worse for ASU, an all too familiar unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called on Vontaze Burfict giving USC an automatic first down when they otherwise would've been in a difficult 3rd and 10 against the Pac-10's top 3rd down defense.

A few plays later and USC was up by one after a FG by Joe Houston split the uprights from 29 yards with just over 3 minutes to go.

In a hostile environment loud enough to rattle even the most sure-headed of quarterbacks, Threet moved his team down the field to set up a 41-yard attempt by Weber, who was filling in as both punter and place kicker as punter Trevor Hankins was suspended due to violation of team rules.

If you thought things were crazy before, they were about to get worse.

The former Lou Groza Award winner found himself on one of the biggest stages with a makeable field goal and chance to redeem himself for what has been a miserable season by his own standards, and with 1:34 left, he pushed the attempt wide left to put the final nail in the coffin for the Sun Devils.

The loss pushed USC's win streak to 11 games over the Sun Devils, making it not only the longest streak in the series, but also the longest current drought for one Pac-10 team over another, and once again, heart ache for the Sun Devils.


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