Smith shines in reserve role

The Arizona State starting defensive unit has faced more attrition and adversity since the conclusion of last season than anyone could have ever expected. In the process it has also presented opportunities for many of the reserve players on the team to earn some playing time. One of those backups, defensive end Gregory Smith, helped spark a surprising Sun Devil victory over the Trojans.

Gregory Smith helped pace the relentless Sun Devil defensive attack, registering a sack and a much needed forced fumble in the fourth quarter as USC was positioning to score, helping shift the game back in ASU's favor.

"Well I've been practicing and watching a lot of film, so I was just happy to get in there and contribute and help get that win.," said Smith after practice on Tuesday. "I'm from California, so that was a big win, because I really don't like USC."

Overall, the Sun Devils were able to keep the Trojan offense at bay for most of the game, forcing four turnovers while also limiting the visitors to just 1 of 9 on third down attempts.

"Overall, we had a few mental errors here and there, but as a unit we came together and found a way to win," he said. "Right now everybody's just clicking and I say we did a pretty damn good job."

Saturday's effort marked the second consecutive week in which the Sun Devil defense turned in a stellar performance, showing the progress they've been able to make in the season's early stages. It's a group oozing with talent at every position, two-deep at most of them, and poised once again to be near or at the top in the conference.

"When I think about the back-ups and our depth on the defensive line, both our one's and our two's are really good enough to start," commented Smith. "On any given day, a guy can go down, but we have guys that can step in and play and we won't miss a beat.

"We just need to be more focused in the film room and be more dedicated to that. As a unit, we've just got to come together, because defense wins championships and we thrive on that."

The Sun Devils were able to erase over a decade's worth of frustration for the team and its fans with its 43-22 drubbing of the Trojans on national television. With a number of Southern California natives on the team, including Smith who grew up in Perris, Calif., it was a chance to defeat the hometown team and win some extra bragging points along the way.

"For me, hearing all the hype about USC because that's all some people would talk about, it felt good to really just dominate them for all four quarters of the game," he reflected. "You don't go in there (against them) and expect to win, you just hope to win, and we got that."

In both the week leading up to the game, and even during it, a number of USC players tried to get under the skin of the Sun Devils with disparaging words and unnecessary fouls. To their credit, the Sun Devils showed maturity and did not take the bait, instead letting their game do all the talking for them.

"We knew it was going to be an intense game but we didn't dwell on some of the other things that were going on," commented Smith. "It was a big game, so you knew both teams were going to come with their ‘A' game. You expect that intensity from any team, really."

After jumping out to an early lead, the Sun Devils and their fans were tested when the resilient Trojans made an all-too-familiar second half comeback, taking a brief lead in the third quarter's opening minutes.

Showing the fortitude of a battle-tested, veteran team though, the Sun Devils responded in dramatic fashion, taking the first step towards the team goal of contending for the conference championship.

"We knew it was going to be a good game," said Smith. "That's a high-caliber team and we knew they were going to score points. We knew we had to find a way to win in the end, and that's what we did.

"Every game is a necessity because it gets us one step closer to our goal, which is that Rose Bowl."

The Sun Devils will now turn their attention to the Oregon State Beavers, another team who has had their number recently, having won the last three meetings between the two teams. And while the Beavers may be off to a slow start, the Sun Devils are well aware of the danger they pose.

"We know we can't look past them and we've got to prepare for them like they're a big team too," said Smith. "Any given day you can lose in this conference. For the last three years they've dominated us, so this is a real big game for us.

"We're going to come and just play our game. We're going to line up, play base defense and beat them."


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