Trojans Reveal True Colors

In their two losses this season, USC wasn't playing in full strength. It didn't look like the team selected as the pre-season #1 squad in the nation. Over time, the Trojans healed up and unfortunately for ASU, the Sun Devils caught the visitors from Los Angeles playing up to their full potential, en route to a 44-24 victory.

"Watching them play live, they're probably one of the best teams in the country," said Head Coach Dennis Erickson after the game. "We just happened to catch them when they played like one of the best teams in the country. We didn't play nearly like we needed to. All the credit goes to them."

On defense, Arizona State quarterback Rudy carpenter was sacked six times. This is despite often employing three-step drops for the signal caller, as well as running more screen passes than previous games. "We weren't able to run the ball with any success whatsoever," said Erickson. "We know that going in that was gonna be hard, but wanted to slow the rush down."

Erickson also praised the Trojans' game plan on offense. He thought that USC would try and establish the run early, like they did in their last game against Cal, and they went in an opposite direction. "They had us on our heels…they moved the football up and down the field. They ran play action pass on us. Out of the first 15 plays they ran it (on play action) about 15 times."

USC's talent on paper is clearly the best in the conference, and perhaps for the first time this season it was in full display. "USC is so deep. They are deep on both sides of the ball, offense, defense," said quarterback Rudy Carpenter. "They rotate so many players and they rotate so many guys. They're fresh. They had a great game plan and those guys played really hard. Tonight we were just a little over matched."

Not only was USC hitting on all cylinders, but the Sun Devils looked nothing like the team that has found so much success throughout the season. "We didn't play good," admitted Erickson. "We didn't play like I thought we would in a game like this. No excuses, we didn't do what we needed to do…we didn't tackle very well, that's the worst we've tackled all year. Normally we're very good tacklers. We made a lot of mental mistakes defensively, which we hadn't made all year. So you combine all those things with a good football team like that, and you saw what happened."

"We were just too overwhelmed, too excited," commented safety Troy Nolan who had 10 tackles on the night. "We were just moving too fast and getting out of position on the plays."

In terms of injuries, Erickson mentioned that Brandon Rodd hurt his ankle, did try to come back to play, but had to be taken out again. Josh Barrett hurt his MCL and Chris McGaha has a chest contusion. The status on those three players is unknown, but what unfortunately has been determined is that Chris Baloney's season has ended due to a broken fibula.

While not injured, Carpenter sure received more than usual blows from opposing defenders this season. For the second game in a row, he had to leave the field for a few plays. "I felt the same really as every other week," he stated. "They came to hit tonight. That is the one thing that they did do. They hit me and they hit me good."

The junior did however impress his coach with his play. "I thought Rudy played extremely well," Erickson remarked on his quarterback who was 21-30 for 240 yards and a touchdown. "He competed like heck out there and made some plays."

Prior to the game, ASU was in control of their own destiny to play in the Pac-10's most coveted bowl. After they loss, they're at the mercy of others to achieve that goal. "The most frustrating thing for us is that a lot of these guys, our whole dream is to go play in the Rose Bowl," Carpenter stated. "We had a chance for that tonight…that is the most frustrating thing; losing at home. Our goal is to not lose at home. It is frustrating all the way around. We got beat."

For that reason and others, the sorrow of the loss won't go away overnight and frankly Erickson said it shouldn't.

"We should be disappointed and our players should be disappointed," said Erickson. "We're gonna come in tomorrow, look at the tape and try to correct some of the mistakes and see where we are at. When we get done with that, it's gone."

"We'll come in Sunday and start preparation for U of A, which obviously they're playing extremely well right now. Our players will bounce back. It's not like we lost a lot of games. We're gonna have to learn to bounce back…but I don't think it will be hard for us."

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