Trojans Topple Devils

For Sun Devil fans the last three weeks have been a bad case of déjà vu. Ineptitude in the running game, a pours offensive line, critical red zone mistakes, inability to stop the opponent's running game, and the list goes on. Thus, the 34-13 loss to the USC Trojans offered no pleasant surprises, just a cold harsh reality.

Andrew Walter had an average showing in Los Angeles passing for 297 yards on 24-49. He passed for one touchdown, and was picked off twice including one interception in the end zone. To his defense, his offensive line did very little in protecting him as evident in his four sacks and a dozen or more hurries and hits by the Trojan defenders. Receiver Shaun McDonald had a solid night catching four balls for 73 yards and his team's lone touchdown. Other notable performances in the passing game were Derek Hagan, who saw extensive playing time with the early injury to Daryl Lightfoot, who had 72 yards on six catches, and tight end Mike Pinkard who turned in another impressive effort with three catches and 61 yards. Mike Williams was the leading rusher with 33 yards on ten carries, all part of an anemic ground game that netted 27 yards.

The 417 yards gained by USC are a clear indicator that this wasn't the finest performance by the ASU defense. Nonetheless, this unit did play outstanding in the third quarter, where they shut out the home team and gave their own defense a chance to erase the lead. The Devils did an admirable job on Carson Palmer who passed for 215 yards and two touchdowns. The same cannot be said about the run defense, which gave up 200 yards, and allowed the Trojans to control the clock 35:15 - 24:45 and ultimately the pace of the game.

ASU's special teams played better than their last showing against California. Mike Barth connected on his two field goals, and punter Tim Parker had an outstanding game averaging 48.2 yards a punt. The kickoff return team averaged a shade over 30 yards a kickoff, and the two punt returns amassed 25 yards. The Sun Devils' coverage teams held the Trojans to modest kick and punt returns. One positive sign of improvement was the 45 yards in penalties – one of the lowest totals on the season.

With a record of 7-5 the Arizona State Sun Devil are bowl eligible. With three consecutive losses, one can argue if they're deserving of a bowl. For Dirk Koetter's team, a win in its last game, a showdown with rival Arizona on November 29th, can sweeten the bitter performance his squad is displaying these days. Backing into a bowl game is usually a recipe for a disastrous performance in that post-season match. For a young ASU team, it's imperative to go out on a high note and give its fans much to be excited for in the seasons to come. Thus, a win in Tucson will earn this team much more than state bragging rights.

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