"Turnovers, we had that fumble in the first drive," said senior wide receiver, Chris McGaha. "We have to move the ball and score touchdowns. It really hurts that we missed the extra point too, because it could have made the game a different situation. It's just the way it goes."
Seizing opportunities is crucial for a typically ineffective maroon and gold offense. Without utilizing good field position, the unit will continue to struggle. Starting strong, Sullivan and his squad were able to move the ball into the red zone on their first drive of the game. With ten yards remaining to secure their first touchdown of the game, Cameron Marshall fumbled the ball which was recovered by USC.
"I thought we started great," McGaha commented regarding the Sun Devil offense. "We were moving the ball; we were running the ball and doing what we needed to do. The fumble hurt us but I felt offensively we were clicking in the first quarter for once and that was good for our offense."
A long awaited quarterback change came at halftime for Arizona State. True freshman Brock Osweiler was given the opportunity to manage the game, earning the most playing time he has seen this season. Osweiler entered the game briefly in the first half when Sullivan took a hard hit, and returned for good in the second half. Showing his true athletic ability, Osweiler was able to make big plays for the Sun Devils including a 23 yard pass in the third quarter to McGaha for a touchdown.
"He did great," McGaha commented about his teammate. "He acts like he has been there before. He did what he needed to do to help us win."
Per their usual, Sun Devil defense came out prepared for a tough USC offense. Holding the Trojans to fourteen points and only twelve first downs, the defense was able to put their offense in a position to score on numerous occasions, most of which were lost.
"Yeah, we had three turnovers in the first half," McGaha stated. "I mean, for the game to be that close with three turnovers against SC, that's saying something about ours defense. We can't turn the ball over and we have to capitalize when we get good field position. We got good field position at the end of the game, with that wild, wacky play or whatever happened and we have to score on that."
Without such a dominating defense, the Sun Devils would undoubtedly struggle to complete with any opponent. Throughout the season the team has been on the brink of finding a rhythm that is consistently successful. Showing signs of potential in the first half, the offense still were unable to score enough points to secure the win.
"Yeah I think we showed that tonight coming out strong," McGaha noted. "In the first quarter we were moving the ball, doing what we needed to do, and I felt we were pretty consistent throughout the game. SC has a great defense so to move the ball on them, I think we were clicking."
Another pattern the offense has been trying to break has been the routine inability to score when in the red zone. For several different reasons the offensive unit consistently watches their chance to score pass them by, frequently due to unnecessary penalties which the team cannot stop accumulating.
"I don't know, when we had the ball in the end of the game in the red zone, we had a holding call or something that brought us back," McGaha said. "We just can't be taking steps back when we need to go forward. The penalties are crucial and if we keep getting penalties we're not going to be able to score in the red zone."