First half turnovers doom Devils in USC loss

For once the ASU offense didn't have its notorious slow start to a game. Unfortunately, for the Sun Devils a 44-yard kickoff return followed by a 44-yard drive ended with a fumble in the red zone, and that was the prelude to an error-filled first half. The period ended with an interception returned for a touchdown, and ultimately all those miscues contributed to ASU's 14-9 loss to USC.

Arizona State (4-5, 2-4 Pac-10) tailback Cameron Marshall fumbled the ball on the visitors' 12-yard line. Sun Devil quarterback Danny Sullivan threw two interceptions, the second one being the difference in the game as it was returned by USC (7-2, 4-2) defensive back Will Harris for a 55-yard score.

"We started out quick," said Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson. "We were in very good rhythm. We were running the football, mixing it up. Had the ball a long time. But when you turn the ball over three times, against anybody, it's hard. But our defense kept on fighting and fighting.

"We drove it on that first drive and you drive it like we drove it and then you turn the ball over in the red zone. That has happened to us, four times this year, where we turn the ball over in the red zone early in the game.

Sullivan, who was 12-23 for 113 yards in the first half was replaced at halftime by true freshman Brock Osweiler, who 11-27 for 153 yards. He also threw ASU's lone touchdown in the game, a 23-yards pass to Chris McGaha.

Erickson indicated that the switch at signal caller was solely based performance, since he felt that a change was in order.

"When you turn it over three times in the first half," Erickson explained, "you got to look at what you are doing so we decided at halftime that we are going to make a change, give Brock a chance."

Erickson didn't indicate if this change at signal caller will be effective for the Oregon game this Saturday, and that the decision whether to make the change will be evaluated tomorrow as he and his staff review the game film.

"Obviously when Brock played in the second half he made some good plays," Erickson acknowledged. "He also didn't throw it to the right place a few times, just because of his inexperience. He gives you a second chance, he moves around pretty good. He's mobile and he has a good feel down the field.

"He made one throw for the touchdown but then we had a couple of (plays) at the end where we had a chance to win and couldn't make plays. It's just a matter of playing and experience. He is what he is right now, a young guy who has a lot of talent. Hopefully he can get some experience the next three weeks.

"We have to do whatever it takes to get better on offense, that's the bottom line."

The ASU, according to the Sun Devil skipper, played as they good as they have all year. The only point given up by this unit was a 75-yard touchdown pass, from Matt Barkley to Damian Williams, on USC's second play of the third quarter. Barkley however was frustrated by the maroon and gold defenders pass rush and coverage, as he completed 7 of 22 passes for 112 yards. Conversely, the Trojans' running game collected 146 yards on the ground which was crucial throughout the contest.

"How much better can you play," Erickson asked rhetorically about the Sun Devil defense. "Other than the big play they made at the beginning of the second half, they (USC) don't get anything. They don't get any points. The only other points in the game are an interception for a touchdown.

The ASU offense couldn't much more following its third quarter touchdown, gaining just 38 yards of offense and throwing an interception on a Hail Mary to end the game.

"They played their rear ends off," Erickson said. "We played our rear ends off on offense. Our productivity, it's just not there right now. They fought like hell and I'm proud of how they played. Unfortunately, two weeks in a row…it's tough on those kids down in the locker room. They've done everything that I asked and yet you come up short. That's hard to swallow for me.

"We can scream, throw helmets," Erickson said. "That doesn't do you any good. We just have to get ready for next week."

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