Game Notes: USC - ASU

Safety T.J. McDonald blocked one punt by Weber, got a hand on another and downed a Jacob Harfman punt inside the 5-yard line. Look inside for all the news, notes and quotes from USC's 34-33 victory over Arizona State.

Kind of Special

To call the Trojans' special teams performance against Arizona State a mixed bag doesn't even begin to describe it.

Offensive tackle Tyron Smith blocked a Thomas Weber extra point and cornerback Torin Harris returned it for two points to set the stage for Joe Houston's game-winning field goal.

Safety T.J. McDonald blocked one punt by Weber, got a hand on another and downed a Jacob Harfman punt inside the 5-yard line.

The Trojans also converted a two-point pass from Mitch Mustain to David Ausberry, their fifth successful try of the season.

However, Houston missed two more field goals, dropping him to five of 11 on the season. USC also allowed a 100-yard kick return touchdown to LeQuan Lewis in the third quarter.

"I feel like all the time we've devoted to special teams is really paying off," USC coach Lane Kiffin said. "To do what we're doing in year one already is great."

Kiffin's final addition to his coaching staff was renowned Fresno State special teams coach John Baxter and USC has invested significant portions of every practice in the spring and fall to every aspect of that area.

"Coach Baxter does a great job of preparing us," McDonald said. "He really breaks stuff down and pays attention to detail He puts us in a great position and we go out there and play."

That focus has trickled down to the players, with Smith noting a previous look set the stage for his blocked extra point.

"I knew he was trying to dive at my legs, took advantage of it and hopped over him," Smith said.

Cornerback Shareece Wright even forced Weber's field goal attempt to win the game wide left.

"I was actually on my way to block it," Wright said. "I knew he missed it right as when kicked it. If he would have kicked it right, we would have blocked it. He hooked it trying not to get it blocked."

Woods Limited

Freshman wide receiver Robert Woods was largely a non-factor against Arizona State due to a back injury he suffered the previous week against Oregon.

"It's been hurting since then," Woods said. "I sat out Friday's practice and was limited today."

Woods was taken out of his role as kick returner, replaced by Ronald Johnson, and caught just three passes for 18 yards.

On the Trojans' first possession, however, he barely missed out on a 67-yard touchdown pass when quarterback Matt Barkley overthrew Woods as he ran wide-open toward the end zone.

"He's so tough, he tried to go, but he wasn't the same, you could see from the first play," Kiffin said.

Kiffin said Woods was hospitalized Thursday as pain from the injury intensified due to severe nausea.

"When I got sick, (the pain) it got worse," Woods said.

X-rays taken on Woods' back were negative, revealing a bone bruise and he said he would play against Arizona.

Lineup Changes

After promising to open up competition at several spots, USC coach Lane Kiffin followed through.

Dillon Baxter started at running back, Michael Reardon at left guard and Chris Galippo at weakside linebacker as USC opened in its nickel defense.

Baxter was told Friday night he would start, but the freshman from San Diego Mission Bay was also out there at the end, carrying twice on the final possession as the Trojans tried to run out the clock.

"They just told me to step in, fill in and do what I can," said Baxter, who rushed 17 times for 52 yards and caught four passes for 26 yards.

Kiffin called a misdirection pitch on third and four, a staple play to get Reggie Bush on the perimeter. Baxter said his biggest concern wasn't handling the ball but getting the first down.

"Man, I should have got the first down," he said. "I should have got it. It was just right there, I had to push a little harder. I'll get it next time."

Bradford Benched

Running back Allen Bradford was benched after his lone carry for two yards for poor ball security, Kiffin said.

The senior fumbled the football but officials had already blown the play dead.

With Bradford out of the game, Marc Tyler rushed for 119 yards on 12 carries before suffering a minor ankle injury on his final attempt.

USC freshman Robert Woods was limited because of an injured back.

*Discuss more on the message boards

If you haven't subscribed to yet, give us a chance. Check out all the premium content and recruiting information you have been missing with a 7-Day Free Trial! Top Stories