Familiar pattern to USC's desert meltdown

Trojans self-destruct in the red zone, allowing Arizona State to pull away in a 43-22 win.

TEMPE, Ariz. – For years, there was an all-too-familiar pattern to Arizona State's penchant for self-destruction.

There were the ridiculously stupid penalties, the inopportune turnovers, and the lack of execution at the most critical moments of a game.

On Saturday night in Sun Devil Stadium before a crowd of 61,495, it was that same formula that reared its ugly head once again, only this time it was USC co-opting it in a 43-22 loss that ended their 11-game winning streak against the Sun Devils.

As in their loss to top-ranked Oregon last season, the Trojans (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) showed flashes that were too often snuffed out by their own doing.

After roaring back to take a 22-21 lead midway through the third quarter on running back Marc Tyler's 10-yard touchdown run, they lost two fumbles in Arizona State (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) territory and quarterback Matt Barkley threw an interception that was returned 41 yards for a score by linebacker Shelly Lyons.

"You're not going to go on the road versus a really good team and win with a bunch of field goals and red zone turnovers," USC head coach Lane Kiffin said.

More troubling is who was responsible. While Kiffin spoke all week of the challenges of a young nucleus playing on the road for the first time, the veterans made almost all of the backbreaking mistakes.

"Really all the turnovers was from the older guys," said Tyler, who rushed for 149 yards on 22 carries.

Junior safety T.J. McDonald had three personal foul penalties. Tyler, a redshirt senior, had the ball poked out from behind to end a promising drive. Barkley, the third-year starter, missed several throws and had three turnovers.

Finishing 21 of 32 for 227 yards, he was especially ineffective in around the goal line. Of six red zone chances, the Trojans twice settled for field goals and had two turnovers.

"If not for that, we would have been in there," Tyler said.

Barkley had a pass intercepted by standout middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict at the Arizona State 12, resulting in a 14-point swing. Barkley actually made the tackle and Burfict picked him up afterwards.

"He was probably just trying to put it in my face," Barkley said, after calling Burfict a "dirty player" during the week.

The Sun Devils drove 48 yards and scored on a three-yard touchdown throw from Brock Osweiler to Jamal Miles.

Osweiler completed 25 of 32 passes for 223 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. The 6-foot-8 signal-caller shredded the Trojans defense time and again with the swing screen, usually to Miles, who had nine receptions for 55 yards.

That staple of Arizona State's spread offense exposed an inability to make plays in the open field.

"You're going to give up the completion usually on it, but you got to make the first tackle," Kiffin said.

Safety Jawanza Starling also missed a tackle on Cameron Marshall's 70-yard touchdown run to start the game.

"I don't think that necessarily set the tone," Starling said. "I just didn't bring my feet on that one tackle and he kind of bounced off it."

Marshall, who barely practiced because of a sprained ankle, finished with 141 rushing yards and three touchdowns.


USCFootball.com Top Stories