ASU game thoughts

I don't know if we're going to win another national championship, I'm not even sure how things are going to turn out from this point on for the rest of the season. So many fans and media types want to focus on those things but they don't mean much right now.

What I do know is that the Trojans escaped from Tempe today with a hard fought victory in front of a raucous Sun Devil Stadium crowd and a team that had the defending champs on the ropes until the final gun sounded. It's hard to overstate what a challenge this game was and how close the Trojans came to walking out of here with a loss. For whatever reasons, and those reasons will be discussed on the message boards at length in the coming days, the first half ended with the Trojans having failed to put up a touchdown while the Sun Devils put up three of their own and went into the locker room with a 21-3 lead and all the momentum in the world. At that point, it was a very realistic possibility that USC could lose the game. Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart had taken a hard late hit to the chin in the first half and we don't know how much that effected the offense, the running game was also having trouble getting started and meanwhile Sam Keller had the Sun Devils basically moving up and down the field at will.

Fortunately, the Trojans did what they have done so many times in the Pete Carroll era by coming out in the second half and completely changing the direction of the game. A couple nice completions to Dwayne Jarrett on the opening drive of the third quarter helped move the ball quickly down the field and LenDale White finished things off with a run into the end zone to make it 21-10 in favor of ASU. The Trojan defense held on the next possession and a punt gave the ball right back to the Trojan offense, on a third down play Leinart calmly hit Jarrett over the middle with a beautiful pass but as Dwayne was being tackled to the ground the ball came loose for a fumble which ASU recovered. Just as quickly as we were threatening to take over control of the game it looked like a key opportunity had been lost but on the first play of the next ASU drive Justin Wyatt stepped up with a clutch interception, one of the key plays of the game, to give the ball right back to USC.

For the rest of the game we saw a steady diet of the Trojan run game, powered by White with the bursts of Reggie Bush thrown in, plus some critical plays from David Kirtman as well. John Drake made the comment last year that "Reggie Bush is our gamebreaker but LenDale, he's the law". Today, LenDale showed why that statement is so true. LenDale keeps things honest, LenDale is the hammer this offense needs in those times when we cannot simply overwhelm an opponent with quick strikes and big plays.

On the defensive side of the ball, Keller and the Sun Devil offense only managed one score in the second half as the Trojans tightened things up. Oscar Lua had a memorable stop of a huge 4th and 1 play, it was the kind of stop you need to see from your middle linebacker. Lawrence Jackson had a terrific game with three sacks, including two at the end to keep ASU from mounting a comeback, and the secondary also needs to hear some praise as well. In addition to the Wyatt pick, we also got a pair of interceptions from John Walker and one from Kevin Ellison. On the final interception by Walker in the end zone which sealed the victory, Walker inched to the middle of the field before the snap to bait Keller into throwing the fade to Hagan. As soon as the ball was snapped, Walker broke to the outside and was in perfect position when the fade was thrown to make the play.

In the end, a W is a W and we will gladly take this one. Sun Devil Stadium has been a problem place in the past for the USC Trojans and it's a mark of the tenacious personality of this team that they were able to come from behind for the second week in a row on the road in front of a hostile crowd. Next week we return to the friendly confines of the LA Coliseum against the Arizona Wildcats and hopefully we can see a nice and normal first half that involves several USC touchdowns. The Wildcats offer a chance for the Trojans to work out the kinks before they head on the road the following week for a visit to South Bend, a place that will not be so kind to USC if we should struggle in the first half the way we have the last two weeks.


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