Despite the Trojans struggles on the offensive side of the ball, which included five turnovers, the defense was able to rise to the challenge time and again and completely stifle Rudy Carpenter and the Sun Devils offensive attack.
"I can honestly say I don't remember being this ineffective on offense in my career," Dennis Erickson said of the Sun Devils' uninspiring performance.
The Arizona State defense certainly did their part by forcing USC to turn the ball over on five different occasions but the Sun Devils' offense wasn't able to turn the turnovers into points and only mustered 229 yards of total offense on the day.
"I don't know if I've been around an offensive performance like that in my career," Erickson added. "Give credit to USC. But whenever you get the football like we did, you've got to score points and we didn't."
For USC, Mark Sanchez showed grit by returning from a knee injury to lead the Trojans, after being limited in practice all week, but the junior quarterback showed signs of rust.
"Clearly Mark was struggling today. He wasn't at his best, but to tell you the truth we were surprised he played," said Carroll. "He continues to be a hero out there the way he steps up."
Sanchez came out firing early; completing three of his first four pass for 61 yards while leading the Trojans on an eight play, 72-yard scoring drive to open the game, but struggled for the majority of the afternoon.
The Trojans had four turnovers in the third quarter alone, but the sloppy play on offense was cleaned up by a stellar defensive effort.
"This game was absolutely about out defense," Pete Carroll said. "Time and time again as the offense made their mistakes the defense wouldn't have it."
Linebacker Rey Maualuga, who returned from injury this week, led the team with eight tackles and said the defense fed off the challenge of trying to bail out the offense.
"I really wanted to go out there and play," said Maualuga, who had a positive view of all the third quarter turnovers. "It was just another chance to go out there and show them what USC's defense is all about, and we showed it."
The USC defense showed their dominance all afternoon highlighted by the play of Kevin Thomas, who had a quarterback sack, two pass break-ups and returned an interception 46 yards for a touchdown.
"It was a huge play," Carroll said of the interception. "The pressure on the quarterback made Rudy throw it poorly, and he took advantage of it and stuck it in the end zone."
Defensive tackle Fili Moala also helped keep the shutout intact by blocking Arizona State's two field goal attempts.
"That was probably as solid a game as we have played," Carroll said of the defense. We played the run well, we rushed the passer well and we made a lot of plays in the secondary."
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