Rear view: Eking out victory and extending a streak
If you’re Arizona State, there are two ways of viewing Saturday’s 34-33 loss to USC. You can reach for a positive, and see it as a program inching closer to toppling a long time nemesis. Or you can take it for what it is—nearly three graduating classes to have never beaten the Trojans.
It wasn’t exactly how the coaches drew it up, but a game played sloppily by both teams ended with a goat turned hero lifting USC to its sixth victory of the season, and eleventh consecutive over Arizona State.
Joe Houston redeemed himself with a 29-yard field goal with a little more than three minutes to play. It proved to be the game winner, after the Trojan kicker appeared to be en route to becoming the game’s biggest loser. But as fate would have it, it was the visiting kicker left to bear the label of goat, while assisting in the Trojans’ great escape.
Houston missed field goal attempts of 27 and 35-yards in the first half, and those shanks nearly came back to haunt him. Instead of going into the halftime break with a comfortable 20-7 lead and the Sun Devils driven back on their heels, USC led by a score of only 14-7, with Arizona State still very much in the game.
The teams traded scores throughout the second half, including both quarterbacks throwing ill-advised passes that led to long interceptions returned for touchdowns. But special teams was the evening’s theme, and blocked punts, a failed two-point conversion, blocked extra point (returned the other way for two), and Thomas Weber’s failed 41-yard field goal attempt with under two minutes to play, sealed the Sun Devils doom.
The statistics show two teams mirroring one another, and it’s reflected by the close-shave final score. The Trojans finally proved they can win a nail-biter, after losing on the game’s final play to both Washington and Stanford last month. But if USC was asked to repeat Saturday’s chain of events to gain a victory in another close game, the odds are very much against it.
Game ball goes to: T.J. McDonald, for his tremendous contribution on special teams, which included a blocked punt. McDonald’s effort was also recognized by the conference, earning the honor of Pac 10 player of the week.
Honorable Mention: USC defense, for finally getting a stop late in a ball game to secure a victory. The much maligned unit held the Sun Devils passing attack to ten yards below the season average.
Pac’in It In
Oregon 56, Washington 16: The Ducks wiped the floor with another opponent, but in doing so, they also managed to show they are beatable. Future opponents should take a look at Nick Holt’s first half defense that limited Oregon to just 18 points, including a shutout in the first quarter. The Huskies, playing without Jake Locker, lacked the ability to take full advantage of those Ducks 3-and-outs. If Washington’s defense had any support, Oregon may have been forced to play four quarters of football—against a team that entered just 3-5.
Cal 20, Washington State 13: Speaking of Oregon, there are some people calling next week’s game in Berkeley a “trap”.—Why?—California was an average team to begin with, and it got worse with the loss of QB Kevin Riley. The evidence is presented to you in the final score against Washington State.
UCLA 17, Oregon State 14: Oregon State was my earliest pick to win the Pac 10. —Yeah, what was I thinking? The Beavers have proved to be mediocre at best, while decreasing Boise State and TCU’s strength of schedule. The Bruins are what we thought they were, but only needed to score 17 points to beat someone.—Kai Forbath for Heisman!
Stanford 42, Arizona 17: The Cardinal is looking more and more like a legitimate contender, while the Wildcats are proving to be nothing more than pretenders. Unfortunately for all the great work the fighting Harbaughs have put in, the final destination may be the Holiday Bowl.