McNeal powers USC over slumping Arizona State
USC defeated Arizona State 38-17 on Homecoming Saturday, and successfully accomplished two goals in doing so. The Trojans avoided their longest losing streak since 2001, after falling to Arizona and Oregon in consecutive weeks, and also eliminated the Sun Devils from the race for the Pac 12 south. The stage is now set for a decisive game to be played at the Rose Bowl against the crosstown rival Bruins, with the winner advancing to the Pac 12 championship game.
The victory provides a lift for a team that had come under fire in the last seven days. But after one half in the Coliseum, USC appeared deserving of the criticism. The Men of Troy would total 3 punts, 2 turnovers, and 2 touchdowns in seven first half possessions, and head to the locker room in a 14-14 tie at intermission. The team committed another three turnovers in the second half, but outscore the visitor 24-3, as the dark cloud of November proved to weigh heavier on the Sun Devils this day.
Matt Barkley finished 20 of 33 for 222 yards, 3 touchdowns, and a season-high 3 interceptions. The three picks equal the most in a game since the quarterback threw three in the 55-21 loss to Stanford as a freshman. He has also thrown 7 interceptions in the last three games, which is the most in his career for a three game stretch.
With his quarterback struggling, and Silas Redd watching from the sidelines, Curtis McNeal picked up the slack. The senior carried 31 times for a career-high 163 yards, and scored three second half touchdowns (1 receiving) to put the game out of reach. Marqise Lee made up for an earlier fumble by continuing to add to a Heisman resume. The rising star recorded his fifth game with 150 or more receiving yards, and surpassed the 10 receptions mark for the seventh time. Lee also finished with 66 yards rushing, and was inserted as a defensive safety early in the game.
The defense disallowed a second half touchdown for only the third time this season, forcing the Sun Devils into four turnovers, and limiting Taylor Kelly to just 179 passing yards. An ASU rush attack that came in averaging 187 yards per game would manage just 71 total yards against the Trojan front.
The Men of Troy now move on to a winner-takes-all matchup against a much improved UCLA team. It was the same scenario in the Pac 12 south a year ago, though USC was postseason ineligible and unable to participate in the conference championship game. The Bruins lost the game but advanced, becoming one of several that drew benefits from the Trojan handicap.
- Matt Barkley established a new Pac 12 record for career passing yards (12,026). The record was previously held by Carson Palmer (11,818).
- Robert Woods caught just two passes for -3 yards, marking his lowest production of the season, and only negative-yard performance of his Trojan career.