6-Points: USC 28, ASU 27
Expect the Unexpected
We had to wait an extra two months to see USC play football this season, but the Trojans made it worth the wait by pulling off a stunning comeback in the final minutes. According to ESPN, with 3:05 left on the clock, Arizona State had a 99.8% chance to win. "I did not see any panic," said head coach Clay Helton. "I saw poise." With the situation appearing dire, the Trojans leaned on their sideline to keep them in the game. "With no fans, you have to feed off each other's energy," said QB Kedon Slovis.
Drake Takes The Cake
Sophomore WR Drake London hauled in the game-winning fourth-down touchdown pass that was threaded through two defenders by Slovis in what Helton called, "as good a pitch and catch as I've seen." In typically understated fashion, London summarized the play by saying, "The backer pushed out to me. There was no safety over the top. And the rest is history." London has now caught a touchdown pass in six consecutive games, and he was USC's top target today with 8 catches for 125 yards.
In what was billed as a matchup of the Pac-12's best quarterbacks, both sophomores showed off their talent while also shaking off some rust. In the clutch though, "Kedon got that ball in there with perfect timing and perfect accuracy," Helton said of his QB's execution on the game-winning play. Slovis completed 40 of 55 for 381 yards and 2 TDs. Jayden Daniels gave USC more problems with his legs (111 yards rushing) than his arm (11/23 for 134 yards passing). "Jayden is a great player," USC captain Isaiah Polo-Mao said. "We definitely struggled, getting started going in this game, and I think we need to start a little bit faster. I think we stepped up to the challenge."
While the Trojans are celebrating an epic comeback over a top Pac-12 South challenger, they know they have a lot of room to improve on this performance. "The things we have to clean up are the security of the ball and finishing drives in the red zone," said Helton, referring to the four turnovers and three turnovers on downs. "We all made mistakes in that game. We all took turns. It wasn't just one guy," Helton said. Despite the mistakes, the head coach was encouraged by the massive yardage difference (+164) as evidence of how good this team can be.
That Never Works
While the touchdown pass from Slovis to London will be the indelible image of this game, the deflected TD pass to Bru McCoy and ensuing onside kick recovery were even more improbable. McCoy had not practiced any onside kicks during Fall Camp, but they told him what to do on the sideline and it worked out. "Honestly, I thought I messed up," McCoy said. "I thought I could've attacked the ball." McCoy was credited with the fumble recovery, but if you watch the replay, the ball actually squirted out and ended up in the hands of Chase Williams who was standing over the pile, much to the confusion of everyone involved.
The USC defense was consistently aggressive in its first game under new coordinator Todd Orlando, forcing three fumbles and generating seven tackles-for-loss. However, the Trojans need to tighten up a run defense which allowed 258 yards, largely because they could not contain Daniels to the pocket. On the final drive though, USC forced Daniels to be an accurate passer, and he could not do it. "You look at the last four plays, it's the same four calls in a row that [Orlando] did," Helton explained. "He played man coverage out there, he trusted his defense to put pressure on the quarterback, forced him to get rid of it and the DBs did a helluva job."