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Final Thoughts: No. 6 USC Football Earns Fifth Win Of 2022, Defeats Arizona State

Oct 2, 2022

Final Thoughts: USC defeats Arizona State, 42-25

  1. Make It Five:

    • USC's victory against ASU Saturday night put the Trojans at five wins on the season - surpassing the team's entire win total in 2021. The team's electric 5-0 start is just its fourth in the last 27 seasons (2005, 2006, 2020, 2022).

    • The Lincoln Riley era also continues to improve on issues that plagued USC team's of the past. USC has now scored 40+ points in four of its five games this season after having three of those games in the last two seasons combined. After struggling after halftime for many years, the Trojans have now outscored their opponent 55 to 7 in the third quarter this season.

    • "I thought our guys responded well in the third quarter and made some key plays when it mattered to win the game. Lots to improve on, no question about it," Riley said following Saturday's game.

  2. USC's Offense Looks Familiar Again:

    • After an uncharacteristic performance last week against Oregon State, USC's offense returned to form Saturday night. The Trojans rushed for 137 yards and finished the night with 348 receiving yards. The trends we've seen so far this season were back on track as well: USC scored a touchdown on each of its first three possessions tonight and has scored on its first three drives in 4 of its five games this season. The Trojans also found success on third down against the Sun Devils, going 8 of 9.

  3. Quarterback Bounce Back:

    • Caleb Williams also returned to his old form Saturday night going 27 of 37 for 348 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. His passing yard and completion totals against ASU are a single-game best this season. The quarterback's first interception of the season came in the third quarter and broke Williams' hold on the longest active streak in the FBS for most consecutive pass attempts without an interception at 215. The sophomore's incredible ability to escape pressure was on display once again, keeping many plays that seemed dire alive.

    • "It's black magic. Look, I don't understand it either!" running back Travis Dye said with a laugh when describing Williams' ability to keep plays alive.

  4. Defensive Adjustments:

    • It was a tale of two halves for USC's defense: ASU was averaging 8.1 yards per play in the first half, but just 3.3 yards per play in the second. Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch attributed the change to one part effort and one part abandoning USC's zone coverage. He noted how he was disappointed in USC's zone coverage and specifically pointed to the sole turnover the defense came away with. In a last-minute save, safety Calen Bullock's late fourth quarter interception kept USC's turnover margin streak this season alive.

    • The Trojans recorded seven tackles for loss, including five sacks against the Sun Devils. It's the third game in which USC recorded five or more sacks this season and the first time a Trojan team has done so since 2018.

  5. Bending, But Not Breaking:

    • Riley noted that USC didn't play to its standard in the first half against ASU, but shared how he was proud of his team for how it responded in the second half.

    • "I'm proud of the way we played in the third quarter. The offensive drives were quality. We really stopped them defensively, and we challenged their guys," Riley said. "We didn't play the way we needed to in the first half. We didn't play that attacking, relentless style that we want to play on both sides. Our offense had some really good quality drives, but it just wasn't quite us. It wasn't the edge that we're used to playing with and that we expect to play with. I thought our guys responded well in the third quarter and made some key plays when it mattered to win the game. Lots to improve on, no question about it. We're going to have to build and have to play a lot better."

    • Five games into the season, there is still not a lot we can say for certain about this year's USC team, but Williams said summarized it best in his postgame interview with ESPN: "The past two games show what type of culture we have. Bend, but don't break. We're going to fight. We're going to get punched and we're going to get right back up and we're going to knock 'em out."

Breaking down USC's 42-25 win over Arizona State: