Trojans shock and awe Sun Devils

LOS ANGELES-Three. That seems to be the right number for the USC football team. It took three tries before USC could finally nail down its first Pac-12 Conference win of the season.

Three would also be the number of touchdown passes that wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster caught against Arizona State in the Trojans’ 41-20 win against the Sun Devils at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday,

Three was also the magical number for quarterback Sam Darnold, who completed the touchdown trifecta to Smith-Schuster in a breakout game for the once-reserved signal-caller. Three also represents the quarter in which the Trojans firmly stepped on the necks of the Sun Devils for its second win of the season.

USC running back Justin Davis (22) on his way to a 37-yard touchdown run against Arizona State. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/

USC scored 34 points in the two middle quarters to build a 41-6 lead by the end of the third period. Game. Check. Now it’s on to facing Pac-12 Conference South Division leader Colorado next week. A win against the Buffaloes would give USC a third victory, and sort of level the playing field in the Pac-12 Conference South Division.

But for now, the Trojans will take this victory against Arizona State with a smile. That beam is coming from USC coach Clay Helton, who must be feeling good right about now for handing over the starting quarterback reins to Darnold after several not-too-impressive performances by Max Browne.

Accurate and efficient, Darnold seems to give the Trojans’ offense a revitalization. Against Arizona State, Darnold operated with unexpected rapid precision that saw Arizona State defenders out of position most of the night or reacting to his passes when it was too late.

Arizona State kickoff return man Lonnie White Jr. (12) gets upended by a USC defender during the Trojans’ 41-20 win at the Los Angeles Memorial Colisem. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/

As a result, Darnold passed for 352 yards, while completing 23 of 33 passes and hooking up with Smith-Schuster for his three touchdown passes on the evening. Considering the type of opponents the Trojans have already faced this season, including the last two Pac-12 Conference rivals, it was a pretty good night’s work for USC.

This game was sort of a gimme for USC. Arizona State fell for the bait. The Sun Devils played most of their Pac-12 Conference game against the Trojans taking a page from the shock and awe category. They didn’t know what hit them. And someone forgot to tell them that Smith Schuster was out on the field.

It looks like Arizona State failed to get that memo. Shame on them. The Sun Devils did not have a clue on how to stop Smith-Shuster. The pre-season All-American bullied Arizona State defenders all night to the tune of seven catches for 123 receiving yards and three endzone celebrations.

The best treat of the night came when Smith-Schuster took a quick dump off pass from Darnaold, juked his defender and zigged and zagged his way to a 67-yard touchdown pass completion in the third quarter. The play summed up the Trojans’ dominance.

USC ran unto the field prior to facing Arizona State expecting better results than what they got against Stanford and Utah. The first two Pac-12 Conference games against the Cardinal and the Utes didn’t turn out too well for USC.

Dropping two games early in conference play put USC behind the obvious eight ball when it comes to trying to win the Pac-12 Conference South Division. Receiving an invite to a bowl game is not even a discussion at this point. But the Trojans will take this win and try to build on it. For now, that is all that matters.

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1193 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a proud alum of Howard University.