Trojans slow to get started early, gets rolled by Arizona State

Arizona State - USC
Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins (5) rushes in for the Sun Devils' winning score on a 45-yard touchdown run with 1:23 left in the fourth quarter to lift his team to a 38-35 win on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

LOS ANGELES, CA-The USC Trojans (4-3) returned home after a tough loss to Utah last week to face the Arizona State Sun Devils (3-4). A 19-game home winning streak at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum would be of some comfort for them. Or so they thought. After rallying from a 24-7 deficit, USC positioned itself to run that win streak to 20 straight contests.

Arizona State and quarterback Manny Wilkins had other ideas. Wilkins had a leg in the Sun Devils ending the Trojans home streak, racing to a 45-yard touchdown run with 1:23 left in the fourth quarter to give Arizona State all the points it would need in its 38-35 road win.

USC’s defense held on the first series of the game, forcing the Sun Devils to punt into the eager arms of punt returner Tyler Vaughns, who caught the punt and electrified the Trojan faithful with an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown.

College Football-Arizona State-USC
USC quarterback Jack Sears (10) looks for cover against Arizona State’s defense. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

On the next series, ASU was undeterred and struck back quickly with a 44-yard scoring strike from Wilkins to wide receiver Harry N’Keal. The Trojans offense led by third-string quarterback Jack Sears, who replaced JT Daniels, who is in concussion protocol and backup Matt Fink, who has broken ribs, struggled to start the game.

A USC fumble would eventually lead to ASU running back Eno Benjamin (185 yards) running it in for a touchdown and with the extra point food the Trojans trailed in the game 14-7. The Trojans and ASU were not able to score the rest of the first quarter.

Both teams started the second quarter trading punts until ASU running back Benjamin stormed down the field with a 49-yard touchdown run. USC continued to struggle on offense and had to punt the ball to the Sun Devils. The Sun Devils promptly drove down the field to the Trojans 31 and attempted a field goal by Brando Ruiz that was good. After a nine-play, 74-yard scoring drive that lasted just under four minutes. ASU led 24-7.

College Football Arizona State-USC
A gang of Arizona State defenders gets physical. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

The Trojans finally were able to close out the first half with an eight-play, 75-yard drive with Sears throwing an 8-yard touchdown pass to receiver Michael Pittman. The touchdown pass was the first scoring toss for Sears. The Trojans trailed now at halftime 24-14.

The Trojans adjusted during halftime and stormed down the field to open the third quarter with a nine-play, 87 yards scoring drive capped off with a touchdown by Velus Jones Jr. The Sun Devils’ lead was now cut to 24-21, and the momentum heavily on the side of the Trojans.

The Trojans’ comeback would not be complete until a well-executed trick play resulted in a 36-yard touchdown pass from Vaughns to Pittman. USC reclaimed the lead 28-24. The Trojan offense stalled and was forced to punt and got a taste of their own medicine. N’Keal Harry took the punt and 95 yards later he was standing in the Trojan end zone. That made the score 31-28 in favor of the Trojans.

College Football Arizona State-USC
Arizona State defeated USC by the score of 38-35 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

The Trojans were still not done as Sears drove them down with the field with a combination of run and passes. But on fourth down and one, the Trojans didn’t attempt a 29-yard field goal and instead went for the first down. The Trojans ran for it and failed. The ASU defense held and the Sun Devils offense was now on the move.

ASU was able to move the ball into Trojan territory but was forced to punt to USC. The Trojans couldn’t move the ball and punted right back to ASU. The Trojans had to stop ASU and get the ball back. They failed. Wilkins led his team to a five-play, 66-yard scoring drive as he put the nail in the Trojans coffin with a 45-yard touchdown run. That was the ball game.

USC didn’t quit, though. The Trojans moved the ball down the field for one last score with a five-play scoring drive that ended with a 48-yard touchdown pass from Sears to Vaughns to cut the lead to 38 -35. The Trojans had one last chance with 35 seconds left but the on-side kick failed by the Trojans and was recovered by ASU.

The keys to the upset victory by ASU which is now (4-4) was the running game. Benjamin couldn’t be slowed or stopped during key moments of the game and ran all over the Trojans. Wilkins played a solid all-around game with a combination of key runs and passes. The Trojans, now (4-4) head up north on Saturday, Nov. 3 as they face the Oregon State Beavers.

Najee Ali
About Najee Ali 3 Articles
Ali is a long time South Los Angeles civil rights activist, author, and blogger. Ali may be contacted at Brothernajeeali@gmail.com.

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