USC’s rebound win keeps Trojans’ Rose Bowl hopes alive

When it comes to catching the football, USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. is one of the best in the country. After 10 games of action during  college football’s regular season, Pittman has displayed the knack of dominating defenders and taking over a ballgame. His receiving numbers back this up.

Ranked No. 7 in the nation in receiving yards, Pittman has caught 71 passes for 938 yards and eight touchdowns thus far. With at least two more games left in the season, Pittman is closing fast on the 1,000-yard marker.  Arizona State picked up the memo a little too late after Pittman burned their secondary repeatedly in the Trojans’ 31-26 win against the Sun Devils in Tempe.

The victory was good for both Pittman and the Trojans. After being crushed last week by Oregon, USC needed to find a way to regroup from that humiliating home defeat at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Playing on the road against Arizona State in a rebound game, the Trojans got their act together to stay within a game of Utah in the Pac-12 Conference South Division race for the top spot.

USC football
USC running back Kenan Christon (23) looking for daylight against Arizona State. Photo courtesy of John McGillen/USC Athletics

The Trojans’ sixth win of the season was almost a mandate for the Cardinal and Gold to come away with nothing short of a victory. That’s because the next couple of weeks will likely determine if the Trojans will have the opportunity to squeeze into the Pac-12 Conference title game should they come away with the South Division crown.

For that to happen, USC (6-4 overall; 5-2 Pac-12) will have to run the table the rest of the way and hope that somehow Utah will stumble over the course of the rest of the regular season. For the Trojans to make it to the championship game they would have to knock off Cal and then turn around and defeat city rival UCLA the following week in their season finale.

If Kedon Slovis continues to play the way that he has since taking over starting quarterback duties, the Trojans should be in pretty good shape to make some noise down the stretch. Arizona State found out that too much of a Slovis-Pittman connection or a Slovis-Amon-Ra St. Brown hookup could be very detrimental to another team’s success.

The Sun Devils had no answer in trying to slow down either Pittman or St. Brown from burning up the football field after snagging well-placed footballs from Slovis, who lit up Arizona State’s defense for 432 yards and four touchdowns. His main targets during the matinee game were Pittman and St. Brown.

USC defensive lineman Christian Rector (89) celebrates the Trojans’ 31-26 win against Arizona State in Tempe, Arizona. Photo courtesy of John McGillen/USC Athletics

PIttman went wild, coming up with 13 receptions for 146 yards. Since Slovis was in the sharing mood, he threw eight passes that St. Brown caught for 173 yards and a touchdown. Slovis also spread the pass-catching love to running back Kenan Christon, who caught four passes for 82 yards and two scores.

The biggest takeaway from this game, besides PIttman and St. Brown running roughshod against Arizona State’s defensive secondary, was USC’s fast start at the onset of the game. The Trojans brought their hard hats and lunch pail and went to work in the first quarter, jumping on top of Arizona State with a 28-point blitz in the opening period.

Christon scored on a 58-yard pass-play as well a catching a 5-yard touchdown pass from Slovis. When Pittman recorded his 95-yard pass-and-run for the Trojans final touchdown in the period, it was pretty much a wrap for USC to keep their Rose Bowl aspirations alive. But this was just the first quarter, and there was plenty of time left to play in the game.

Outside of a 41-yard field goal in the third quarter by Chase McGrath, USC’s offense produced zilch in the scoring department rest of the game. Arizona State steadily climbed back into the game by scoring in every quarter, but the Trojans were able to stave the Sun Devils’ late rally to preserve their road win.

Editor’s note: Head photo appears courtesy of John McGillen/USC Athletics 

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