How will the game play out? Can the Sun Devils bounce back after falling at Illinois? Can USC keep it's hot start by baiting Burfict into making dumb penalties? Here is a quarter by quarter prediction of how the game will turn out.
Coin Flip: Devils win the flip and decide to take the ball to start. Erickson wants to make a quick start to ending that 11 year losing streak against the Trojans, and why not put the ball in Osweiler's hands?
First Quarter: The game starts out sloppy, with both teams trading 3 and outs. On the Devils 2nd posession, Osweiler ends up running it in for a 8-yd TD and the Devils take a 7-0 lead. USC responds with a big kick return to the Devils 40. USC quarterback Matt Barkley connects with Robert Woods to move the ball inside the 10. The Devils defense prevails and holds the Trojans to a FG. The quarter ends with the ASU ball on their own 35.
Second Quarter: The Devils drive stalls with a couple of false start penalties and offensive holding. After a short punt, the Trojans inch their way up the field to score a TD after a 5-yd rush by Marc Tyler. The Trojans take a 10-7 lead with 8 minutes left in the half. Kyle Middlebrooks returns the kickoff to the USC 35, but after a holding call, it's brought back to the Devils 28 yd line. The Devils attack in the air and complete passes to Pflugrad, Robinson, and Willie to get to midfield. Osweiler sails 2 passes out of bounds before being sacked on 3rd and 10. Devils punt the ball and hold USC to end the half.
Halftime: At halftime, Erickson reminds the team that this is, in fact, NOT 2010, and sends them on their way to the field with some motivational words. The Devils are fired up!
Third Quarter: USC starts w/ the ball and quickly gets into Devil territory. Barkley drops back to pass, and hits his man at the Devils 20 yard line, but after dancing around a bit Vontaze Burfict comes up from behind and knocks the ball free. Eat that Trojans. Devils recover and Sun Devil Stadium is once again rocking. On the ensuing drive, Osweiler hits Gerell Robinson for a 42 yard TD pass and the Devils add the "easy" extra point to take a 14-10 lead. The next 3 drives all stall for both teams and we enter the 4th quarter with the score ASU 14 - USC 10.
Fourth Quarter: The dreaded 4th quarter. We have all seen so many ASU games be lost in the 4th quarter. ASU feels like they can win it, but the question is can they play mistake free football for 15 minutes to end the game on top? The answer...it's not mistake free. Nerves start to kick in for both squads and the yellow hankies are flying all over the field. USC capitalizes on 2 pass interference calls and takes a 17-14 lead with 8 minutes left in the game. Erickson is furious with the team and grabs Osweiler by the face mask and yells "IT'S NOW OR NEVER KID."
The fire is lit. Osweiler comes out and leads a drive for the ages. He looks sharp as he completes short passes all over the Trojans defense. After connecting with 6 different receivers on the drive, ASU runs a reverse, with Jamal Miles gaining a huge chunk of yards to get the ball inside the 5 yard line. After 2 consecutive runs to the outside, and no progress, Erickson calls for Osweiler to take the ball in his own hands, use that 6'8 frame, and put an end to 11 years of misery. On 3rd and goal, Osweiler receives the snap, fakes the handoff to James Morrison, and uses Morrison as a FB. He Dives. He's hit. He lands on the goal line. The referees hold a mini-debate on whether he got in. As the crowd sits silently, the ref raises his hands to signal the TD and the Devils take the 21-17 lead with just 2:30 to play.
Kiffin pulls together the offense and defense and calms them down before they take one last crack at winning the ball game. SC returns the kickoff to the 25 yard lines before being tripped up. Barkley takes the field looking poised. USC starts the series with 2 running plays, picking up 18 yards.Trojans ball on the Devils 42, with just 1:54 left. Barkley throws a 6 yard pass, followed by an incompletion targeting his go-to receiver Woods. On 3rd and 4, Barkley is sacked by Colin Parker on a gutsy blitz call by the D. With 1:20 left, it all comes down to this. 4th and 4 from the ASU 42. Barkley drops back and throws a swing pass to Tyler. Tyler is met by 2 defenders who trip him up and bury him at the ASU 45. The Sun Devils erupt from the sideline and swarm the defense with pitchforks raised. After 11 years of crushing defeats at the hands of the Trojans, ASU finally wins, 21-17.
Aftergame: I head to Mill Ave. with what seems like the entire 55k attendees and celebrate a game that will define the season.