An advantageous Arizona State defense has given the Devils a 20-14 lead with two late takeaways in the second quarter.
The Devils began the game by making the Trojans pay for their decision to defer. Following gains of 21 and 35 by tight end Chris Coyle on the opening drive, QB Michael Eubank punched in a one-yard rushing touchdown.
USC had no answer on its first possession after Will Sutton's first sack of the season led to a three-and-out.
But that's the last time the Trojans would look lost. For the remainder of the half, Tre Madden and Justin Davis ripped off massive gains on the ground working with running lanes that could have fit a city bus. Davis found pay dirt first for the Trojans busting off a 26-yard run to the tie the game. One possession later, Cody Kessler found Madden through the air for a 10-yard receiving touchdown.
Although the Devils' defense continued to clearly miss Jaxon Hood (hamstring) in the middle, the unit managed to stop the bleeding with a big tackle-for-loss from Sutton on USC's second drive of the second quarter.
Taylor Kelly and company responded by breaking out a drive that was so quick, you might have missed it if you blinked. One (rare) 40-yard QB-keeper from Kelly, a 24-yard toss to De'Marieya Nelson and an 11-yard toe-tapping catch from Marion Grice had the Devils tying the game in 57 seconds.
And that's when the flood gates began to break open.
Buried deep in their own territory, Kessler located a wide open Marqise Lee. Rather than securing the ball, the all-world receiver decided to chest-bump it 1,284 feet in the air instead. Osahon Irabor took full advantage of the mind-numbing miscue, coming down with the interception and returning it nine yards.
A clipping penalty on the exchange backed the Sun Devils up and they were forced to settle for a 28-yard Zane Gonzalez field goal.
But the takeaway party wouldn't end there.
Three plays into USC's next drive, Alden Darby both stripped and recovered a Madden fumble. The Devils moved the ball 43 yards in eight plays but the drive stalled on the two-yard line, leaving Gonzalez with a 22-yard field goal.
Even though the Trojans will be getting the ball to start the second half, momentum is squarely in ASU's corner. That said, USC's offense has had the upper hand through most of this one. With Madden and Davis averaging 8.4 yards a carry, Kessler was able to dink-and-dunk his way against a reeling defense to 10 straight opening-game completions. Without the takeaways, we could be dealing with a substantially different game heading into the locker rooms.