LOS ANGELES — The Arizona State Sun Devils are in the midst of a long night after watching their starting quarterback leave the game with an injury while currently trailing the USC Trojans, 27-6, at half time.
The night’s prospects didn’t necessarily start off on the wrong foot for ASU, as the team drew the first blood of the bout.
The Sun Devils won the toss, and elected to receive. They proceeded to take the ball 59 yards in 12 plays, converting on two third downs along the way before stalling at the USC 22-yard line, bringing on Zane Gonzalez to post the first points of the game and give ASU an early 3-0 advantage.
On their opening possession, the Trojans went four-and-out; Clay Helton’s unit was forced into fourth-and-2 and chose to go for it, but running back Justin Davis was brought down behind the line of scrimmage by a blitzing Salamo Fiso. The stop handed ASU the ball on the USC 38-yard line.
The Sun Devils’ momentum was quickly extinguished though, as quarterback Manny Wilkins heaved a deep pass intended for receiver Tim White that was intercepted by USC defensive back Jonathan Lockett.
The Trojans raced down the field, highlighted by a 49-yard rush by Davis which positioned USC at the ASU nine-yard line. Quarterback Sam Darnold found JuJu Smith-Schuster over the middle for a five-yard touchdown, giving USC a 7-3 advantage.
Wilkins rebounded from his earlier miscue on the ensuing drive, connecting with receiver Jalen Harvey for a 49-yard gain the receiver managed to secure after bobbling it. The play set up ASU inside the red zone, but a one-yard loss on a Demario Richard carry and a 10-yard sack of Wilkins forced the Sun Devils to once again call on Gonzalez.
The senior connected on a 34-yard field goal—his second of the game—to make the score 7-6, USC. With the score, Gonzalez became the Pac-12’s career field goals record holder.
However, the Trojans countered with another scoring drive, as a three-yard touchdown completion from Darnold to Smith-Schuster extended USC’s advantage to 14-6 with 9:58 left in the first half. The Sun Devils surrendered gains of 17, 15, and 21 yards through the air during the drive.
Wilkins completed two passes on ASU’s following possession, but misfired on four consecutive passes before the drive stalled, and the Sun Devils turned the ball over on downs at the USC 42-yard line. The Trojans rebutted with a 49-yard field goal by Matt Beormeester, giving them a double-digit lead at 17-6.
After the USC forced a three-and-out, returner Adoree’ Jackson returned a Matt Haack punt 14 yards, setting up the Trojans at the ASU 37-yard line. USC needed just one play, as Davis rushed the ball off-tackle, slipping the Sun Devils defense for a 37-yard touchdown, widening the margin to 24-6.
On the next series, Wilkins was knocked on one play, then sacked on the next. He fell to the ground before behind helped up while holding his left leg. He then went to the locker room.
USC drove into ASU territory again on the next series, as Boermeester nailed another field goal, giving the Trojans a 27-6 lead.
With 20 seconds left in the half, quarterback Brady White entered the game at quarterback for ASU, taking one snap, which he handed off to Richard to close the half.
Prior to leaving, Wilkins had completed 13 of 24 passes for 148 yards and an interception, after completing 8 of 11 passes for 105 yards in the first half. He has been sacked twice, and has been under duress throughout the evening.
Meanwhile, for the Trojans, Darnold has completed 14 of 21 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns. Smith-Schuster has been on the receiving end of six passes for 56 yards and two scores.
Davis has rushed the ball eight times for 84 yards a touchdown. Conversely, ASU as a team has totaled 21 yards on 19 carries—good for an abysmal 1.1 yard gained per carry.