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ASU Football: Arizona State vs. USC Instant Recap

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First quarter dooms ASU

NCAA Football: Southern California at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Led by 28 points in the first quarter, USC (6-4, 5-2 Pac-12) took down ASU (5-4, 2-4) Pac-12 by a final of 31-26.

The Trojans struck first on their first drive of the game. Freshman quarterback, and Scottsdale native Kedon Slovis drove USC right down the field with four first downs, and capped off the drive with an eight-yard touchdown pass.

Just prior to the score, USC kept its drive alive by converting on a fourth and short.

With an ASU team that was missing Jayden Daniels due to a knee injury, freshman backup quarterback Joey Yellen had his chance to respond. He had two incompletions, then was sacked on his first collegiate drive, forcing a three and out.

USC pounced again. The Trojans punched one in on a six-play, 82-yard drive, and Slovis was 11-11 for 133 yards. At 6:14 of the first quarter, USC was up 14-0.

However, ASU responded. Senior wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk helped the offense by returning the following kickoff 97 yards to put the Devils inside the five-yard line.

On third and goal, Yellen then delivered his first completion for a five-yard touchdown pass to senior wideout Kyle Williams.

USC wasn’t fazed, though. On a third down, Slovis found freshman running back Kenan Christon on a play outside of the pocket. The half back received the throw, shed two tackles, then strolled into the end zone to make things 21-7.

Then from his own end zone after a pinned punt, Slovis dropped a a 95-yard bomb to Amon St. Brown. The first quarter ended at 28-7.

ASU had a promising drive to start the second quarter, but Yellen was picked off by Isaiah Pola-Mao near the end zone to stall things out.

The Sun Devil signal-caller would come right back, though. After the Sun Devils’ first defensive stop of the game, Yellen dropped a 62-yard deep ball down the sideline to junior wide receiver Frank Darby for a touchdown. The extra point by sophomore kicker Cristian Zendejas was wide left, leaving the score at 28-13.

Evan Fields then picked off a pass on the upcoming USC drive, and a bit of momentum seemed to churn toward the Sun Devil sideline for the first time all game. It was short lived. After a few successful plays, junior running back Eno Benjamin coughed up a fumble.

Going into the half, ASU trailed by two scores at 28-13, although things could have been far worse considering the Trojans dominated the first quarter, and the ASU turnovers. USC had 385 total yards compared to ASU’s 177, and they had 347 pass yards.

To start the second half, the Sun Devils came out with a bang. Yellen orchestrated a seven-play, 57-yard, drive that ate up three minutes and 24 seconds. Yellen threw his third touchdown pass with a two-yard strike to Aiyuk, making it a one-score game at 28-20.

With six minutes remaining in the third, Slovis also received a shot from Roe Wilkins in the pocket, and he was forced to leave the game. He later returned midway through the fourth. Backup Matt Fink came in to replace him on the drive, and he got the Trojans into field goal range for a 41-yarder from Chase McGrath. USC pushed things back to a two-score game, leading 31-20.

In the fourth, ASU forced a fumble with good field position, but couldn’t do anything with it. Nevertheless, the Sun Devils still set themselves up, and they took advantage.

Yellen threw his fourth passing touchdown of the day on a strike over the middle to Darby. The drive was six plays, 40 yards, and it took just over three minutes. During the series, ASU also received a beneficial roughing the quarterback call on an interception. It kept the drive alive.

After the touchdown, ASU couldn’t put away a two-point conversion, leaving the score at 31-26 with 8:54 to play in the fourth.

The following USC drive, Slovis (who came back in), tossed what appeared to be a pick six to senior linebacker Khaylan Kearse-Thomas. However, it would be called back due to a holding call on Kearse-Thomas just moments prior to the interception.

The defense still forced a stop, but ASU never took the lead. With one final drive, Yellen threw an interception into the hands of Christi Rector, sealing a 31-26 Trojan victory.

A big USC first quarter ended up being enough for USC.