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ASU Football: First half turnovers sink Sun Devils in loss to USC

Four first half turnovers set the stage for what turned into a blowout, and a terrible start to Pac-12 play for the Sun Devils.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

A performance like this could only be summed up by how Coach Todd Graham ended his press conference; his head down into his I-Pad and he mumbled "points off turnovers, 28" followed by a grimace. Those 28 points just happened to be the difference, as USC downed ASU, 42-14. It was that kind of night for the Sun Devils.

With less than two minutes to go in the first half, Arizona State looked poised to go into the half down 14 with the prospect of getting the ball back to begin the second half.

One fateful play provided a momentum swing that the Sun Devils could not recover from. Quarterback Mike Bercovici put the ball on the ground, the third ASU turnover of the half; this one returned 94 yards to the house to put USC up 28-0.

The ensuing kickoff took things from bad to worse for Graham and his team. De'Chevon Hayes received the ball five yards deep in the end zone, opting to take the ball out, and fumbled leading to another easy USC score.

"What happened on the goal-line is we have our backup center in, and that's no excuse, [he] snapped the ball up high and then we don't get the ball handed off or something happened on the mesh. It wasn't a read zone, he was just supposed to hand it off," Graham said.

In less than a minute, the Sun Devils saw themselves go from being down potentially 21-7 to now being 35-0 and all but out of their first Pac-12 contest, a game they desperately needed.

The beginning of the season hasn't been ideal for Graham and his bunch. They opened the year with a disappointing loss to Texas A&M; their offense looking lost. That contest was followed up by two lackluster performances against Cal Poly and New Mexico, with the offense looking better but not anywhere near Pac-12 standards. Enter USC, and the Sun Devils needed to squash any concerns about the offense and the team as a whole.

A basic look at the stats paint a totally different picture than the one on the Sun Devil Stadium scoreboard. ASU had the advantage of rushing yards (182-76), time of position (32:22-27:38) and were only out-gained by one yard (455-454).

There have been a number of games that appeared to derail the Sun Devils season: Oregon in 2012, UCLA and Stanford in 2013, Oregon State and U of A last season. One can add this loss to the Trojans to the list. Yet, the team seems to be as confident as ever.

"I feel great. My confidence in our team will never change. They were the better team tonight. We took a big loss last year early in the season to UCLA, and we bounced back. We just have to move forward and get better," safety Jordan Simone said.

The first half, in terms of possessions, for the Sun Devils looked more like that of a FCS school matched up against a FBS powerhouse. Two missed field goals, three fumbles and one interception all were summed up by that potential season-changing minute.

Coach Graham still believes this the best team he has had, despite the lingering turnover issue.

"This is the best team we've had. We just aren't playing like it" and the coach added that "you can only make excuses for one or two more weeks, then you have to win."