First, the good news for USC football fans.
The offense looked better.
The Trojans gained 527 yards, running for 247 as both Tre Madden and Justin Davis reached triple digits.
Yet, USC was still routed, 62-41, by Arizona State Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.
That’s because Arizona State gained 602 yards against a USC defense that came into the game ranked No. 4 in the nation.
USC committed four turnovers as Arizona State matched the most points given up by a Trojans team.
Arizona State improved to 3-1 overall and 1-1 in Pac-12 Conference games. USC fell to 3-2, 0-2.
The Trojans also lost All-American receiver Marqise Lee, who was carted off the field in the fourth quarter after sustaining an injury to his left knee on a punt return.
Earlier in the quarter, Lee had hauled in a pass for a 51-yard game to become USC’s career leader in receiving yardage.
USC quarterback Cody Kessler completed 20 of 29 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns, but he was also intercepted twice. One of the interceptions was returned 46 yards for a touchdown by Alden Darby.
Darby, a senior from Long Beach Millikan High, also picked off a pass thrown by Madden out of a Wildcat formation.
Madden ran for 128 yards in 20 carries, his fourth 100-yard rushing effort in five games. He ran for one touchdown and caught passes for two others.
Davis, a freshman, ran for 122 yards and three touchdowns in 10 carries.
Taylor Kelly completed 23 of 34 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns for Arizona State. He also ran for 79 yards in four carries.
Marion Grice scored four touchdowns for the Sun Devils -- two running and two receiving.
Arizona State 62, USC 41 (2:24 left in fourth quarter)
We're over 100 total points and 1,000 total yards.
Freshman Justin Davis scored on a 58-yard run -- his third touchdown of the game.
Davis has 122 yards in 10 carries and USC has run for 247 yards.
The Trojans have 527 yards, but Arizona State has 602.
Arizona State 62, USC 34 (3:19 left in fourth quarter)
USC's highly regarded defense looks completely gassed in the final minutes at Sun Devil Stadium.
Reserve running back Deantre Lewis scored from a yard out on a run, capping a four-play, 62-yard drive.
Arizona State has 602 yards of offense against a USC defense that came in ranked No. 4 in the nation.
Arizona State 55, USC 34 (7:09 left in fourth quarter)
Marion Grice has four touchdowns, the latest on a 28-yard run.
Grice lined up wide right and went in motion before the snap. He took a handoff running full speed toward the left sideline and ran through and around several defenders on his way to the end zone.
Marqise Lee was just carted off the field with what appears to be a left knee injury.
Arizona State 48, USC 34 (9:54 left in fourth quarter)
This is kind of interesting.
Justin Davis scored on a 15-yard run after USC converted on a key fourth-down play and all of a sudden we have a game again.
The play the kept the drive going was a 17-yard gain on a fourth-and-five play near midfield.
Cody Kessler hit Victor Blackwell with a pass short of the first down marker, but Blackwell bulled over Sun Devil defensive back Alden Darby to extend the drive.
The Trojans also got some tough running from another reserve, running back Buck Allen.
I don't think this is going to get interesting... but it could get interesting.
USC just neatly converted an onside kick, with Nelson Agholor pulling in a pooch kick that went about 15 yards and never hit the ground.
USC has the ball near midfield with 13 minutes still to play.
Arizona State 48, USC 27 (13:11 left in fourth quarter)
With Marqise Lee flat on his back near the USC bench, Tre Madden just gave USC a little lift.
He took a screen pass from Cody Kessler and turned it into a 48-yard scoring play.
Madden has three touchdowns -- two receiving and one rushing.
Andre Heidari was wide left on the point-after kick. He nearly missed a PAT earlier tonight, too.
Bad to worse for USC.
Marqise Lee appears to have injured his leg while making a nifty 17-yard punt return.
He was carried off the field by his teammates.
USC has the ball at midfield with 14:52 left in regulation.
Earlier tonight, Lee became USC's career leader in receiving yards.
Arizona State 48, USC 21 (2:32 left in third quarter)
Given another turnover, Arizona converted again.
Alden Darby's interception gave the Sun Devils the ball at the USC 44, and it took Arizona State all of four plays to score.
Marian Grice gained 12 yards on two carries, quarterback Taylor Kelly and Jaelen Strong connected on a 23-yard gain, and Grice scored on a nine-yard run.
USC fans wanted creative.
Coach Lane Kiffin got creative.
On a fourth-and-two from USC's own 40, he had Tre Madden line up in a Wildcat formation. Madden took the snap, took a couple of steps toward the line of scrimmage as if to run, then stopped and lofted -- and I mean lofted -- a pass toward Jahleel Pinner.
The pass was a floater, and Alden Darby intercepted it.
Darby has two picks tonight -- the first for a touchdown.
The Long Beach Millikan High product also had a pick-six against USC last season.
Su'a Cravens has given USC some hope.
His diving interception thwarted an Arizona State drive at the USC 21 with 6:26 left in the third quarter.
Cravens, a freshman, had an interception against Hawaii in USC's opener.
The Trojans had six interceptions in their first two games but had come up empty since then until tonight.
Needing to score, USC moved the ball but came up empty instead.
The Trojans moved the ball to the Arizona State 29 yard line, but a fourth-down pass by Cody Kessler fell incomplete after a heavy rush.
Arizona State 41, USC 21 (9:55 left in third quarter)
So much for USC's highly rated defense. It has finally cracked.
Arizona State drove 55 yards in six plays, with Taylor Kelly connecting with Marion Grice for an eight-yard scoring pass.
Kelly had a 30-yard run that was the big play on the drive.
Kelly has run for 79 of Arizona State's 101 yards rushing. He has done it on four carries. The rest of the yardage has come on 14 carries.
Kelly has also completed 20 of 28 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to Grice.
Arizona State 34, USC 21 (13:06 left in third quarter)
Three touchdowns in less than two minutes.
The last two have been scored by Arizona State.
Cody Kessler has been playing well for USC, but he threw a horrible pass and Alden Darby picked it off easily and raced 46 yards for a touchdown.
Arizona State 27, USC 21 (13:53 left in third quarter)
USC did it in three plays. Arizona State just did it in two.
The first was an incomplete pass. The next was a pass from Taylor Kelly to D.J. Foster who was wide, wide -- did we say wide? -- open over the middle.
The scoring play covered 74 yards.
With that 51-yard reception, Marqise Lee became USC's all-time receiving yardage leader. He has 3,238 yards, surpassing Johnnie Morton, who had 3210 in 1990-92.
USC 21, Arizona State 20 (14:14 left in third quarter)
USC had been shutout in the third quarter in three of its four games before tonight.
It took three plays and 46 seconds for the Trojans to score in the third quarter against Arizona State:
The first was an incomplete pass. The second was a 51-yard pass play from Cody Kessler to Marqise Lee. The third was a 24-yard touchdown run by Tre Madden.
Madden has rushed for 108 yards in 11 carries.
Arizona State is 9-0 when leading at halftime since Todd Graham has been coach, so this will be a tough test for USC.
USC moved the ball well in the first half, but has been hurt by mistakes.
Quarterback Cody Kessler has completed 11 of 13 passes but for only 87 yards. He has thrown for one touchdown and might have had another – and 90 more yards – had Marqise Lee not dropped a perfectly thrown pass on a post pattern.
Lee was wide open over the middle, and the pass went through his hands, bounced off his helmet, and was intercepted.
Tre Madden has run for 84 yards in 10 carries, but fumbled to cost the Trojans a field goal. Madden also has a 10-yard scoring reception.
Justin Davis has run for 49 yards as USC runners are averaging eight yards per carry.
Taylor Kelly has completed 16 of 21 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown for Arizona State.
The Sun Devils have only run for 71 yards – more than half of that coming on a 40-yard run by Taylor Kelly that set up a touchdown.
Arizona State 20, USC 14 (halftime)
USC's defense overcame another turnover by the offense, and its own mistake.
Arizona State has come up with an interception and a fumble recovery on USC's last two possessions, but the Trojans held the Sun Devils to a field goal each time.
Tre Madden's fumble gave Arizona State the ball at the USC 47, and the Sun Devils' drive was partially fueled by a questionable late hit called on Trojans tackle George Uko.
Zane Gonzalez kicked a 22-yard field goal as time expired in the half.
Another turnover for the USC offense, this time a fumble by Tre Madden.
Arizona State has the ball at the USC 47 with 2:50 left in the first half.
Arizona State 17, USC 14 (4:41 left in second quarter)
Arizona State converted the interception into three points, a 28-yard field goal by Zane Gonzalez.
USC might have had a 90-yard scoring play.
Instead, Arizona State has the ball at the USC 34 midway through the second quarter.
Cody Kessler threw a pass to a wide-open Marqise Lee over the middle, but Lee took his eyes off the ball and the pass went through his hands, banked off his helmet, and fell into the hands of Sun Devil defensive back Osahon Irabor.
USC 14, Arizona State 14 (7:46 left in second quarter)
Nobody else was gaining rushing yards for Arizona State, so quarterback Taylor Kelly took things into his own hands.
Kelly ripped off a 40-yard run to key a scoring drive that ended with him throwing an 11-yard touchdown pass to Marion Grice.
The most impressive thing a USC defender did was actually very impressive. On Taylor's long run, 6-foot-5, 290-pound end Leonard Williams caught him from behind.
Pretty good indication that Clancy Pendergast has the USC defense ready for what Arizona State does:
Trojans defensive back Josh Shaw just started running across the field BEFORE the receiver he was covering started in motion.
USC 14, Arizona State 7 (13:20 left in second quarter)
See Tre Madden run. See Tre Madden catch and run.
Arizona State is watching both.
Madden, who has already rushed for 61 yards in six carries, took a screen pass from Cody Kessler and took it 10 yards for a touchdown, completing a seven-play, 77-yard drive.
Kessler has completed all eight of his passes for 76 yards.
USC's offense is looking crisp and effective as the first quarter ends at Sun Devil Stadium.
Quarterback Cody Kessler has completed all five of his passes for 48 yards. Tre Madden has run for 59 yards in five carries, and freshman Justin Davis has 37 yards and a touchdown in three carries.
The Trojans and Sun Devils are tied, 7-7, but USC clearly has the momentum as its line is opening huge holes for the running game and giving Kessler plenty of time on most occasions.
Meantime, the Arizona State offense has stalled after going 80 yards on its first possession. The Sun Devils have gained just 23 yards in 10 carries.
USC 7, Arizona State 7 (4:02 left in first quarter)
USC's running game just shifted into gear on a eight-play, 89-yard scoring drive.
Tre Madden started it off with a 27-yard gain and freshman Justin Davis finished it by blazing 26 yards for the touchdown.
Big block by Marqise Lee on Davis' touchdown run.
USC's defense holds Arizona State on the Sun Devils' second possession.
USC ball at its own 11 with 8:22 left in the first quarter.
Arizona State leads, 7-0.
USC's first possession: three plays and punt.
Will Sutton, Arizona State's star defensive end, sacked quarterback Cody Kessler on USC's first play.
Sutton was an All-American last year when he had 13 sacks. That was his first this season.
Looks like USC punter Kris Albarado, the Pac-12 special teams player of the week, will have plenty of chances to repeat.
Arizona State 7, USC 0 (11:33 left in first quarter)
Did the USC defense miss the scouting report on Arizona State and tight end Chris Coyle.
He came in averaging 21 yards per catch.
He had two catches for 56 yards on the Sun Devils' first drive.
Michael Eubank, a sophomore from Corona, bulled in from one yard out for the touchdown.
Arizona State went 80 yards in 10 plays.
Quarterback Taylor Kelly completed three of four passes for 68 yards on the drive.
And no, in case you were wondering, USC's defense did not look like one of the top units in college football.
Coyle, a Westlake Oaks Christian product, was wide open down the middle fo the field.
USC wins the coin toss and defers to the second half.
The kickoff goes into the end zone, so Arizona State starts at its own 20.
It's just a few minutes before kickoff and a fairly large crowd is filling up much of Sun Devil Stadium, according to Los Angeles Times reporter Gary Klein, who is covering the game.
USC is 9-6 in this stadium, dating to 1978 when Arizona State upset the second-ranked Trojans in the Sun Devils’ inaugural season in what was then the Pacific 10 Conference.
USC lost here two years ago, 43-22, ending an 11-game winning streak in the series.
In that game, linebacker Vontaze Burfict discombobulated the Trojans. Burfict is gone but the Sun Devils have a dominant defensive tackle in Will Sutton, the reigning Pac-12 defensive player of the year.
Sutton had 13 sacks last season but has yet to register one through three games.
However, the Sun Devils’ front presents a formidable challenge for USC’s offensive line, particularly freshman left tackle Chad Wheeler.
It's about 60 minutes before kickoff at Sun Devil Stadium where USC plays Arizona State in a Pac-12 Conference South division game.
USC is 3-1 overall and 0-1 in Pac-12 play. The Trojans lost to Washington State, 10-7, on Sept. 7, but they have defeated Boston College and Utah State in the last two weeks.
Utah State defeated San Jose State, 40-12, on Thursday, and Boston College lost to No. 8 Florida State, 48-34, on Saturday.
So, perhaps, USC’s defense is as good as its ranking indicates. The Trojans are fourth nationally in total defense and second in sacks, with 16.
USC will be challenged tonight by an Arizona State offense that has averaged 53 passes in each of the last two games.
The Sun Devils are 2-1 and 0-1 in Pac-12 play after last week’s 42-28 loss at Stanford.
Staff writer Gary Klein contributed to this blog. Hiserman is reporting from Los Angeles.
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