Dillon Baxter gets his first USC start

USC freshman tailback Dillon Baxter started for the first time Saturday night in the Trojans’ Pacific 10 Conference game at the Coliseum.

Baxter rushed for 52 yards in a team-high 17 carries and caught four passes for 26 yards.

It marked the end of a comeback of sorts for Baxter, who was suspended for the season opener against Hawaii because of a violation of team rules.

Baxter had played as a backup to junior Marc Tyler and senior Allen Bradford and went into the game having rushed for 183 yards and a touchdown in 37 carries.

He suffered a toe injury against Stanford on Oct. 9, did not play against California and played only late in a loss to Oregon last week.


Senior comes back in a big way

Linebacker Malcolm Smith returned to action in style.

Smith, a senior who missed two games because of a knee injury, intercepted a pass and returned it 74 yards for a touchdown, getting a key block from defensive lineman Jurrell Casey.

It was the second career touchdown for Smith, who returned an interception 62 yards for a touchdown last season against UCLA.

Reardon cracks the starting lineup

Patience paid off for senior offensive lineman Michael Reardon.

The fourth-year junior from Anaheim started for the first time, playing left guard in place of senior Butch Lewis.

The 6-foot-5, 290-pound Reardon had been plagued by injuries since arriving in 2007 from Orange Lutheran High.

Reardon was switched from defensive line to offensive tackle while redshirting his first season.

He sat out the entire 2008 season because of a hip injury and played as a backup last season.

Reardon had hoped to challenge for a starting spot in spring practice, but he suffered a neck injury in a dune buggy accident.

Player has impact on special teams

USC safety T.J. McDonald played a huge role on special teams.

The sophomore deflected a punt in the first quarter, causing the ball to travel only 15 yards.

McDonald also blocked a second-quarter punt that gave the Trojans a first and goal at the Sun Devils’ nine-yard line, but Arizona State intercepted a Matt Barkley pass on the ensuing play.

And McDonald dived to keep a third-quarter punt by USC’s Jacob Harfman from going into the end zone for a touchback. McDonald batted the ball to the four-yard line, where and it was downed by the Trojans.

Arizona State was not chagrined, moving the ball down the field with gains of more than 10 yards on four consecutive plays before linebacker Malcolm Smith intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown. Mitch Mustain‘s two-point conversion pass to David Ausberry gave the Trojans a 22-7 lead.