USC football squeaks by, defeats the Sun Devils 42-28

The Trojans prevailed to win in Tempe, despite the shaky performance from both the offense and defense.

In a chaotic first quarter, the Trojans looked like they were going to snap their streak of scoring on the first drive of the game. (Bryce Dechert / Daily Trojan)

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Redshirt junior running back MarShawn Lloyd rushed for 154 yards, a season high, leading the No. 5 Trojans in a 42-28 not-so-dominant win over the Arizona State Sun Devils Saturday night in Tempe.

Everyone expected junior quarterback Caleb Williams to be the star of the show, but the Heisman hopeful was overshadowed by some missed open throws that he would normally be able to complete. Although he still threw for 322 yards and had 5 total touchdowns, Williams only completed 64.5% of his passes.

In a chaotic first quarter, the Trojans looked like they were going to snap their streak of scoring on the first drive of the game, but Williams connected with freshman wide receiver Zachariah Branch on a third-and-long. After an 18 and a 17-yard rush from Lloyd, Williams ran a quarterback read-option into the endzone to put the Trojans up 7-0.

As USC avoided a huge disaster in which it almost lost two fumbles in a span of two minutes, the Trojans got back in their offensive groove as Williams threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Brenden Rice on fourth-and-7.

The Trojans shot themselves in the foot as they accrued five offensive penalties in the first quarter. Their first road test of the season might have been a factor as they had three false starts and one delay of game.

Arizona State made it a one score game going into halftime after junior running back Cam Skattebo threw a 25-yard pass to redshirt junior wide receiver Elijhah Badger on a fourth down in punt formation to keep the drive going. Surprisingly, Skattebo had the most passing yards for the Sun Devils in the first half.

To get the scoring started in the third quarter, redshirt sophomore kicker Denis Lynch boomed a career long 53-yard field goal to put the Trojans up 24-13. On the Sun Devils’ second drive of the third quarter redshirt sophomore quarterback Drew Pyne found Badger for a 25-yard touchdown pass and successfully completed the two-point conversion to cut the lead for the Trojans down to three.

The Trojan defense looked to gain more momentum as junior safety Calen Bullock came flying in from his safety position and intercepted Pyne to get the ball rolling for the Trojans at the Sun Devils’ 42-yard line.

However, Williams and the offense were unable to do anything with the excellent field position. On a fourth-and-3 in the red zone for the Trojans, Head Coach Lincoln Riley decided to keep the offense on the field, only being up by six points. Arizona State redshirt junior cornerback Ed Woods broke up the pass intended for junior wide receiver Michael Jackson III.

After back-to-back key plays from redshirt junior rush end Romello Height — a sack, then a fumble recovery — the Trojans offense had a stellar chance to increase their slim margin with about 11 minutes to go in the game. Williams immediately capitalized on the turnover as he scrambled around and found Rice wide open in the endzone for his second score of the game and fifth of the season.

After Arizona State’s Skattebo scattered for a 52-yard touchdown, the Trojans quickly responded with a 45-yard touchdown of their own from Williams to redshirt senior wide receiver Tahj Washington, upping their lead to 14.

The Trojan defense never looked back from there, defeating the Sun Devils 42-28. USC travels to Boulder next week to take on Coach Prime and Colorado next Saturday at 9 a.m.

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