By Johnny Curren
After a rocky first month of play that had the Trojans sitting at 1-3 heading into the team’s Saturday night clash with Arizona State, USC came through with what was easily their most complete performance of the season so far as they took down the Sun Devils in convincing fashion, 41-20.
The Trojans victory in the Coliseum featured a thrilling showing by redshirt-freshman quarterback Sam Darnold, who, with Arizona State in front 3-0 early in the first quarter, kicked off USC’s big night of scoring by hitting JuJu Smith-Schuster for a five-yard touchdown to give USC a 7-3 lead. The eight-play, 95-yard drive came following an outstanding diving interception by Trojans cornerback Jonathan Lockett.
The Sun Devils would answer with a field goal to cut the Trojans lead to one late in the first quarter, but that’s when Darnold and USC really took over, as he connected with Smith-Schuster for a three-yard touchdown early in the second quarter, with tailback Justin Davis running for a 37-yard touchdown a little later. Matt Boermmester also kicked two field goals before the half was over – including a 49-yarder – and the Trojans had a decisive 27-6 lead at the break.
USC didn’t show any let-up in the third quarter, with Smith Schuster taking a quick pass outside from Darnold, before he cut across the field and broke loose for a 67-yard touchdown.
Darnold would cap the Trojans’ night off with a three-yard touchdown run. The USC passer finished 23-of-33 passing for 352 yards and three touchdowns.
Davis had an extremely productive showing of his own, rushing for 123 yards and one touchdown on just 14 carries.
Smith-Schuster had his biggest outing of 2016 so far, catching seven passes for 123 yards and three touchdowns.
The defense showed renewed life as well, particularly in terms of getting after the quarterback, as the unit compiled three sacks, while also limiting the Sun Devils to 75 yards on the ground on 33 carries. Arizona State only two offensive touchdowns came late in the fourth quarter with the outcome already decided.
Arizona State’s starting quarterback, Manny Wilkins, left late in the second quarter with an apparent leg injury. The Dual threat signal-caller completed 13-of-24 passes for 148 yards with one interception, and he had seven rushing attempts for negative nine yards.
Playing in relief for Wilkins, Brady White completed 6-of-13 passes for 80 yards and one touchdown.
USC outgained Arizona State in total offensive yardage 523-303.
The Trojans (2-3) will next face Colorado on Saturday in the Coliseum.