Treading a fine line: 'Aggressive' is the name of the game

September, 25, 2011
9/25/11
7:33
AM PT
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Sun Devils are partying like its 1999 ... finally. …

The last time Arizona State beat USC, Bill Clinton was president, “The Matrix” was just released and Arizona State’s 6-foot-8 quarterback Brock Osweile was 9 years old and presumably still taller than me. …

An Arizona State staffer came up to me before the game and said, “What’s the deal with Lane Kiffin?” With Kiffin that question could mean any number of things so I asked him to be more specific. “He’s calling us a dirty team and having the scout team play dirty to prepare the team? Really? USC has beaten us 11 straight times.” …

Apparently the comments did more than irk Arizona State’s coaches and players, especially Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who was singled out by Matt Barkley as the dirtiest player on the team. Burfict responded by intercepting Barkley in the second quarter. …

“If you’re going to say something you better watch what you say and that is kind of what happened,” Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said. “I talked to [Vontaze] this week and said you just have to be aggressive and play your game. You can’t worry about penalties, you have to play and he did that tonight.”…

After the play Burfict picked up Barkley and gave him a hug, which seemed like a sweet gesture until you asked Barkley about it. …

“He was probably just trying to put it in my face,” Barkley said. “He didn’t say anything to me.” …

There were a number of odd plays called in the first half as USC fell behind 21-6 by the normally aggressive play-calling Kiffin who ran the ball on three third-and-long plays where he needed 13, 14 and 16 yards. While USC has an inexperienced team, you would think the tandem of Barkley and Robert Woods would have a better shot of getting 16 yards than a draw play to Marc Tyler. …

“I think when you go on the road you have to play smart at times,” Kiffin said. “The wind starts kicking up and all of a sudden the game is out of reach early so you have to play field position at times.” …

Something tells me when Barkley and Woods are making plays on Sundays we’ll read the above quote and laugh and realize why USC wasn’t better than they could have been under Kiffin. …



After throwing two interceptions and losing two fumbles against Arizona State, USC now leads the Pac-12 in fumbles (six) and is last in turnover margin. …

If you’re Dillon Baxter, Curtis McNeal and D.J. Morgan, you have to be scratching your head that freshman Amir Carlise is now getting more carries than you are. You’re probably also looking at schools you could transfer to after this season. …

The last time Arizona State beat USC was at the Coliseum in 1999 when Paul Hacket was USC’s coach. The Trojans finished that season 6-6 and would go 5-7 the next season, leading to Hacket’s firing and the hiring of Pete Carroll. The last time Arizona State beat USC at Sun Devil Stadium was 1997 when John Robinson was USC’s coach. Both of those Sun Devil teams were coached by Bruce Snyder, who was Arizona State’s coach from 1992 to 2000. …

Over the next three years as USC tries to cope with the loss of 30 scholarships, something tells me a good number of those kids will be coming to Arizona State. Kids like Burfict, who is from Corona, Calif. …

“It was a great recruiting night,” Erickson said after the game before meeting with several prospects from Southern California. “This is what college football is all about.”

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com
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