Sunday, November 7, 2010
Postgame thoughts: Arizona State
By Pedro Moura
Notes, quotes and video from USC's 34-33 win over Arizona State on Saturday night at the Coliseum:
It was a rollercoaster game, a seesaw game, a wild game and a crazy game -- but it was a victory for USC. It was also "far from perfect," in Trojans coach Lane Kiffin's relieved words after his Trojans pulled out a win over the visiting Sun Devils. "I really felt like, 'Finally," Kiffin said when asked about his emotions. "We just hadn't had many breaks this year where things go our way. It's really good for our players in such a rollercoaster game." Sun Devils coach Dennis Erickson had very similar comments. "The game was as crazy as they get," he said. "You could stay up all night thinking about what could have happened. It was a back and forth seesaw football game. There are 1,000 things that could have made a difference."
The Trojans have lost three games this season, two of which were of the variety they handed to Arizona State on Saturday. But the feelings from those games are gone after this win, left tackle Matt Kalil said: "Just like Coach Kiff says, you take a tough loss like that last week -- a win erases everything. It erases all the bad feeling we got and kinda makes you feel good as a team and as a unit, that we kinda stuck together, made big plays when we needed to and pulled off the win."
Matt Barkley had a solid game in completing 70 percent of his passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns, but he had two mistakes that appeared to haunt him for a while. The first was actually his first throw of the game, an overthrow of Robert Woods that would have been a sure touchdown. Kiffin made a point of saying that Barkley probably thought about that throw for a long time even if he wouldn't admit it. The second was a poor throw that was intercepted by ASU's Clint Floyd in the end zone. Barkley's other interception was more of a fluke, a ball tipped by David Ausberry and intercepted by Omar Bolden, but the first interception stuck with him. "That was really the only time I felt like I forced it," Barkley said. "Other than that, I felt like I did a good job throwing it away or running. ... That's not characteristic of me. It's something I wish I changed."
Cornerback Shareece Wright had some interesting involvement in a number of special teams plays, including his open-field whiff on the 100-yard kickoff return by LeQuan Lewis -- "I don't know even know what happened," he said about that -- and an on-the-field view of Torin Harris' return of Tyron Smith's PAT block in the fourth quarter, which Erickson called the "difference in the game" and "totally ridiculous." But the most intriguing play Wright was involved in was ASU's Thomas Weber missing a 41-yarder that would've gave the Sun Devils a late lead. Why? Because Wright, coming off the right edge during the play, said after the game that Weber purposely directed the kick left when he saw the Trojans readying to block the kick. "I knew he missed it right when he kicked it. I could tell. If he would've kicked it right, we would've blocked it. He hooked it trying not to get a block." Safety T.J. McDonald also had two key punt blocks, something Wright attributed to a weakness in ASU's punt units the Trojans observed on film.
Nickell Robey said earlier in the week that the coaching staff planned on moving him inside to the nickel this week and calling more blitzes for him and Wright. He was right, as the Trojans had much more pressure from the secondary than they have had at any point this season. It also meant, though, that Harris was often isolated on the sideline with a Sun Devil receiver, and he was beat by ASU's Gerell Robinson at least twice. Robey also said he noticed on film that ASU quarterback Steven Threet (24-of-40, three touchdowns and two interceptions) was susceptible to getting caught up in his game and making a poor decision or two after a couple completions. He did exactly that on a big third-quarter drive where the Sun Devils had the ball on the USC 28-yard line down only seven points. After completing three consecutive passes, Threet scrambled to his right and delivered a pass directly to USC linebacker Malcolm Smith for a pick-six. "Everything that we talked about and we expected to see, we saw it," Robey said on the field after the game. "It was a great feeling."
Final notes: Dillon Baxter earned his much-anticipated first college start for the Trojans but struggled to get loose at all, carrying the ball 17 times for 52 yards for an average of just over three yards per carry. Interestingly, though, Baxter did not lose yards on any of his rushes -- a very unusual statistic. ... Redshirt sophomore receiver Brice Butler had his best game of the season (three catches for a team-leading 49 yards) and earned praise from Kiffin afterward. ... While ASU's Lou Groza Award-winning Weber missed a 41-yarder that would've gave the Sun Devils a late lead, USC kicker Joe Houston converted a 29-yard attempt just before that turned out to be the game-winner. Of course, Houston had missed two short kicks earlier in the game, and at one point, Kiffin said later, Houston was in danger of losing his spot to punter Jacob Harfman. But Houston stayed in and got his redemption.
Kiffin spoke afterward and had some good insight to offer about his team's performance.
See what he had to say:
Four players -- Barkley, Houston, McDonald and Smith -- took to the stage after the game to address the media in one big session.
See what they all had to say, including great stuff from Houston when asked if he was nervous when kicking the 29-yarder he converted: