Defensive effort wasted in loss to USC

Defensive effort wasted in loss to USC

LOS ANGELES - In a game that saw a total nine turnovers, uncharacteristic penalties and a tremendous defensive effort, the USC Trojans proved to be too much for the Arizona State Sun Devils to handle in the Los Angeles Coliseum, beating the Sun Devils 38-17.

A couple things here: in the battle of turnovers, albeit a sloppy one, Arizona State won. The final score is a deceiving statistic. It makes it seem as if the Sun Devil defense decided not to show up today when in fact, it was one of the best defensive displays the Sun Devils have had in 2012.

It started early with ASU's MVP of the day linebacker Carl Bradford forcing a fumble at the USC 21-yard line by receiver extraordinaire Marqise Lee just two minutes into the game. The Devils were able to punch it in and take an early lead on the Trojans starting off the contest on the right foot.

The night continued with USC quarterback Matt Barkley throwing not one, not two, but three interceptions. He's only done that one other time in his career. The most spectacular one coming at the start of the third quarter when Carl Bradford decided a piece of the ball wasn't enough as he batted it up in the air and then caught it all for himself. Easily one of the most athletic plays made this season, offense or defense.

"I just read him and knocked the ball down and found it in the air and caught it," Bradford said about his stellar play.

How's that for humility?

Of course, the 70-yard interception return for a touchdown by Alden Darby in the second quarter wasn't so bad either.

That's where the sunshine ends for the Sun Devils as the sun literally disappeared over the Coliseum.

ASU may have won the turnover battle, but only by one. In an offensive effort that was uncoordinated and disastrous at best, Taylor Kelly was responsible for three of ASU's four turnovers. The sophomore overall was 19 of 30 for 174 yards, one touchdowns and three interceptions.

That's not even the worst of it.

When the offense managed to get a handle on the ball, despite going no huddle and having a leg up on their Trojan counterparts as far as tempo went, they didn't do anything with it.

"It's real tough because we started out with a really good start," offensive lineman Evan Finkenberg said about the offense. But that would be about it.

The Sun Devils were held to just 250 yards of total offense; a season low.

The Sun Devils came into Saturday's contest with the USC Trojans in desperate need of a win. They were on a three-game skid losing big-time contests and were looking to not only redeem themselves as a team but their season as a whole.

They failed to do either as they are now 5-5, 3-4 in Pac-12 play, and out of the race for the Pac-12 South.

When asked what the team had to play for now, ASU defensive back Alden Darby had this to say:

"Play for the seniors, play for the guys next to us, play for the team, play for the bowl game. That's what we play for."

Head Coach Todd Graham blamed himself and the coaching staff for this now four-game losing streak, saying he was proud of the effort put in by the players and thought the overall execution went according to plan defensively.

"The final score was not indicative of how well we played defensively," Graham said. "I can tell you we got after their quarterback and did some special things."

When asked about sophomore USC receiver, Marqise Lee, Graham said they had tried to account for him all game, but he was just too much.

"That was bracket double coverage," Graham noted concerning Lee's 80-yard touchdown reception. "That guy is special, I'm just telling you."

Where does this leave the team considering they now have no shot at the Pac-12 title game?

"It just hurts inside," said Carl Bradford about the emotion in the locker room after today's loss. "But we just know we have to keep moving forward and keep progressing as a team."

Translation: it leaves them even more desperate for a win. They need just one more to be bowl eligible and could get it next week at Washington State.

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