LOS ANGELES -- Notes, quotes and anecdotes from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum after USC's (7-3, 5-3 Pac-12) 38-17 victory over to Arizona State (5-5, 3-4 Pac-12).
USC coach Lane Kiffin comments:
The storylines: “The storyline was the defense. We really felt like we’ve played good defense for seven-and-a-half weeks and for five-and-a-half quarters we played bad. We were aggressive and got after the ball, and that was great to see. On offense, the story is our offensive line. A really good second half.”
A day for defense: “I thought our front played really good. The linebackers timed up the blitzes. It wasn’t just sacks (seven), we had 56 yards of sacks. We were able to make them not be comfortable with our system. Credit to our defensive staff and players.”
On Marqise Lee: “About 45 minutes before the game, Marqise comes in the locker room freaking out because his face is swollen with an allergic reaction. I’m thinking, ‘This isn’t happening.’ As well as he played (227 all-purpose yards), that long (80-yard) touchdown pass isn’t even contested if he’s feeling himself. He’s arguably the best player in college football.”
ASU coach Todd Graham comments:
On the loss: “We just played poorly offensively. Give their defense credit. They played well, but we were off with our timing, took sacks, threw interceptions and were not good.”
On Marqise Lee: “That guy is special. He’s a great receiver and a great guy. He’s only a sophomore. Still young. He’s good, he’s good.”
More notes and anecdotes
Keys to victory: Curtis McNeal ran for 163 yards and two touchdowns, including a critical 5-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter that helped the Trojans regain the lead, 21-17.
The future: Matt Barkley addressed the rest of the season by saying, “Our guys have done a great job at this point to focus on what matters, which is to win these games and decide our future. A lot of other teams’ futures are dependent on other teams, win or lose. I think it’s a good situation for us to what we have to do and know our goals.”
Offensive scoring average: The Trojans scored 38 points against ASU. Prior to the game with the Sun Devils, the Trojans were averaging 36.8 points per game.
The analyst: Regarding Lee, Barkley said, “You kind of expect greatness from him whenever he touches the ball.”
The analyst, Part 2: Safety T.J. McDonald said, “This (ASU) game was the most important game of the season. We got our swag back.”
Rush to defend: Prior to the ASU game, USC's defense was allowing 156.9 yards rushing per game. Against the Sun Devils, the Trojans allowed 71 rushing yards.
Adjustments: Regarding Trojans defensive line adjustments, ASU offensive tackle Evan Finkenberg said, “They were doing some line movement in the first half and started doing some more exotic blitzes in the second half. Some of our protections were bad combinations with what they were blitzing with.”
It’s offensive: Prior to the ASU game, the Trojans were averaging 464.7 yards per game on offense. Against the Sun Devils, the Trojans had 447 yards on offense.
Out-schemed: According to ASU defensive end Carl Bradford, “They out-schemed us a little at the end. I don’t think we got physically tired. We just got beat at the end of the day.”
Rush to judgment: The Trojans came in averaging 152.0 yards per game rushing. Against ASU, the Trojans gained 225 yards rushing.
Curtis comments: McNeal, who was the game’s leading rusher, said, “Today was big time. We really had to beat Arizona State no matter how we got the job done. The fact is, we got the job done. Now we have to beat UCLA to get to Oregon.”
Defensive scoring average: The Trojans defense allowed 17 points to ASU. Prior to the Sun Devils game, the Trojans were allowing 24.2 points per game.
T.J. talks: McDonald said, “We played fast today and ran down hill. There were no holes like last week (against Oregon) for ASU to squeeze through. We really tightened things up.”
Getting defensive: Prior to the ASU game, the Trojans were allowing an average of 406.4 yards on defense. Against the Sun Devils, USC allowed 250 yards.
Reading time: On his surprise interception, Trojans true freshman defensive tackle Leonard Williams said, “I was reading the screen, and it was a careless throw by their quarterback. It all seemed like it was all in slow motion. I started running down the sideline, but I never looked up at the scoreboard to see if I might be caught from behind.”
The stopper: In halting the ASU running attack, defensive tackle George Uko said, “The biggest thing today was to stop the run. I feel like we got better today. We have to get even better next week because UCLA has a pretty good running game.”
Passing fancy: Prior to Saturday, the Trojans were averaging 312.7 passing yards per game. Against the Sun Devils, the Trojans passed for 222 yards.
Flag time improvement: Prior to ASU, the Trojans were averaging 78.0 penalty yards per game. Against the Sun Devils, the Trojans were penalized four times for 30 yards.
Up next: The Trojans travel to the Rose Bowl to battle crosstown rival UCLA.