Football snaps losing streak against USC
A dust storm hit Sun Devil Stadium late in the first quarter as Southern California tried to move the ball. By the time Arizona State got the ball back, swirling dirt and papers were gone, the wind was much calmer.
A mysterious occurrence? Sure, but maybe not as remarkable as Cameron Marshall's recovery.
Bouncing back from a sprained ankle last weekend, Marshall ran for 141 yards and three touchdowns to help Arizona State end an 11-game losing streak to USC with a 43-22 win over the No. 23 Trojans on Saturday night.
"Cam was an absolute beast," said Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler, who threw for 223 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Marshall was questionable against USC after turning his ankle in Arizona State's error-filled 17-14 loss at Illinois. Held out of practice Tuesday and Wednesday, he got stronger as the week progressed and showed no signs of being hampered in the game, taking his first carry 70 yards for a touchdown.
The junior added a 3-yard TD run late in the third quarter to help stop USC's surge and put the Sun Devils (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) up 36-22 midway through the fourth with a 4-yard TD run.
"We didn't even know if he was going to be able to play this week, and he played very well," Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said.
Arizona State survived the first-quarter dust storm and a third-quarter flurry by USC to hand the Trojans (3-1, 1-1) their first loss after three home wins.
USC's players spent the buildup to the game talking about how dirty the Sun Devils were, but the Trojans were the ones who had a hard time keeping their cool, struggling to stay composed in Arizona State's end while safety T.J. McDonald was hit with three personal foul penalties.
USC quarterback Matt Barkley had another tough night in the desert, throwing an interception on a deep drive in the second quarter, then losing a fumble on a blindside hit early in the fourth quarter.
He ended any hope of a Trojans' comeback with his second interception, returned by Lyons, finishing with 227 yards and a touchdown after completing just 7 of 22 passes for 112 yards in an ugly 14-9 win his last time in Tempe.
"I thought Matt did some good things, at times," USC coach Lane Kiffin said.
Arizona State hadn't beaten USC since 1999, losing five straight in Tempe, and gained added motivation when USC's players spent part of the week talking about some of the questionable tactics the Sun Devils use.
Their particular focus was on linebacker Vontaze Burfict, with Barkley calling him a "dirty player."
Playing on his 21st birthday, Burfict kept his emotions mostly in check despite USC's baiting. The junior did get hit with a personal foul for hands to the face in the second quarter, but made up for it by stepping in front of a pass by Barkley for an interception inside the Sun Devils' 20.
Sparked by Burfict's pick, Arizona State moved quickly down the field for a 3-yard swing-pass touchdown from Osweiler to Jamal Miles for a 21-6 lead.
"I thought Vontaze had a heck of a game," Erickson said. "I'm proud of what he deals with."
That wasn't the only trouble USC had in Arizona State's end. The Trojans crossed ASU's 30-yard line four times in the first half and came away with just nine points - on field goals of 41, 29 and 33 yards by Andre Heidari.
Trailing 21-9, USC didn't take long to get going in the second half, though.
Barkley hit Marqise Lee for a difficult 24-yard touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone on the first possession, then the Trojans overpowered the interior of Arizona State's defense to set up Marc Tyler's 10-yard touchdown run that put USC up 22-21 after a failed 2-point conversion.
"I was proud of the way we responded," Kiffin said. "We took the lead in a tough environment versus a really good team."
But, just as the Trojans seemed to be rolling, they started tripping over their own feet again.
Tyler, who rushed for 149 yards on 22 carries, was stripped by Colin Parker, and Arizona State recovered at its 25-yard line late in the third quarter. Barkley followed by losing a fumble on a blindside hit by Greg Smith that the Sun Devils covered up at their 18 early in the fourth.
Marshall scored his third touchdown on a 4-yard run on the ensuing drive, and Lyons sealed it with his pick-six that had over 61,000 fans on their feet and cheering for the end of a long losing streak.
"It doesn't get much better than that," Erickson said. "We've been working hard in this program for four years now and hadn't beaten them in 11. That's a lot of weight on the shoulders, if you think about it."
And a big relief now that it's gone.