Defense shines, offense scores often…ASU beats USC

Vontaze Burfict got a little personal payback last night, while his Arizona State football team took out 11 years of frustration by finally beating an old rival.

It was an interception by Burfict, a pre-season consideration for national defensive player of the year, that proved to be the turning point in ASU’s 43-22 win over the University of Southern California.

The Sun Devils (3-1) stepped out to a 14-6 lead in last night’s game against the No. 23-ranked Trojans, but USC was threatening to score and tie the game up as the first half drew to a close.

But, with 4:45 left on the first-half clock, Burfict stepped in front of a Matt Barkley pass at the 10-yard line, pulled it in, and carried it to mid-field.  And the offensive unit made the most of it, using a hurry-up offense to keep the USC defense on its heels and march down the field to set up a score by Jamal Miles, who snagged a three-yard pass from Brock Osweiler and scampered across the left corner of the goal line.

It was a fitting reward for Burfict, as the middle linebacker helped cap off an outstanding team effort on the defensive side.  And it was a little payback for Barkley’s comments earlier in the week that Burfict, one of the most intimidating players in the country, was a “dirty player.”

Ironically, it was the USC quarterback that put the stop to Burfict’s run after the interception.  And Burfict’s gesture after the tackle, helping up his old friend from years of playing youth football together, showed a little class.

As good as the ASU offense played, it was Burfict and his defensive brethren that tipped the scales for the home team.  They held the Trojans to just three field goals in the first half, that ended with a 21-9 ASU advantage.

And they did it against a USC team that has scored touchdowns on 63.6 percent of their possessions this season.

USC made a surge in the third quarter, actually taking a one-point lead at 22-21, but the ASU defense put the hammer down when it counted.  The Trojans were on the move late in the third quarter when Colin Parker, the redshirt senior linebacker, stripped the ball from USC running back, Wendell Tyler, at the ASU 27 to quench a scoring opportunity.

And the visitors were marching down the field again to open the fourth quarter when the ASU defense forced a Barkley fumble as he was trying to launch a pass, and then late in the quarter Shelly Lyons makes another interception at the 40-yard line and carried it into the end zone to put the nail in the USC coffin.

In all, the Sun Devil defense came up with four turnovers, all when the Trojans were deep in ASU territory.

And, when the clock ticked off the final seconds, ASU was able to celebrate its first win since 1999 against the Trojans, and first win in Tempe since 1997.

But, as good as the defense was on this night, ASU still had to get points on the board to win this one, and Cameron Marshall did his share.  The junior running back ran for 141 yards and three touchdowns.

And he did it on a gimpy set of wheels.

Marshall had been held out of two practices in the week before the game, recovering from a sprained ankle he suffered in the previous game against Illinois, and he was a questionable starter for the USC game.

Osweiler also enjoyed one of the better games of his college career, finishing with 223 yards in the air on 25-for-32 accuracy.

The Sun Devils, and their head coach Dennis Erickson, needed this win against a ranked opponent to help validate their belief that this season will return the program to where it was when Erickson took it over back in 2007.  They won 10 games that first year and earned a share of the Pac-10 championship – but haven’t had a winning season since.

It looks like they might be back.  And 61,000 fans were there last night to testify to it.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)