ASU football wins 62-41 shootout; USC fires Coach Kiffin

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                </div>In what has to be one of the wildest quarters in college football this season, the Arizona State Sun Devils were able to use the third quarter of last night’s […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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In what has to be one of the wildest quarters in college football this season, the Arizona State Sun Devils were able to use the third quarter of last night’s game to pull away from visiting USC and post a crucial conference win.

The 62-41 loss was even more devastating to the Trojan program, which has started the Pac-12 schedule 0-2, because it cost the team its head coach.  Just hours after the embarrassing loss in Tempe, the seventh in 11 games, the school fired head coach Lane Kiffin, who was in his fourth season and has had difficulty living up to expectations in the tradition-rich program.

The two teams traded touchdowns, and ASU added a couple of field goals, to get to a 20-14 halftime lead for the Sun Devils.  But it took just 46 seconds after intermission for the craziness to begin.

USC struck first at the 14:14 mark to re-take the lead it had enjoyed for much of the first half, covering 75 yards in three plays to go up 21-20.

Twenty-one seconds and two plays later, junior quarterback Taylor Kelly triggered a 74-yards pass play to D.J. Foster to give the lead back to ASU.

Forty-seven seconds later, the Sun Devils added another score when Alden Darby intercepted a Cody Kessler pass and returned it 46 yards for another TD and, with almost 10 minutes still left in the quarter, Marion Grice took an eight-yard pass from Kelly and scampered into the end zone to put ASU up by 20 points – a lead they would never relinquish.

But wait, there’s more…

With plenty of time still left in the third quarter, USC intercepted a Kelly pass at its own 21-yard line and the Trojans looked like they were ready to begin climbing out of the hole, but were unable to complete the deal.  Three minutes later, ASU intercepted Kessler when Darby got his second pick of the night.

Fifty-three seconds later, Grice carries it in from the nine to put the Devils up, 48-21, to close out the quarter and effectively seal the win.

Whew!

The fourth quarter saw five more touchdowns, three from USC and a couple from the Sun Devils.  Grice scored again on a 28-yard run and Deantre Lewis added his first of the night as the redshirt junior punched it over from the one-yard line in the final few minutes.

“For the first time since I have been here, tempo destroyed the other team,” second-year head coach Todd Graham said after the game, although his hurry-up offense ran considerably fewer plays than he likes to see; they ran 37 rushing attempts and had 30 pass plays – but Graham would prefer another dozen or more on top of that.

“That (USC) defense is one of the best defenses in the nation,” he pointed out.  “They are pretty dang good and our guys just put up 612 yards of offense on them and 62 points.”  Through the first three games, the USC defense had given up just 230 yards a game.

The USC offense wasn’t bad either.  The Trojans had 546 total yards of offense and actually had an advantage in time of possession, 33:34 to ASU’s 26:26.

“They had a good (offensive) plan,” Graham admitted.  “They had some things that we had not seen.  They were doing a lot of motion and movement that they had not done (before).

“They had us on our heels in the first quarter…I mean on our heels, big time.  We were just trying to figure out what was going on.”

Obviously, they did figure it out.  The ASU defense collected three interceptions in the game, two by Darby, and recorded four sacks as the defensive effort seemed to get more aggressive as the game wore on.  Senior linebacker Chris Young led the way, posting 10 of the team’s 61 tackles on the night.

Kelly had a big night, completing 23 of 34 attempts for 351 yards, and then adding another 79 yards rushing, which was tops among the team’s rushing efforts.  His favorite target was wide receiver Jaelen Strong, the junior college transfer from Pierce College, who caught seven passes for 107 yards.  Grice finished behind him with 65 yards, but he contributed four touchdowns on his 12 carries, giving him 12 TDs in four games.

“Our fans were awesome tonight, absolutely incredible,” added Graham.  “I hope they were entertained.”

The official attendance for the game was 64,987 – but it’s important to note that 14,118 of those ticket sales were to ASU students, the first time in school history that more than 14,000 student tickets were purchased for a football game.  It’s the third consecutive home game of record sales of student tickets; there were 13,827 sold for the upset of then-No. 16 Wisconsin.

It looks like Graham’s coaching style – and success – has caught the attention of the ASU students.  And that should blossom into a fan frenzy leading up to next week’s meeting with Notre Dame.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)