Video: Arizona State WR Aaron Pflugrad

September, 25, 2011

Arizona State wide receiver Aaron Pflugrad talks about beating USC.

Sun Devils back in AP poll

September, 25, 2011
Arizona State rejoined the AP poll Sunday, but fell short in the coaches' poll.

The Sun Devils were ranked 25th by the AP. In the coaches' poll, they were the equivalent of 28th.

Stanford got some love from the coaches, moving up to No. 4. It was still sixth with the AP.

Oregon was ninth with the AP and 11th with the coaches.

Utah and Washington received votes in both polls. They play this weekend in Salt Lake City, the Utes' first Pac-12 home game.

USC, which is ineligible for the coaches' poll due to NCAA sanctions, received votes with the AP, but it was the only team to fall out of last week's Top 25.

LSU moved up to No. 1 for the AP. It's tied for No. 2 in the coaches' poll with Alabama behind No. 1 Oklahoma.

Video: Arizona State LB Shelly Lyons

September, 25, 2011

Arizona State linebacker Shelly Lyons talks about beating USC and his pick-six of Matt Barkley.

Trojans face new reality under Kiffin

September, 25, 2011
TEMPE, Ariz. -- When it was over, Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler didn’t have to fend off adoring fans or raise his voice as he conducted an on-camera interview near midfield. In fact, his 6-foot-8, 240-pound frame could have done jumping jacks without hitting anybody.

Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson didn’t have to run off the field to avoid getting engulfed in a sea of maroon and gold, either.

By the time Arizona State had put the finishing touches on its 43-22 dismantling of USC, the goalposts and painted pitchfork on the field at Sun Devil Stadium were never in danger.

Perhaps the biggest revelation in Arizona State’s three-touchdown drubbing of USC wasn’t so much the final score but how both teams responded.

Arizona State players and fans reacted as if it was expected despite the fact the Sun Devils hadn’t beaten the Trojans since 1999, losing 11 straight games.

After the game, USC players and coaches greeted old friends on the opposing team with handshakes, hugs and smiles. Perhaps a team which went 8-5 last year and has gone 14-9 in their last 23 games is so used to losing by now it has forgotten how to at least pretend to be upset by getting blown out.

It’s no secret USC is no longer a player on the national football scene, NCAA sanctions have made sure of that, but no image drove that point home than the scene at Sun Devil Stadium after the game. It was as if Arizona State had just beaten Northern Arizona instead of USC.

In the underrated 1996 film The Late Shift, a dramatization of the rivalry between Jay Leno and David Letterman to see who would be Johnny Carson’s successor as the host of “The Tonight Show,” there is a scene towards the end where Letterman is finally offered “The Tonight Show,” the dream job he had been working towards the past 11 years. Letterman, however, turns it down because it had been given to Leno and wasn’t the same anymore. Quite simply, things had changed.

It’s like beating USC these days with Lane Kiffin roaming the sidelines instead of Pete Carroll. Sure it’s still nice to beat the Trojans but everyone has done it so often recently that it’s nothing to rush the field about anymore.

The double doors of the chain linked fence surrounding the field were wide open after the game and maybe a dozen or so Arizona State fans jogged onto the field to celebrate before quickly leaving.

“We can’t throw the ball 50 times, we just can’t, this isn’t 2005,” Kiffin said about his play-calling. “We have to try to fight for balance.”

He’s right. Back in 2005, USC was able to overcome a 21-3 halftime lead by Arizona State to win 38-28. This year, they overcame a 21-6 deficit to take a 22-21 lead only to watch the Sun Devils score the final 22 points of the game.

Kiffin’s seven-minute post-game press conference was nothing but a litany of excuses for a team that was clearly outcoached, outplayed and outclassed.

All week USC had talked about the dirty tactics of Arizona State players, instructing their practice squads to deliver late hits in preparation with Matt Barkley singling out Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfect as the dirtiest player.

In reality it was USC’s No. 7 on defense, T.J. McDonald, who was called for three personal foul penalties. As a team USC was flagged 10 times for 87 yards.

“I don’t know how you coach out of the first two,” Kiffin said of McDonald’s penalties. “When the runner is running at you and you go to tackle him, isn’t it his job to get out of the way? I really don’t know how you coach that unless you tell him to be bad tackler.”

Well, at least Kiffin admitted, albeit facetiously, that he has more to learn about coaching.

What about Barkley who threw two interceptions and lost a fumble, accounting for three of USC’s four turnovers?

“I thought Matt did some good things,” Kiffin said. “The interception (he threw to Burfict) was not his fault. It was a screen play. It was a jail break, and Vontaze made a great play. Never is the guy that’s sitting right there involved in there and it was just a freak play. It’s not really his fault. I thought he made some great throws and did some great things against a really good defense. He didn’t have a lot of time.”

There’s something to be said for supporting your players publicly but after a 21-point loss to an unranked team, there’s no need to defend your safety who committed three personal fouls or commend the performance of your quarterback who turned the ball over three times.

Maybe this is the new reality at USC under Kiffin.

A reality were opposing teams expect to beat USC by three touchdowns. A reality where USC’s head coach smiles and defends the play of a safety who committed three personal fouls and a quarterback who turned over the ball three times. A reality where USC simply isn’t USC anymore.

At least Kiffin was right about one thing. This isn’t 2005.

Oregon feeling good heading into off week

September, 25, 2011
Oregon served notice with 415 yards rushing at Arizona in a 56-31 victory that it ain't going away.

The two-time defending conference championships were unstoppable against the Wildcats, with running back LaMichael James setting a new school record with 288 yards rushing on 23 carries.

In other good Ducks news: RB Kenjon Barner, WR Josh Huff and S John Boyett were back on the field and no other injuries were reported.

The question entering the game -- posed by coach Chip Kelly as well as reporters -- was whether the Ducks could bring the greatest show on turf on the road. Could they play an A-game -- an Autzen Stadium game -- outside of the friendly confines of the House of Loud.

Mission accomplished.

If you want to quibble, you could fret 398 passing yards from Arizona QB Nick Foles with three TDs and no interceptions. And that doesn't tell the full story because Foles wasn't his typical, accurate self and the Wildcats receivers dropped a number of balls.

The zero picks might be the biggest concern. The Ducks, on paper, have an elite secondary, one that ballhawked as well as any in the nation in 2010. They only have three interceptions through four games.

Still, the Ducks head into a bye feeling pretty good about themselves. Thereafter, they play host to California and then Arizona State before going on the road to Colorado and playing host to Washington State. They will be heavily favored to win all of those games, though the Sun Devils might be challenging.

That means the Ducks could be at least on the periphery of the national title discussion again when the calendar flips into November, and the schedule toughens up.

Pac-12 bowl projections: Week 4

September, 25, 2011
Projecting the bowls based on the fourth week.

Rose Bowl Game: Stanford vs. Big Ten
Valero Alamo: Oregon vs. Big 12
Bridgepoint Education Holiday: Arizona State vs. Big 12
Hyundai Sun: Washington vs. ACC
MAACO Las Vegas: Utah vs. Mountain West
Kraft Fight Hunger: California vs. ACC or Army
Gildan New Mexico: no team vs. Big 12

What we learned in the Pac-12: Week 4

September, 25, 2011
What did we learn from Week 4 of Pac-12 action?

Arizona State is resilient: These aren't the Sun Devils who will wilt or get distracted or throw up on themselves. And it's pretty clear they are focused and unified. With 29 seniors, who have experienced losing in a wide variety of ways, this group has endured numerous injuries and a tough road loss, but it came back with a four-quarters performance against USC that ended a streak of 11 consecutive defeats. What's resilient? Running back Cameron Marshall rushing for 141 yards and three TDs despite playing on a sprained ankle.

[+] EnlargeLaMichael James
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesLaMichael James rushed for a school-record 288 yards in Saturday's win.
LaMichael is still good (and so is Oregon): Some wondered if Oregon running back LaMichael James and the Ducks' fancypants offense were in decline. Short answer: Nope. James rushed for a school-record 288 yards on 23 carries with two touchdowns in the Ducks' 56-31 win at Arizona, a performance that should get him back on the Heisman Trophy radar. The Ducks led 35-9 at the half, but after they let Arizona back into the game -- the Wildcats closed to 35-24 -- they again shut the door with offensive fireworks. It was a potent road performance that sent a message that the Ducks are still contenders.

Keith Price is ready for his close-up: The Washington quarterback has moved from being a pleasant surprise to being a potential all-conference player, which is saying something with the QB depth in the Pac-12. Playing on two sprained knees against California, he completed 19 of 25 passes for 292 yards with three touchdowns. Price entered the game leading the nation with 11 touchdown passes and, now with 14, he might hold on to that lead.

Richard Brehaut should remain UCLA's starting QB: Brehaut didn't blow anyone away with his performance at Oregon State, but he didn't make any major mistakes and, most importantly, the Bruins won. Brehaut isn't great running the pistol offense, but he's good enough as a runner, while providing a more consistent passing threat than former starter Kevin Prince.

It's going to be a long season for Oregon State: It was great to see wide receiver James Rodgers back on the field. But losing at home to beleaguered UCLA suggests that the Beavers, now 0-3, will have to improve significantly to escape the Pac-12 North basement.

Paskwietz: Turnovers prove costly to USC

September, 25, 2011
Red zone turnovers by USC cause a game that could have gone either way to get away early in the fourth quarter.

For Gary Paskwietz's full story on WeAreSC, click here.

Video: Arizona State's Colin Parker

September, 25, 2011

Ted Miller interviews Arizona State linebacker Colin Parker following the Sun Devils' 43-22 win over USC.

Video: Arizona State's Bo Moos

September, 25, 2011

Ted Miller interviews Arizona State defensive tackle Bo Moos following the Sun Devils' 43-22 win over USC.

Pac-12 helmet stickers: Week 4

September, 25, 2011
Who gets a helmet sticker for a job well done on week four?

LaMichael James, Oregon: The Ducks running back rushed for a school record 288 yards on 23 carries with two touchdowns in the Ducks 56-31 win at Arizona.

Cameron Marshall, Arizona State: The Sun Devils running back, despite missing practices this week with a sprained ankle, rushed for 141 yards on 25 carries with three TDs in the Sun Devils 43-22 win over USC.

Keith Price, Washington: The Huskies quarterback, playing on two sprained knees, completed 19-of-25 for 292 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in the 31-23 win over California.

Keenan Allen, California: The Bears receiver caught 10 passes for 197 yards with a 90-yard touchdown in the 31-23 loss to Washington.

Nick Foles, Arizona: The Wildcats quarterback passed for 398 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in the Wildcats' 56-31 loss to Oregon.

These Sun Devils feel different

September, 25, 2011

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Omar Bolden couldn't stop grabbing and hugging Vontaze Burfict as they walked into the locker room. Bolden, Arizona State's injured, charismatic captain, was bouncing around, jumping for joy. Burfict? The Sun Devils wound-tight superstar alternated between a grin and a grimace as he limped off the field, lugging along Bolden under a scoreboard that said the Sun Devils had beaten USC 43-22, the first time they'd been on top of the Trojans in 11 previous meetings.

This Sun Devils team feels different.

Quarterback Brock Osweiler walked into his postgame news conference with 1,500 pounds of escort -- his entire starting offensive line.

Why? "I thought the media was pretty harsh on these guys last week," Osweiler said.

Last week, the Sun Devils lost at Illinois, despite outplaying the Illini. Osweiler had three turnovers. The offensive line gave up six sacks. There were eight penalties for 91 yards. The loss knocked the Sun Devils out of the national rankings and cost them defensive end Junior Onyeali, who suffered a knee injury. It was the sort of loss that could linger in a locker room, not to mention inspire talk of "same old Sun Devils" from a skeptical fanbase.

[+] EnlargeArizona State's Cameron Marshall
Norm Hall/Getty ImagesArizona State's Cameron Marshall rushed for 141 yards and three touchdowns, including a 70-yard run to open the scoring.
This Sun Devils team was different. It yielded just one sack. It committed no turnovers -- versus four from USC. It had just six penalties, one of which was on coach Dennis Erickson for celebrating.

And now, at 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the Pac-12, these Sun Devils have beaten two ranked teams. They might return to the national rankings. And this win was particularly sweet.

"Eleven years is a long time not to beat somebody," Erickson said.

The game turned in the third quarter, just as USC seemed to be taking control. The Trojans, who trailed 21-9 at the break, took a 22-21 lead with touchdown drives of 80 and 76 yards. They were running and throwing over the Sun Devils, who seemed to be wearing down.

"The thing we kept saying was, '11 years.' That was a huge thing that kept us motivated all week," defensive tackle Bo Moos said.

Said Osweiler, "We don't really have a panic button."

ASU would score the final 22 points.

The Sun Devils immediately answered the Trojans with a 76-yard TD drive. Arizona State then let USC throw up on itself. The Trojans fumbled on the ASU 28-yard line. On their next possession, USC quarterback Matt Barkley fumbled after a sack from Greg Smith, Onyeali's replacement, on the ASU 18. After another Sun Devils touchdown drive, Barkley then threw a 41-yard pick-six to Shelly Lyons.

In the second quarter, Barkley threw one interception to Burfict on the Sun Devils' 12. Burfict returned the interception 36 yards. He was tackled by Barkley, who had said Burfict was a dirty player this week.

Burfict ran to Barkley. And helped him up.

That was different.

"They didn't make many mistakes, didn't give us many chances," USC coach Lane Kiffin said.

Injuries? Running back Cameron Marshall sat out practices with a sprained ankle, but he rushed for 141 yards on 25 carries with three TDs. Mistakes? Osweiler bounced back from his performance at Illinois with two touchdowns and no interceptions, completing 25 of 32 passes for 223 yards and also ran for 18 yards.

There's a lot of season left, but beating USC, which slipped Utah two weeks ago, puts the Sun Devils in good position in the South Division. An Oct. 8 trip to Utah appears critical.

But looking ahead would be so 2008-2010 Sun Devils. That can't happen. The first priority, however, is enjoying this one.

Said Erickson, "It doesn't get much better than that."

Video: Arizona State-USC wrap

September, 25, 2011

Ted Miller wraps up the action from Tempe, Ariz., where Arizona State defeated USC, 43-22.

Video: Can USC bounce back?

September, 25, 2011

Joe Tessitore and Rod Gilmore break down USC’s loss to Arizona State.

Final: Arizona State 43, USC 22

September, 25, 2011
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona State is beaten-up but winning nonetheless.

Despite numerous injuries to key players, the Sun Devils turned in a strong effort on both sides of the ball in an 43-22 win over USC.

The win ended an 11-game USC winning streak in the series.

The Sun Devils improved to 3-1 and 1-0 in Pac-12 play. USC falls to 3-1 and 1-1 in the conference.

Much more later ...