USC vs. Arizona State: Trojans 34, Arizona State 33 (final)
USC finally won a kicking contest.
Having lost two Pacific 10 Conference games on final-play-of-the-game field goals, the Trojans caught a break Saturday night at the Coliseum, when a kicker who rarely used to miss did exactly that, and their own maligned kicker made one in a clutch situation.
Arizona State's Thomas Weber missed wide left from 42 yards out with 1 minute 39 seconds to play, allowing USC to hold on and improve its record to 6-3 overall, 3-3 in conference play.
Arizona State fell to 4-5, 2-4.
Weber, from Los Angeles Loyola High, was the 2007 Lou Groza Award winner as the nation's top kicker in 2007. He was the first freshman to be so honored.
But Weber tried his potential game winner with a new holder -- and with the knowledge that his previous kick, a point-after touchdown, had been blocked.
His kick wasn't even close.
So credit for the gamer-winner went to USC's Joe Houston, who missed from 29 and 35 yards in his first two tries against the Sun Devils, but converted from 29 yards with 3:06 to play.
Hero credit also goes to Tyron Smith, who blocked Weber's PAT, and Torin Harris, who scooped up the ball and took it back to the opposite end zone to give USC two points and pull the Trojans to within 33-31.
Matt Barkley completed 26 of 37 passes -- to eight different receivers -- for 215 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. Marc Tyler rushed for 119 yards in 12 carries before being helped off the field late in the fourth quarter with what appeared to be an ankle injury.
Arizona State quarterback Steven Threet completed 24 of 40 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions.
Each team came up with big plays for touchdowns. USC got an interception and 74-yard return by Malcolm Smith early in the third quarter to go ahead, 22-7.
The Sun Devils also got a 66-yard interception return by Omar Bolden, who gathered it a Barkley pass that went off the hands of David Ausberry. That play cut USC's lead to 29-27 early in the fourth quarter.
USC 34, Arizona State 33 (3:02 remaining in the game)
Joe Houston has at least temporarily redeemed himself. The USC kicker just converted a 29-yard field goal to put the Trojans in the lead.
This after he missed two chip shots earlier, from 29 and 35 yards.
Bad news for USC, though. Marc Tyler, after two great runs of 31 and 16 yards, was helped off the field with what appeared to be an ankle injury.
He is USC's leading rusher, with 103 yards in 11 carries.
Now it's up to the USC defense -- to see if it can somehow avoid giving up a last-second, game-losing field goal for the third time this season.
Arizona State 33, USC 31 (midway through the fourth quarter)
Lots of running going on at the Coliseum tonight, as if this game has turned into an Olympic track meet or something. . . .
First things first: Arizona State’s Jamal Miles just caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Steven Threet to put the Sun Devils on top with 6:59 to go.
But Arizona State’s point-after attempt was blocked (the third time a USC player has gotten their hand on a kicked ball tonight) and Trojans cornerback Torin Harris returned it the length of the field for two points.
Also, USC’s athletics department, via Twitter, is reporting that Trojans safety T.J. McDonald, who has blocked a punt and deflected another in this game, is being taken to the locker room with a trainer. Not sure just yet what his injury is.
USC also announced the attendance in the Coliseum tonight: 68,744.
USC 29, Arizona State 27 (early in the fourth quarter)
Omar comin’ . . . and Omar goin’ . . . 66 yards for a touchdown after picking off a tipped pass from quarterback Matt Barkley that was intended for receiver David Ausberry.
For those who aren’t fans of the HBO's Baltimore-based crime drama “The Wire,” (which, in this journalist’s meager opinion, is the greatest show of all time) “Omar comin’ ” refers to the chants made when the fictional stick-up man Omar Little (brilliantly played by Michael K. Williams) would come up the block.
In this case, it’s Omar Bolden, the Arizona State cornerback who just brought the Sun Devils to within two points, but that’s where they stay after a failed two-point conversion.
Barkley is now 23 for 34 with 213 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
And USC has given up touchdowns on an interception and a kickoff return.
USC 29, Arizona State 21 (late in the third quarter)
Well, well . . . looks like we’ve got an Oregon-esque scoring outbreak at the Coliseum tonight. Scoreboard operators beware. Bloggers, too, especially those doing in-game updates (*cough cough*).
But this scoring deluge is a second-half-only ordeal, which means each coach gave some type of inspirational halftime speech.
With 4:39 left in the third quarter, USC quarterback Matt Barkley one-bettered Arizona State quarterback Steven Threet’s 21-yard touchdown pass a few minutes earlier with a 22-yard touchdown strike to fullback Stanley Havili.
And then Arizona State cornerback LeQuan Lewis, apparently wanting to be written into some game stories tonight, housed the ensuing kickoff, a distance of 100 yards that became a no-doubter when he broke free around the Arizona State 30-yard line, sucking all the Trojan enthusiasm out of the stands.
For those keeping score at home, we’ve got four touchdowns since the 9:53 mark of this quarter after just two in the first half.
USC has now surpassed the 300-yard mark on total offense, and Arizona State isn’t far behind at 281.
USC 22, Arizona State 14 (midway through the third quarter)
Apparently that Steven Threet fellow doesn’t shake so easily.
Not long after having an interception returned 74 yards for a score by USC linebacker Malcolm Smith, the Arizona State quarterback calmly and methodically led his Sun Devils 71 yards in eight plays and 2:14, finding receiver Gerrell Robinson in the corner of the end zone on a perfectly lofted 21-yard touchdown pass.
The Sun Devils are now a touchdown and a two-point conversion away from tying the score.
Threet, to date, is 14-of-25 passing for 133 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
And that Robinson fellow has two catches for 31 yards and two touchdowns, which is a very nice ratio for those who started him in their fantasy leagues this week.
USC 22, Arizona State 7 (early in the third quarter)
USC linebacker Malcolm Smith just picked off a pass by Arizona State quarterback Steven Threet and trucked it 74 yards the other way for a touchdown to pad USC's lead with 9:53 left in the third quarter.
Last year against UCLA, Smith returned an interception 62 yards for a score, or so they're telling us up here in the press box. Backup quarterback Mitch Mustain completed a pass to receiver David Ausberry for the two-point conversion, USC's nation-leading fifth two-point conversion this season.
USC 14, Arizona State 7 (halftime)
The Trojans will walk off the field with a seven-point halftime lead after quarterback Matt Barkley threw a two-yard touchdown pass to receiver David Ausberry with three seconds left before halftime.
But you can bet your bottom dollar that USC Coach Lane Kiffin will berate his team in the locker room, largely kicker Joe Houston, who has missed two field-goal attempts of 27 and 35 yards.
“You’re terrible,” he might say, or “that’s turrible,” in his best Charles Barkley impersonation.
Regardless, the touchdown that put USC ahead at halftime finished off a nine-play, 59-yard drive that lasted 1:10 and sends this game into intermission after a sloppy first half.
For USC, defensive back T.J. McDonald has done all right, with one blocked punt and a deflected punt. But that block turned out to be worthless, as Barkley had a pass intercepted in the end zone on the very next play.
Some halftime stats:
USC -- 209 total yards, including 122 from Barkley, who is 15-of-22 passing with two touchdowns and an interception.
Arizona State -- 142 yards, including 48 from quarterback Steven Threet, who is seven-for-16 passing with a touchdown.
USC 7, Arizona State 7 (late in the second quarter)
USC found paydirt, finally, when quarterback Matt Barkley saw running back Marc Tyler in the flat on a third-and-seven play from the 15-yard line, and Tyler danced his way for a touchdown, capping a nine-play, 60-yard drive that spanned 4:47.
Barkley is now nine-of-15 passing for 87 yards and a touchdown on the night. All told, USC has 150 yards on 32 plays while Arizona State has 103 yards on 23 plays.
Oh yeah, USC's touchdown comes after kicker Joe Houston missed a 35-yard field goal with 11:02 in the second quarter, his second miss of the night, putting him at five for 11 this season.
And after Houston nailed the extra point following Tyler's touchdown, the crowd gave him a rousing applause, which I bet felt really nice (not).
Arizona State 7, USC 0 (end of the first quarter)
Well, that's that for the first quarter, and USC would have some points had kicker Joe Houston not boinked a 27-yard field-goal attempt off the right upright with 2:44 in the first quarter.
The missed kick spoiled a six-play, 48-yard drive that was mostly quarterback Matt Barkley to receiver Brice Butler.
Arizona State 7, USC 0 (early in the first quarter)
The Sun Devils brought some tricks and treats to the Coliseum (hardy har-har) as their first play of the game was a reverse pass down the field for 54 yards from receiver Jamal Miles to receiver T.J. Simpson.
A few plays after that, on third and two from the 10-yard line, quarterback Steven Threet found Gerrell Robinson in the end zone to cap a four-play, 72-yard drive that spanned 1:33.
Greetings and salutations!
Hope everyone had a ghoulishly satisfying Halloween. A quick word on costumes, actually: There were more Chilean miners at the West Hollywood Costume Carnival than there were Chilean miners trapped in that Chilean mine -– and that was just in West Hollywood.
The Sun Devils are 4-4 this season, 2-3 in Pacific 10 Conference play, and have lost 10 straight games to USC. Of course, Arizona State did pound Washington State, 42-0, last week, but who hasn't this season (or any other recently).
USC, meanwhile, is coming off a 53-32 loss to top-ranked Oregon and its quack-tastic offense, and stands at 5-3 overall this season with a 2-3 record in conference play.
Check back here for insightful and clever updates throughout the night, especially if you're easily impressed and amused. If you're at home, just know it's kind of chilly at the Coliseum, which explains the fractured audience.
-- Baxter Holmes
Photo: USC's T.J. McDonald blocks a punt by Arizona State's Thomas Weber in the second quarter Saturday at the Coliseum. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times