No. 21 USC gets back in win column

Silas Redd / US Presswire

After dropping two games in a row No. 21 USC got back in the win column, defeating Arizona State 38-17 on Saturday. The Trojans improve to 7-3 and earn their 800th program win.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Marqise Lee caught 10 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown, Curtis McNeal rushed for 163 yards and two more scores, and No. 21 Southern California bounced back from consecutive losses with a 38-17 victory over skidding Arizona State on Saturday.

Matt Barkley threw for 222 yards and three TDs while becoming the leading passer in conference history for the Trojans (7-3, 5-3 Pac-12), who overcame a slow start and five turnovers to snap their two-game skid. USC hasn't lost three straight since 2001, former coach Pete Carroll's first season.

Taylor Kelly passed for 174 yards and Alden Darby returned an interception 70 yards for a touchdown for the Sun Devils (5-5, 3-4), who lost their fourth straight. Arizona State managed just 250 total yards and scored all of their points off USC's turnovers, getting shut out in the final 27 minutes.

Although Todd Graham has replaced Dennis Erickson on the sideline, Arizona State is in much the same late-season spiral as last year, when the Sun Devils dropped five straight.

USC yielded a school-record 730 yards to No. 2 Oregon in a 62-51 loss last Saturday and endured a midweek distraction when a student manager was fired for underinflating footballs on the Ducks' sideline. The Trojans badly needed a boost of confidence before finishing the regular season against No. 17 UCLA and No. 4 Notre Dame. After scoring 24 consecutive points in the second half to blow past Arizona State, the Trojans are fully inflated again — and what's more, the FBS' most-penalized team was flagged just four times for 30 yards.

Lee caught an 80-yard TD pass and rushed for 66 yards during the seventh 10-catch day of his spectacular sophomore season — and he even lined up at safety briefly in another do-it-all performance for the Trojans, who thrived on offense with little help from two key players. All-American receiver Robert Woods had two catches for minus-3 yards, while leading rusher Silas Redd watched the game in uniform from the sideline.

McNeal and Xavier Grimble also caught TD passes from Barkley, who needed just 14 yards to pass Carson Palmer's USC and Pac-12 record of 11,818 yards passing, and he picked it up on his second pass of the day. The four-year starter already holds the USC records for touchdown passes, completions and total offense along with several single-game superlatives.

The Trojans' earliest home kickoff since 1998 didn't appear to suit them. Lee fumbled at the end of the 17-yard catch on USC's first play, and Kelly hit Chris Coyle for a 34-yard score moments later.

USC didn't get moving on offense until late in the first quarter when Barkley hit Lee in stride down a seam for an 80-yard TD — but after Arizona State's Rashad Ross fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Barkley threw an interception at the Arizona State 2.

Barkley's second interception was the most costly. After an apparent touchdown pass to Woods was wiped out by pass interference, Darby lunged to pick off the risky screen pass by Barkley, somehow gathered himself without falling and ran 70 yards for a score.

The Coliseum fell uncomfortably silent, except for a few scattered boos that only grew when the Trojans punted moments later. Yet USC gathered itself late in the half and marched 79 yards on a 13-play drive capped by Barkley's sharp TD pass to Grimble 35 seconds before halftime. Barkley's first pass after halftime also was intercepted, but only on a spectacular play by backup linebacker Carl Bradford, who deflected Barkley's pass and dived to snag it. Arizona State kicked a field goal to go up 17-14, but the Trojans answered with a lengthy drive capped by McNeal's go-ahead TD on third down — the first rushing TD of the season by the veteran tailback.

McNeal then caught a 22-yard TD pass from Barkley late in the quarter, slaloming through the Arizona State defense. Lee turned a broken end-around play into a 38-yard gain in the fourth quarter with his usual speed and grace, setting up Andre Heidari's field goal with 5:08 to play. Leonard Williams and Lamar Dawson had interceptions in the final minutes for USC, and McNeal made a 27-yard TD run with 38 seconds to play.

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