ASU Football: Rapid Reaction of Devils’ 38-35 win at USC

TEMPE, AZ - OCTOBER 28: N'Keal Harry
TEMPE, AZ - OCTOBER 28: N'Keal Harry /

ASU football left Los Angeles with a massive 38-35 win over USC for their first road win of the season, keeping their Pac-12 South hopes alive.

Arizona State finally got their elusive first road win under Herm Edwards Saturday afternoon defeating USC 38-35.

The Trojans saw their 19-game home winning streak snapped as third-string quarterback Jack Sears made his first career start with quarterbacks JT Daniels and Matt Fink out due to injuries.

Arizona State jumped out to an early 24-7 lead only to see USC scored three unanswered touchdowns, one to close the first half and two in the first five minutes of the second half.

Then, N’Keal Harry came alive and swung the momentum of the game to ASU’s side and the Sun Devils didn’t look back.

My thoughts on Saturday’s win:

1. N’Keal Harry is the best wide receiver in the country

Those who follow Arizona State on a daily basis have marveled of what N’Keal Harry has done the last couple of seasons.

With today’s game nationally televised on ABC, the country got to see his greatness up close thanks to two spectacular plays.

The first play came on a punt return. The offense had been stagnant after Wilkins left the game for a drive with an injury.

They needed a spark after USC scoring a quick 21 points.

Harry caught the punt the eight-yard line, went to the left sideline only to change directions and go all the to the right sideline.

Thanks to a couple of huge blocks, Harry was able to outrun everyone on the right sideline and take it all the way for a 92-yard touchdown putting ASU back in front.

Later, Harry made a ridiculous Odell Beckham Jr.-like catch falling backwards and snagging the ball with one hand for one of the catches of the season.

It was a standout performance on a big stage for the junior wideout showing he’s the best wide receiver in the country and why he should be a first round pick in next year’s NFL Draft.

2. The offense finally had a complete performance.

This was the most complete offensive performance for Arizona State and it couldn’t come at a better time.

We have been saying for weeks that they get one aspect of the offense going but not the other.

This week, it was different.

Arizona State centered the gameplan around establishing a running game with running back Eno Benjamin and quarterback Manny Wilkins.

Wilkins ran the ball nine times for 89 yards including a game-clinching 45-yard touchdown run on a keeper, faking the handoff to Benjamin.

At times, I’ve felt Wilkins needed to be more active in running the ball, especially on a shotgun snap next to Benjamin. Too often the handoff only goes to Benjamin making it pretty predictable for a defense to read.

That was not case Saturday with Wilkins keeping the ball numerous times, opening up running lane for the late score.

Benjamin was fantastic for the Sun Devils finishing with 29 carries, 185 yards and two touchdowns.

It was a productive passing game as well for Wilkins who threw for 166 yards and one touchdown.

All in all, this is the offensive performance many have been clamoring for.

3. The defense played well against a first-time starter.

Don’t let the final numbers fool you, the defense had a great game.

They virtually shut down the USC offense for the first half not allowing a score until there was 13 seconds left in the second quarter.

After USC drew first blood on a punt return touchdown of their own, linebacker Jalen Harvey forced a fumble on the first offensive possession of the game for the Trojans.

That led to an Arizona State touchdown and immediately taking back momentum as ASU took a 14-7 lead.

Freshman linebacker Darien Butler had his best game of the season finishing with a team-high eight tackles and a fumble recovery.

Arizona State finished with five tackles for loss as the defense shut out USC from the 10:24 mark of the third quarter to 0:35 mark of the fourth quarter when it was ultimately too little, too late for USC.

Arguably, the biggest play of the game was Arizona State stopping USC on a 4th-and-1 from the ASU 20 with 10:16 remaining after Trojans head coach Clay Helton called timeout taking the field goal unit off the game.

Linebacker Merlin Robertson was the one who made the tackle wrapping up tailback Aca’Cedric Ware short of the line-to-gain after it looked like he was going to break the tackle.

The defense made the plays when they had to.

4. Pac-12 South hopes are still there for Arizona State.

If Arizona State had lost Saturday, they would have been eliminated from Pac-12 South contention.

With the win, Arizona State can pull into a tie for first place next week when they host the divisional leaders, the 23rd-ranked Utah Utes, who routed UCLA Friday night.

I think everyone would have taken ASU being in the divisional race in November under first-year head coach Herm Edwards.

The win also creates a much more manageable path to bowl eligibility.

Arizona State needs to win just half of their games with Utah, UCLA, Oregon and Arizona left on the schedule.

The next two games are at Sun Devil Stadium where ASU is 3-1 this season. Next week’s game against Utah will be a tough one, but UCLA and Arizona look like winnable games, even though you can never count out Arizona in a rivalry game.

Next. ASU Football: Halftime analysis as Sun Devils lead 24-14. dark

It’s going to be a nail-biting final month for Sun Devil fans.