Trojans defense dominates Sun Devils
LOS ANGELES (AP)—Mark Sanchez passed for one touchdown and ran for another, and the Southern California defense dominated Arizona State in a 28-0 win Saturday.
Joe McKnight ran for a career-high 143 yards on 11 carries and Kevin Thomas returned an interception 46 yards for a touchdown for the Trojans (4-1, 2-1 Pac-10), who extended their winning streak over the Sun Devils to nine games, winning by an average of 20.1 points.
No. 8 USC is 74-9 since the beginning of the 2002 season and has won 41 of its last 42 home games.
Arizona State (2-4, 1-2), meanwhile, has scored just 44 points in losing four straight for the first time since 2003. The Sun Devils gained only 229 yards while being shut out for the first time since Oct. 30, 2004 when they lost to California 27-0.
Sanchez, whose status was in question for several days because of a bone bruise in his left knee, didn’t have one of his better days, completing 13 of 26 passes for 179 yards with three interceptions and a lost fumble—all four of which came in the third quarter. Sanchez was relieved by Mitch Mustain with 6:27 to play.
Sanchez looked just fine on USC’s first possession, passing for 61 yards before capping an eight-play, 72-yard drive with a 1-yard sneak to give the Trojans a 7-0 lead. He wasn’t very productive after that, but didn’t need to be.
The teams combined for nine turnovers—five by USC.
ASU’s Rudy Carpenter, considered doubtful all week because of a sprained left ankle, completed 11-of-20 passes for 126 yards with one interception before limping off the field for good with 8:51 left in the third period. Backup Danny Sullivan completed just 4-of-17 for 28 yards with two interceptions.
Carpenter not only made the start to extend the second-longest active starting streak for a quarterback in the country to 37 games, he completed a 39-yard pass on ASU’s first scrimmage play. But the Sun Devils failed to get another first down before having to punt.
Purdue’s Curtis Painter made his 38th consecutive start against Ohio State on Saturday.
Neither team posed a serious threat after USC’s opening drive until a 38-yard punt return by Kyle Williams gave ASU the ball at midfield early in the second quarter. Helped by a facemask penalty against Clay Matthews, the Sun Devils moved to the 21-yard line before a sack by Thomas and an illegal motion penalty pushed them out of field goal range.
The Trojans responded by moving 80 yards on seven plays for a 14-0 lead. Sanchez threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Damian Williams after hitting Patrick Turner for 22 yards and Ronald Johnson for 29.
USC scored again just 1:19 later to make it 21-0 on the interception return by Thomas, who stepped in front of wide receiver Michael Jones before sprinting untouched into the end zone for his first career TD.
The Trojans got another chance later in the second quarter when a shotgun snap went over Carpenter’s head and Fili Moala recovered at the ASU 15-yard line. But a fake field goal failed when holder Garrett Green gained 3 yards on fourth-and 4.
Stafon Johnson scored on a 2-yard run with 8:09 remaining to cap an eight-play, 92-yard drive and complete the scoring. McKnight had runs of 14, 33 and 20 yards.
The Sun Devils were unable to take advantage of Sanchez’s four third-quarter turnovers.
The first two came deep in USC territory, with Morris Wooten recovering a fumble at the 21-yard line after Dexter Davis sacked Sanchez and shook the ball loose, and Mike Nixon intercepted an attempted screen pass and returned it 4 yards to the 14.
Moala blocked field goal attempts of 29 and 48 yards by Thomas Weber to end those possessions, tying the NCAA record for field goals blocked in a quarter. Carpenter left shortly before the second blocked field goal—one play after being sacked for the third time.
Omar Bolden and Troy Nolan made interceptions in ASU territory later in the period, but ASU went three-and-out each time. USC had only two first downs and ASU one in the third period, when the team combined for 48 yards of total offense.