The No. 5 USC Trojans survived an upset scare by the Arizona State Sun Devils behind a strong performance from quarterback Caleb Williams to pull out a 42-28 win. While the Trojans were heavily favored, the gritty underdogs from Tempe, Arizona, put up a tough fight that kept fans at the edge of their seats the entire game.
USC’s head coach, Lincoln Riley, acknowledged the team’s late-game resurgence, underlining the significance of finishing strong. He remarked, “I thought we stepped up in a tough environment there at the very end and played our best ball in the fourth quarter, which is what you’ve got to do.”
Despite the Trojans’ lofty status, their offense experienced intermittent struggles, grappling with a tenacious Sun Devil defense. Untimely penalties and a fumble in their own territory threatened to derail USC’s unblemished record. However, the Trojans found a way to persevere, largely thanks to the heroics of their quarterback, Caleb Williams.
Williams, who accumulated 322 passing yards and contributed to five touchdowns, exhibited exceptional poise and playmaking abilities when it mattered most. He connected with his targets in pivotal moments, including a game-changing 29-yard touchdown pass to Brenden Rice, propelling USC to a pivotal 35-21 lead.
Nevertheless, the Arizona State Sun Devils, led by head coach Kenny Dillingham, refused to fade into the background. Despite a challenging start to their season, they unveiled an arsenal of trick plays to keep pace with the high-octane Trojans. Dillingham emphasized the growth and camaraderie within the team, stating, “I think our brotherhood is growing. I think players are feeding off each other more. I think the belief in the vision is still rising, the belief in the process is still rising, and those are the things that excite me.”
Cam Skattebo, a standout for the Sun Devils, emerged as a formidable force. He made significant contributions both on the ground and in the air, amassing 111 rushing yards, 79 receiving yards, and 42 passing yards. Skattebo’s multifaceted performance included a mesmerizing 52-yard touchdown reception, narrowing the gap to 35-28 in the fourth quarter.
Skattebo’s dual-threat capabilities conjured memories of Xazavian Valladay’s similar feat in 2022. The Sun Devils’ running back showcased his versatility with both rushing and receiving touchdowns in the same game, a remarkable accomplishment.
In a game characterized by momentum shifts and clutch plays, the Sun Devils demonstrated their mettle on the defensive front. They thwarted the Trojan offense during critical junctures, forcing turnovers and restricting their scoring opportunities.
The Sun Devil faithful turned out in full force, infusing Mountain America Stadium with an electrifying atmosphere. Coach Dillingham lauded the fan support, proclaiming, “This was activating the valley, to see all the fans in the stands like that, to see the Valley like that, that’s what we need every game.”
Despite their valiant effort, the Sun Devils ultimately fell short. Nevertheless, they provided a tantalizing glimpse of their potential and resilience. The game culminated with USC emerging as the victors, but not without undergoing a grueling battle.
USC now shifts its focus to the upcoming showdown against No. 19 Colorado, determined to maintain their unblemished record. Meanwhile, the Arizona State Sun Devils hit the road for a confrontation with California, eager to build on the positives garnered from this exhilarating encounter.
All photos Kevin C. Cox, Maximum Exposure for CORE360 Sports