USU went into the Coliseum with plenty of hope that this could finally be the year they beat a big name team on the road. They left with broken hearts, and worse. Not only was the loss a blowout, but several key players went down with injuries, players that they can ill afford to lose.
The game started off on a decent note, with the defense forcing a quick punt while getting into the Trojans' heads so much that one USC offensive lineman lost his composure completely and threw a punch at a ref; he was, of course, ejected. The Aggies offense, however, could not get anything going either, and were forced to a quick 3-and-out.
Disaster struck on the ensuing punt, as a blocker thought the kick was quicker in coming, and decided not to block someone running straight at the punter; the kick was blocked, and the Trojans recovered at the five yard line. The defense held the Trojans on their first two attempts, but a quick strike on 3rd down gave USC their first touchdown of the season.
It's worth noting that USC's embarrassing loss to Alabama last week was probably the worst possible thing that could have happened, from the Aggies perspective. USC came into this game hungry, focused, and determined to let nothing get by them. It worked. The Aggies defense matched their fire for one drive, but couldn't hold up, and eventually buckled.
There were positives; USU didn't give up any big plays. No run went for 15 yards, and only one pass went for 20. The containment was decent, but the coverage was loose. Unfortunately, USC was able to consistently pick up 5 to 10 yards at a time when they needed to, and had no trouble marching downfield at will. The Aggies seemed pumped up, but undisciplined, and at times reckless.
Special teams play was a nightmare for the Aggies as well. They missed their only field goal attempt, a 37 yarder that went just wide. They had the blocked punt that basically handed USC the TD. They had a punt returned for a TD on sloppy coverage in the 3rd quarter.
The offense was ineffective all day long. They couldn't get anything going all day. Kent Myers looked far from his usual form, missing easy throws, forcing things that weren't there, and generally just appearing frazzled. He started to look a little more in control in the 3rd quarter when the Aggies had one pretty drive, and nearly had another, but overall there just wasn't much to be positive about. Myers' stats weren't as bad as the game looked, as he went 25 of 37 for 204 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT, but the actual game film shows a different story.
The same is true of the Aggie rushing attack, which came into this game with inflated expectations after running all over a weak Weber St. squad last week. As a team, they rushed 26 times for only 49 yards. Kent Myers had negative yards after taking a couple sacks and tackles for loss on QB keeper plays. Devante Mays rushed 8 times for 24 yards before taking a helmet to the thigh in the 2nd quarter. He watched the rest of the game on crutches.
Other injuries for the Aggies included senior CB Daniel Gray, who laid a huge hit on a USC receiver; the play resulted in a big loss, but Gray hit his neck at a strange angle (he didn't lead with his head, but the hit was big enough that, while hitting with his shoulder, his neck got bent in the process), and was carried off the field on a stretcher. He was moving his arms, grabbing teammates' hands and waving a little as he was carried off, so hopefully it was just a stinger that he'll be able to recover from quickly. Dallin Leavitt also took a couple plays off after a big hit left him winded. He was blindsided by a USC receiver, and took a couple minutes to stand up. He returned later in the game, and seemed to pick up where he left off, delivering punishing hits the rest of the day.
The game was slightly closer than it looked... the teams were probably only three touchdowns apart, instead of five plus, small consolation that that may be. Despite small positives here and there, there just was not much good to say about this game. Hopefully those who were injured will come back quickly. Hopefully we'll come back from this game like USC came back from their game against ‘Bama. Hopefully this was all just a bad dream that we'll wake up from in time for kickoff.
Up next for the Aggies is Homecoming Week, as they host the Arkansas St. Red Wolves. ASU beat the Aggies in Arkansas a couple years ago in an overtime thriller. USU will look to get some momentum back, along with some healthy payback in the process.