The duel in the desert. Maybe you can call it Black Out, Part II. Maybe it was more of a Maroon Out. Either way, the Arizona State Sun Devils solidified themselves as a legitimate Pac-12 South contender, beating the USC Trojans for the first time since 1999.
12 years in the making, the game turned into a swirling landfill early, as a dust storm brought towering winds and lots of trash into the air. Plastic bags, napkins, you name it.
A symbolic, devastating twist to a sub-par night for the Trojans. Blown around in the dirt and heat. Nothing like a game-time temperature of 98 degrees in late September.
Just when the Sun Devils were looking at a blowout, holding a 21-9 lead at the half, Matt Barkley led the Trojans on three consecutive drives to take their first lead of the game, 22-21.
The Trojans struggled. They were abominable. Yet they were resilient. Yet when reaching the highest peak, they were blown down into the abyss of Sun Devil Stadium.
So maybe a dozen years is a long time, but complacency with a one-point lead is definitely an understatement.
“It’s great for this football team, their resilience,” said Sun Devils head coach Dennis Erickson. “We just weren’t going to lose.”
Or maybe it was the Trojans’ lack of resilience which had many believing the Trojans were simply not going to win.
Poor discipline, a lack of offensive leadership, and turnovers late in drives; the Trojans appeared to accept defeat less than three quarters in.
Late in the third quarter, running back Marc Tyler fumbled. Again in the fourth, Barkley fumbled. The Trojans’ four turnovers resulted in as many points for the Sun Devils (22) as points scored by the Trojans (22).
Then in either desperation or plain idiocy, Barkley lofted a ball up for grabs, only to have the Sun Devils’ Shelley Lyons return it 41 yards to wrap up the Trojans’ first defeat to the Sun Devils since the last millennium, and first defeat in Tempe since 1997.
The Sun Devils were always notorious for their lack of discipline and recklessness out on the field. Well, Trojans safety T.J. McDonals committed two personal fouls for unnecessary roughness less than 20 minutes apart.
Who has the lack of discipline now?
And when you’re not eligible for a bowl game, officially, yet unofficially winning the Pac-12 might make a statement that USC football is relevant again.
Instead, an ugly loss. But then again. Playing Minnesota, Utah and Syracuse to start your season isn’t much of a 3-0 start. Yes, the Golden Gophers lost on Saturday at home to FCS-North Dakota State.
Let the Black Out commence! Because one sack and dust storm later, Barkley and crew were stuck in a dark abyss.
“We’re 3-1, the season’s not over,” Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin said. “A lot of teams would like to be 3-1.”
But the season is over. It’s been over ever since every Saturday game turned into a bowl game for the program.