Video by Jordan Spurgeon
Written by Zach Alvira
Arizona State veteran defensive back Chase Lucas was nearly overcome with emotion Saturday night.
A majority stemmed from his displeasure with claims from local media last week that the players had given up on the coaching staff. Lucas was adamant that those comments were dividing the team.
But the graduate student was also emotional because of what had just transpired on the field at Sun Devil Stadium. A year after Arizona State fell apart against USC at the Coliseum in Los Angeles, the Sun Devils got their revenge in the form of a 31-16 win.
It wasn’t a clean game by any means. But after last week’s debacle against Washington State, it was enough to make Lucas fight back tears in front of media and alongside his teammates.
“I’m trying to hold back some emotions because I know I’m not going to be able to play them again,” said Lucas, who was arguably the best defensive player on the field for the Sun Devils. “I’m glad I got the dub. As a team, we have some more things to finish, some more things to work on.
“But this is a hell of a way, a hell of a way for me to finish them.”
Arizona State’s win over the Trojans had a little bit of everything on Saturday night. It had several positives from the Sun Devil offense, which had fallen apart against the Cougars just a week ago. The defense, as it has most of the season, played about as good as it could against USC’s two-quarterback system and home-run threats.
It also had a fox who coach Herm Edwards said has lived at the stadium longer than he and his staff, and most of the media, have been around the team. The fox, which appeared on the field in the first quarter before making a harrowing escape down the southwest tunnel, became an instant hit on social media and among fans in the stadium.
— Jordan Spurgeon (@spurge_) November 7, 2021
Running Game Felt Foxy
It also proved to be a good omen for the Sun Devils. And especially for running back Rachaad White.
“You know you were in for a good time with that,” White said of the fox. “He can come back against U of A. We need him.”
Chip Trayanum found the end zone first for the Sun Devils on a 14-yard run with less than a minute remaining in the first quarter. But a fumble on the Sun Devils’ next offensive possession saw the them transition mostly to White the rest of the game.
Edwards said he simply wanted to ride the “hot hand” of White, and for good reason. White, who missed last week’s game against Washington State, provided a spark for the Arizona State offense.
After USC took the lead with a 9-yard Jaxson Dart touchdown, White took two carries for a combined 72 yards. The three-play, 75-yard drive for the Sun Devils was capped off with a 47-yard touchdown run by the redshirt-senior back.
It immediately shifted momentum back in favor of the Sun Devils, who held the Trojans to three field goals the rest of the way.
“I feel like I still didn’t do nothing,” White said. “That’s just how I think in my mind. But that’s how you gotta think so you can finish. If you feel like, ‘oh, yeah, I’m flowing’ or you feel like you’re really doing something, sometimes that can make guys complacent.”
White found the end zone twice more on the night, a 50-yard run near the midway point of the fourth quarter that was his longest all season and a 7-yarder with just over two minutes remaining that put the game out of reach.
His third and final touchdown also put him at 202 rushing yards on the night and he became just the second-ever Sun Devil running back to eclipse that mark against the Trojans. That record is held by J.R. Redmond, who rushed for 214 yards against USC in 1998.
White also became just the sixth Sun Devil to rush for over 200 yards and three touchdowns in a game. He joined an exclusive list with the likes of Redmond, current Arizona Cardinal Eno Benjamin and Delvon Flowers.
“(White) was running,” Edwards said. “He ran well, and the offensive line blocked well.”
With White having a field day on the ground, it allowed Arizona State to transition away from the passing game, which struggled. Daniels had some flashes of success, especially when targeting Bryan Thompson deep down field. But it wasn’t the type of fireworks fans had become accustomed to from Daniels and his wideouts.
He finished 11 of 20 for 145 yards but didn’t find the end zone and had two interceptions – both of which were picked off by USC safety Xavion Alford. But the defense stepped up when called upon and repeatedly forced USC into punting situations or long field goal tries.
USC, which split time between Dart and Desert Mountain alum Kedon Slovis, never found a rhythm despite racking up 312 yards of offense. Arizona State, thanks in large part to 282 rushing yards as a team, had 427.
“I think the message I sent them all week was about dealing with adversity and when it arrives at your doorstep, how do you look at it?” Edwards said. “They reacted the way I thought they would react. And in this game, I thought there was some adversity. We didn’t blink on either side of the ball.”
The win was one that the team needed after back-to-back losses coming in. It kept the Sun Devils in contention for the Pac-12 South title. Though they still need some help.
Regardless, the victory over the Trojans made the Sun Devils bowl eligible for yet another season. A victory in the eyes of Edwards. And it puts the Sun Devils on the right track heading into two-game road trip ahead against Washington and Oregon State before returning home for the Duel in the Desert against Arizona.
“The next three weeks are going to be hard,” Edwards said. “It’s going to be hard football. That’s the way it works.”