Matt Barkley converted 26-of-37 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns for the Trojans (6-3, 3-3 Pac-10) as they won for the second time in the last three outings. However, Barkley made things tough on himself and the Trojans as he suffered two interceptions and was sacked four times.
The Sun Devils (4-5, 2-4), losers of two of their last three, were led by Steven Threet who converted 24-of-40 passes for 228 yards and three scores, but like Barkley he too was picked off two times and taken down for four sacks.
The only scoring of the first quarter came courtesy of Threet who drove ASU 72 yards in just four plays, capped by a 10-yard TD pass to Gerell Robinson.
Barkley responded by tossing touchdown passes of 15 and two yards to Marc Tyler and David Ausberry, respectively, to make the score 14-7 in favor of the hosts heading into the break.
In the third quarter USC’s Malcolm Smith intercepted a pass and returned it 74 yards for a touchdown to lift the Trojans to a commanding 22-7 advantage after the squad succeeded on a two-point conversion.
Threet and Robinson matched up again midway through the third frame, this time on a 21-yard effort, but less than three minutes later Barkley again rebounded for the Trojans with a 22-yard TD pass to Stanley Havili to make the score 29-14.
The ensuing kickoff saw LeQuan Lewis race the length of the field, 100 yards, to draw the Sun Devils back to within eight points at 29-21.
ASU’s defense stepped up and pressured Barkley as Omar Bolden picked off a pass and brought it back 66 yards for the score, but in an attempt to tie the game at 29-29 the Sun Devils tried and failed on a two-point conversion, leaving them with a two-point deficit at 29-27.
With 6:59 remaining in the fourth, Threet hooked up with Jamal Miles on a nine-yard TD pass, but for whatever reason the Sun Devils opted to try for the PAT instead of going for another two-point conversion. The kicked ended up being blocked and returned the other way by Torin Harris for two points, which meant the Trojans were still within striking distance at 33-31.
Houston’s successful field goal made up for his two misses early in the contest.
USC managed to control the ball for almost 37 minutes, despite converting just 4-of-15 on third down.