Arizona State has not beaten USC in its last 11 tries, but with Pac-12 South supremacy on the line Saturday you better believe they’ll be extra motivated to get a win at Sun Devil Stadium.
Does that mean they’ll be more willing to play dirty? The Trojans think so.
According to Mark Saxon of ESPN.com, Lane Kiffin has his offense absorbing cheap shots and after-the-whistle hits during practice this week.
Most of the Trojans are familiar with the ASU defense — dented by injuries, but still talented and feisty — and its playmaking linebacker, Vontaze Burfict. The Trojans view Burfict as the ringleader of a unit of cheap-shot artists. How do we know this? Well, mainly because USC is making no effort to hide it.
Vontaze Burfict is the leader of an ASU defense that likes to prod its opponents into reaction penalties.
“We have clips of these guys just mauling guys after the play,” offensive lineman Matt Kalil said. “I think the big thing is for the young guys. They’re over there getting hit after plays and they may try to fight the other guy, but they don’t realize we’re doing that in preparation. If they hit you, just walk away.”
ASU — and Burfict — have had their fair share of issues with personal foul penalties, with flags being thrown for all sorts of different reasons.
However, to hear that a team is trying to work that into their gameplan is, well, interesting.
On the flip side, it could prove to be advantageous to the Sun Devils. USC seems ready to react — and maybe even retaliate — and some players may enter the game looking for trouble, especially when it comes to Burfict.
Like some other elite linebackers, he often inhabits that hazy area between controlled violence and mayhem. He’s a YouTube sensation, but an occasional liability to his own team because of his tendency to go off script.
To USC, he’s the focal point of the Trojans’ blocking schemes as well as the object of their hostility. Burfict, contacted through an ASU spokesman, declined to be interviewed for this story.
“If I see him standing around, I’ll drill him,” Kalil said. “I drilled him a couple times last year, so I’m sure he’ll be looking for me to get a little revenge.”
Preparing for late hits and cheap shots is one thing, but expecting them? That could lead to trouble, though for which team we can’t be sure.