The 5: Todd Graham’s history against the USC Trojans
Rivals? Maybe not.
Collaborators of awesomely entertaining games and storylines in and around said games? Of late, absolutely.
As the Arizona State Sun Devils prepare to take on the USC Trojans for the sixth time in head coach Todd Graham’s tenure, it’s important to relive the amazing moments and season-altering outcomes — for both teams — from his five previous matchups against the Pac-12 South foe.
2012: Not so pretty
Arizona State tallied just 250 total yards, the second-fewest in Graham’s 72 games as the Sun Devils’ coach to this point, and a Lane Kiffin-led USC squad that was ranked 19th in the nation rolled to a 38-17 victory.
Each team threw three picks, but USC quarterback Matt Barkley bested ASU’s Taylor Kelly by throwing for 222 yards — 161 of which were to wideout Marquise Lee — and three touchdowns. Curtis McNeal rushed for 163 yards on 31 carries as USC’s ground attack piled up 225 yards on 5.2 yards per tote.
Meanwhile, the Sun Devils’ attack comprised of Kelly, dual-threat quarterback Michael Eubank and running backs Cameron Marshall, Marion Grice and a freshman named D.J. Foster only accounted for 2.0 yards per carry.
2013: Prelude to a tarmac firing
This is where the recent matchup with the Trojans gets fun … for the Sun Devils.
Kelly rebounded from his performance a year prior, completing 23-of-34 passes for 351 yards, three touchdowns and a pick. And while USC piled up 247 rush yards with Tre Madden and Justin Davis breaking 100 yards each, ASU countered with 261 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns thanks to Kelly’s 79 yards and another 177 between the trio of Deantre Lewis, Grice and Foster.
The final score: 62-41.
ASU had put up 612 yards to 542 for USC, and that didn’t sit well with Trojans athletic director Pat Haden, who upon the team’s return to Los Angeles canned Kiffin on the airport tarmac (OK, it was 20 feet off of it). Since, Kiffin has not found the Valley as a place filled with great memories.
2014: You know the name
Following Kelly’s foot injury two games prior and coming off a 62-27 thumping against No. 11 UCLA, Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici approached his second start with optimism. He’d thrown for 488 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions a week prior and needed a better performance against No. 16 USC.
Arizona State got that and more.
Trailing by two with time running out, Bercovici launched a Hail Mary just short of the end zone, and among a pack of Trojan defenders, Jaelen Strong swooped in to make the 46-yard catch and give the Sun Devils a 38-34 win.
ASU had survived a night in which USC won the rushing battle 220-31. Bercovici’s performance of 510 passing yards and five touchdowns to no picks had a lot to do with it. Strong closed with 202 receiving yards and three scores in the upset.
2015: Prelude to a firing, Part II
It wasn’t much of a game.
Ranked 19th, the Trojans jumped out to a 35-0 halftime lead en route to a 42-14 win. The Trojans’ quarterback, Cody Kessler, threw for 375 yards and five scores with a pick. Bercovici went 23-of-44 for 272 yards and an interception.
For ASU, the only positive out of the evening was Demario Richard’s 14 carries for 131 yards and the two scores in the Sept. 26 loss.
But the real story of this one game didn’t become public until weeks later.
Reports surfaced that USC assistants believed head coach Steve Sarkisian was not sober during the game. On top of a speech at a USC pep rally and donor event that he gave while intoxicated, it was a red flag that led to Sarkisian’s departure.
2016: Going the wrong direction
Arizona State started 4-0.
USC started 1-3.
The Trojans’ 41-20 win would be the turning point for each. ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins went down with a foot injury, leading to Brady White’s debut. They combined for 228 yards on 19-of-37 passing.
USC freshman quarterback Sam Darnold’s second career start saw him go 23-of-33 for 352 yards, three touchdowns and no picks.
While ASU would go on to lose seven of its last eight games to end the year with a 5-7 record, USC would win its final nine — including a Rose Bowl win over Penn State — to close with 10 wins.