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September 16, 2020 | |Post a Comment

first_imgIt was a huge game — especially considering the season ended last week. After getting its College Football Playoff hopes wrecked at Notre Dame on Week 8, No. 21 USC faced Arizona State on Saturday, hoping to remain in control of at least its conference destiny. A raucous crowd roared on the Sun Devils, as ASU looked to hand the Trojans their second consecutive loss and seize control of the Pac-12 South.The night — like so many other games this season — began with a whimper at USC’s 25-yard line. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold faked a handoff to junior running back Ronald Jones II but was flushed from the pocket. Darnold danced around the backfield, hesitating to pass twice with no options open, and was pulled down to the turf for a 10-yard loss.Uchenna Nwosu records a sack for the Trojans – Katie Chin | Daily TrojanBut coming off a 49-14 drubbing in South Bend, the Trojans were in no mood for a rerun of the debacle against Notre Dame. This time, they would wind up on the right side of a 48-17 blowout.“When you’re trying to win a championship, you have to have one of these victories where you come to another team’s place in a hostile environment and be able to stay in first,” head coach Clay Helton said. “This is what these players and coaches were able to do. I’m extremely proud of them.”Darnold gave the ball to Jones 15 minutes later — in the opening seconds of the second quarter. Jones exploded through the Sun Devils’ front, then their secondary. A blink and he was across midfield, and then he was gone. Jones pulled up 67 yards later in the end zone. The extra point staked USC a 21-3 cushion. After seemingly playing all season on the back foot, the Trojans were finally dictating the tempo.“These kids … came out here, they had their jaw set and played some of their best football of the season,” Helton said.USC regathered quickly after opening the game with a sack. Darnold fired a 12-yard bullet to redshirt freshman wide receiver Tyler Vaughns to move the sticks on third down and found his redshirt freshman receiver again five plays later, firing cross-body while rolling out to his right for a 21-yard catch-and-run. Darnold went for the end zone the very next play, and he dropped a pinpoint pass into junior wideout Deontay Burnett’s outstretched arms. It was the deep shot Trojan fans have rarely seen Darnold execute this season: 32 yards to cap a nine-play, 75-yard drive. For the first time in three weeks, USC got on the board first, racing out to a 7-0 lead.The two teams traded punts after the opening score, but a blown assignment from sophomore cornerback Jack Jones gifted the Sun Devils 70 yards through the air on their second drive. ASU took advantage with a field goal to cut USC’s lead to four.But that was as close as the Sun Devils would get. After the two sides traded punts once again near the end of the first quarter, Darnold found Vaughns on a curl route, and a missed tackle from cornerback Kobe Williams allowed Vaughns to streak 42 yards to the pylon. Jones soon followed with his long touchdown run to extend the advantage even further.Tyler Vaughns stretches for a touchdown against Arizona State – Katie Chin | Daily TrojanAs USC pulled away, the Sun Devils struggled to keep their defense off the field, and Vaughns found paydirt for the second time before halftime, when Darnold forced a throw through triple-coverage to find his receiver in the back of the end zone. Vaughns finished the night with 126 receiving yards and two scores — a new career high in both categories.“Tyler has been a big part to the passing game for a while now,” Darnold said. “I think the way he works and the fact that every single play the ball is coming to him is huge. That’s a really great mentality to have as a receiver.”A successful Hail Mary from Manny Wilkins to Kyle Williams trimmed ASU’s deficit to 31-10 at halftime, and an opening-drive score in the second half brought the Sun Devils within two touchdowns. But the Trojans responded with a quickfire score of their own: Vaughns took the ball 22 yards on another big catch-and-run, and Jones ran for his second house call of the night, busting out a 64-yard scamper to re-establish USC’s three-touchdown edge. Jones gashed ASU for 216 yards over the course of the game, the majority coming on his pair of long touchdown runs.“Great offensive line play up front,” Jones said. “Receivers [were] taking away the corners and safeties for me, so [I was] just splitting it, and it comes out to a race.”The Trojan defense, coming off an undressing against the Fighting Irish, rebounded with a much more encouraging hour against the Sun Devils. Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast’s unit was stout when required, highlighted by a turnover on downs to ice the game late in the third quarter and a pick-six by redshirt sophomore safety Ykili Ross late in the fourth quarter. USC sacked Wilkins six times — three coming on a career night from junior defensive end Rasheem Green and the other three from senior linebacker Uchenna Nwosu. Despite still giving up multiple large gains, including the 70-yard blown coverage and first-half Hail Mary, ASU’s 17 points and fewer than 400 total yards were a significant improvement from the 49 points and 497 yards given up to Notre Dame.Uchenna Nwosu celebrates after a defensive play – Katie Chin | Daily Trojan“I knew we were going to play like this because it’s in our nature,” redshirt senior safety Chris Hawkins said. “To get beat down — you want to come back and show how good you can really be. I kind of knew we were going to play like this, and I demanded it from my team. As captains we demanded it from our team.”The Trojans (7-2, 5-1 Pac-12) now gear up for another titanic divisional clash against an Arizona team, as they host the Wildcats in the Coliseum next Saturday. The winner of the tilt will have a clear path to Santa Clara for the Pac-12 Championship in December, and Arizona will fancy its chances after scoring more than 40 points in each of its games this month — including a 58-37 shootout upset over No. 15 Washington State on Saturday.“I think this is our turning point, if I’m being honest,” Hawkins said. “I think we’re really going to turn it around from here and be the team we really want to be.”last_img read more

November 26, 2019 | |Post a Comment

first_imgIf Leicester’s rise to the top of English football is the most bewildering aspect of this chaotic season in the Premier League, then the implosion of Chelsea runs a close second.A 3-2 loss to Sunderland on Saturday made it official: Chelsea will end the season with the worst title defense in the 24-year history of the Premier League.The Blues can finish no higher than ninth place and could still drop as low as 11th.That’s much worse than Manchester United’s seventh-place finish under David Moyes in his woeful 10 months in charge in 2013-14, which is some achievement in itself.And there’s still one ignominy left in this sorry campaign for Chelsea: On Sunday, the team will give a guard of honor to Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri and his players when the new champions come to Stamford Bridge on the final day of the season.Ranieri was the coach fired by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich in 2004 as he chased the signature of Jose Mourinho.Chelsea started as the runaway champions from the previous season, with a squad to envy and a manager widely regarded as one of the world’s best. It’s turned into an absolute mess.There’s the Eva Carneiro saga from the opening day of the season that left the club in a bad light and will drag on into June in the courts; the firing of Mourinho in December; the fall from grace of top players like Eden Hazard, Nemanja Matic and sulky striker Diego Costa; relinquishing the league title with barely a whimper; and on Saturday, the sight of long-time captain John Terry trudging to the dressing room after being sent off late against Sunderland in what likely was his 703rd and final match for Chelsea.advertisementThe 35-year-old Terry, who has been at Chelsea since he was 14, hasn’t been offered a new deal.”Captain. Leader. Legend” reads the banner about Terry draped across one of the stands at Stamford Bridge.”We know what he has done for this club and what he has won,” Matic said of Terry. “All of us in the team wish him all the best for the future and of course this is not a good way to finish in a club.”Stamford Bridge is going to be a very different place next season. With Terry set to leave it’s unclear whether for the United States, China or another English club the last member of Chelsea’s old guard and spine (Petr Cech, Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba) disappears. Losing all that experience and winning mentality leaves a massive hole in the team.There’ll be no Champions League soccer at Chelsea for the first time since the 2002-03 season.And there’ll be another new manager in situ current Italy coach Antonio Conte.Where to start on Conte’s to-do list. Replace Terry; attempt to keep hold of Hazard; decide whether Diego Costa is worth the effort and strengthen the forward line; try to attract players to a club no longer in Europe’s elite; and assess how big a role youngsters like Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Kenedy and Bertrand Traore should have next season.If Italy reach the European Championship final on July 10, Conte will have barely a month before the new English season starts. Planning is surely underway already, but he’s still got precious little time to get his feet under the table at the club’s training base at Cobham.A huge rebuilding job appears necessary at Chelsea but will Conte get the funds from Abramovich to do so? Mourinho didn’t last year, perhaps precipitating his decline. And for Chelsea to get top stars without the lure of the Champions League, it might have to spend extra for players.With Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United also likely to be in the market for world-class players this offseason, Conte will have to be astute and could end up turning to Italian players in the transfer market. And there’s no knowing how that will turn out.The soap opera that is Chelsea Football Club has always guaranteed drama and headlines in the Abramovich era, but also a regular supply of silverware and European soccer.Maybe no more.last_img read more