McNeal lifts USC over Arizona State
Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) - Curtis McNeal scored twice in the third quarter to lead 21st-ranked Southern California to a 38-17 win over Arizona State.
Matt Barkley passed for 222 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions as he went 20-for-33 for the Trojans (7-3, 5-3 Pac-12), who snapped a two-game slide.
McNeal finished the game with 31 carries for 163 yards and two touchdowns and also had a 22-yard touchdown catch in the win.
USC sits one-half game back of UCLA for the top spot in the South Division of the Pac-12 after the Bruins downed Washington State on Saturday. UCLA will host USC next Saturday.
"We did make sure that everybody knew where we were at, what was at stake," USC coach Lane Kiffin said. "Really, we were in a two-game playoff for the Pac-12 South. We know what our standards are, so we understood what we had to do."
Taylor Kelly went 19-for-30 with 174 yards and a touchdown, but was picked off three times for the Sun Devils (5-5, 3-4), who have dropped their past four games.
"The defense gave us an opportunity, but the offense has got to pick it up," Arizona State offensive lineman Evan Finkenberg said. "I think it's just personal pride. We've got a lot of seniors on this team and we want to send them out the right way."
ASU took a three-point lead on its first touch of the third quarter as Jon Mora hit a 28-yard field goal for a 17-14 advantage. The score was set up when Barkley was intercepted by Carl Bradford on the first play of the half.
USC got the ball back near midfield after a poor kickoff and McNeal took over. He carried the ball five times for 36 yards and the fifth carry saw him find the end zone from five yards out for a 21-17 lead with 8:49 to play in the third.
Arizona State went for it on a 4th-and-1 at the USC 39, but Kelly was sacked for nine yards and the Trojans again took over with excellent field position.
The team covered the 52 yards in nine plays with McNeal taking it into the end zone on a 22-yard catch from Barkley for a 28-17 lead with just 19 seconds left in the third.
An Andre Heidari 26-yard field goal gave the Trojans a 31-17 lead with 5:08 to play.
A series of three turnovers occurred over four snaps with Lamar Dawson capping the mistakes with a pickoff of Kelly. That saw the team put the game away with a 27-yard TD run by McNeal.
Arizona State's second possession of the game was a successful one as Kelly hit Chris Coyle for a 34-yard score for a 7-0 lead with 10:51 left in the first quarter.
The score stayed that way until late in the first quarter when USC started with the ball at it's own 20. On the first play, Barkley hit Marqise Lee with a pass and he raced down the left sideline for an 80-yard score.
The Sun Devils took the lead thanks to the defense in the second quarter as Alden Darby picked off a Barkley pass and raced into the end zone on a 70-yard score for a 14-7 lead with 11:15 left in the first half.
USC, though, was able to tie the game late in the frame when Barkley and Xavier Grimble got together on a 4-yard score with 35 seconds to play.
Arizona State hosts Washington State next week ... USC holds a 19-10 lead in the series ... USC finished the game with 225 yards on the ground while ASU had 71 ... Lee finished the game with 10 catches for 161 yards.
11/11 03:07:42 ET