Defense is difference-maker for USC
LOS ANGELES – A convincing victory was of little consolation to Southern California quarterback Mark Sanchez, who reacted as if he was on the losing side.
Perhaps he might have been had it not been for the Trojans’ dominating defense.
Sanchez passed for one touchdown and ran for another, and No. 8 USC overcame five turnovers and nine penalties to beat Arizona State 28-0 on Saturday for its ninth straight victory over the Sun Devils. The Trojans have won those nine games by an average of 20.1 points.
“It was a tough outing for me and the offense as a whole,” Sanchez said. “I think that we beat ourselves. We didn’t see anything that we weren’t prepared for. We just didn’t execute the way we would have liked.”
Joe McKnight ran for a career-high 143 yards on 11 carries and Kevin Thomas returned an interception 46 yards for a touchdown for the Trojans (4-1, 2-1 Pac-10), who are 74-9 since the beginning of the 2002 season and have won 41 of their last 42 home games.
Sanchez, whose status was in question for several days because of a bone bruise in his left knee, didn’t have one of his better days, completing 13 of 26 passes for 179 yards with three interceptions and a lost fumble – those turnovers coming on four consecutive possessions in the third quarter. He was relieved by Mitch Mustain with 6:27 to play.
“This game was absolutely about our defense,” USC coach Pete Carroll said. “Time and again as the offense made their mistakes, the defense wouldn’t have it. This defense is playing incredible minus the penalties. We could have easily been beaten today with some of those mistakes.
“Clearly, Mark was struggling today. He wasn’t at his best, but to tell you the truth, we were surprised he played. He continues being a hero out there the way he steps up.”
Arizona State (2-4, 1-2), meanwhile, has scored just 44 points in losing four straight for the first time since 2003. The Sun Devils gained only 229 yards and committed four turnovers.
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