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College football: Much-needed rebound

USC ends its two-game skid with win over ASU

Posted: November 11, 2012 10:42 p.m.
Updated: November 11, 2012 10:42 p.m.

USC quarterback Matt Barkley (7) looks to pass against Arizona State on Saturday in Los Angeles.

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Marqise Lee showed up in coach Lane Kiffin’s office 45 minutes before kickoff with swollen cheeks and irritated eyes from an allergic reaction.

Between the star receiver’s overinflated face and last week’s underinflated footballs, Southern California desperately needed a pressure-releasing victory.

With Lee’s brilliance and a pumped-up defensive performance, the Trojans got it.

Lee caught 10 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown, Curtis McNeal rushed for 163 yards and two more scores, and No. 21 USC bounced back from consecutive losses with a 38-17 victory over skidding Arizona State on Saturday.

Matt Barkley threw for 222 yards and three TDs while becoming the leading passer in conference history for the Trojans (7-3, 5-3 Pac-12), who overcame a slow start and five turnovers with 24 consecutive points in the second half. USC hasn’t lost three straight since 2001, former coach Pete Carroll’s first season.

“We knew we needed that,” said Barkley, who passed Carson Palmer for his latest record despite also throwing three interceptions. “The defense was playing well, and after we made some adjustments, we shut them down. That’s really what we needed.”

USC yielded a school-record 730 yards to No. 2 Oregon in a 62-51 loss last Saturday and endured a midweek distraction when a student manager was fired for underinflating footballs on the Ducks’ sideline. The Trojans needed to clear the air and get a boost of confidence before finishing the regular season against No. 17 UCLA and No. 4 Notre Dame.

Kiffin emphasized the bright side of the Trojans’ woes this week: With two more Pac-12 wins, they could earn the South division crown and a spot in the title game. After rallying past Arizona State, only the crosstown Bruins are in their way.

“We did make sure that everybody knew where we were at, what was at stake,” 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.”

After getting a few boos on the way to the locker room at halftime, the Trojans blew past Arizona State, outgaining the Sun Devils 447-250. What’s more, the FBS’ most-penalized team was flagged just four times for 30 yards.

Lee caught an 80-yard TD pass and rushed for 66 yards during the seventh 10-catch day of his spectacular sophomore season — and he even lined up at safety briefly in another do-it-all performance. He wasn’t sure if he’d play at all when he woke up with a swollen face, a product of periodic allergic reactions he can’t explain.

 

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