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Saturday's Top 25: No. 20 USC rallies from 13 down late, stuns Arizona State

Greg Beacham
Associated Press

Los Angeles — Drake London caught a 21-yard touchdown pass with 1:20 to play, and No. 20 Southern California rallied from a late 13-point deficit for a 28-27 victory over Arizona State on Saturday in the Pac-12’s long-delayed season opener.

Bru McCoy caught a deflected 26-yard TD pass with 2:52 left for the Trojans (1-0), and McCoy then recovered the ensuing onside kick as well. On fourth and 9, Kedon Slovis fired a pass down the middle to London, and the two-sport athlete beat double coverage to haul it in for an electrifying score.

Southern California wide receiver Drake London (15) catches a pass in the end zone for a touchdown as Arizona State defensive back Kejuan Markham (12) and linebacker Kyle Soelle (34) defend during the second half.

USC’s defense then stopped Arizona State (0-1) on downs near midfield with 50 seconds left to preserve an astonishing comeback for perpetually embattled coach Clay Helton’s team.

“Well, it reminds you of 2020, doesn’t it?” Helton said. “A year of adversity and finding a way to overcome hard situations. I’m proud of our football team. We made it.”

Until their rally, the Trojans were struggling for poise and precision in a game that began at 9 a.m. USC agreed to its earliest kickoff in at least 70 years for a national television audience, but it looked like another embarrassment for Helton and his Trojans — before it abruptly turned into a thrilling triumph.

USC racked up 556 yards of offense and outgained the Sun Devils by 164 yards, but the Trojans were nearly finished because they committed three turnovers and turned the ball over on downs two more times — all inside ASU territory.

Slovis passed for 381 yards for USC, while Stephen Carr and Markese Stepp made scoring runs in the first half. London also caught eight passes for 125 yards, none bigger than his winning TD reception.

“That play was a play we run all the time,” Slovis said. “There was three steps and a hitch ball, and Drake did the rest for me.”

Freshman DeaMonte Trayanum rushed for 87 yards and two touchdowns, while Rachaad White had a 55-yard TD reception in a similarly strong debut for the Sun Devils, who got agonizingly close to an impressive road win for coach Herm Edwards and new offensive coordinator Zak Hill.

“The thing I’ve learned about college football, they can score at any moment,” Edwards said. “We had an opportunity defensively to get off the field a couple of times, ad we didn’t do it. We gave their offense life, and they were able to make the plays. I just think we’re going to grow from this, put it behind us and get ready to play next week.”

Jayden Daniels passed for 134 yards and ran for 111 more, but the Sun Devils’ star quarterback threw four straight incompletions to end their last-ditch drive.

New Arizona State co-defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis also was on the verge of a resilient debut before the Trojans broke through.

“I don’t think we were out of gas,” Arizona State safety Evan Fields said. “We’ve just got to do a better job having mental toughness. That’s what it comes down to. Our focus, we can’t let it tire.”

The USC defense had a decent start under new coordinator Todd Orlando, but the Sun Devils showed a knack for big plays like White’s exceptional run to score on an ordinary screen pass in the second quarter.

USC trailed 17-14 at halftime despite outgaining the Sun Devils. The Trojans lost a fumble at the goal line by Vavae Malepeai and later got stopped on downs near midfield. Slovis then threw an interception with the Trojans in field-goal range right before the break.

Trayanum’s second TD run from 17 yards out put the Sun Devils up 24-14 midway through the third quarter.

Arizona State’s defense had its biggest moment shortly afterward, stopping two running plays for no gain by the Trojans from the Sun Devils 6 for a turnover on downs.

Stepp also fumbled on fourth down at the ASU 23 with 6:04 to play, but the Trojans’ offense finally caught a break when McCoy made his first career TD catch when a contested pass deflected straight to him in the end zone.

More Top 25

(At) No. 8 Florida 44, No. 5 Georgia 28: Kyle Trask had another four-touchdown night, becoming the first quarterback in Southeastern Conference history to accomplish the feat in five consecutive games, and Florida beat undermanned Georgia.

The Gators (4-1) ended a three-game losing streak in the rivalry known as the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” – it was coach Dan Mullen’s most significant victory in three years in Gainesville – and have a stranglehold on the SEC’s East Division.

The Bulldogs (4-2), were likely eliminated from College Football Playoff consideration and probably have a quarterback competition moving forward.

Florida, meanwhile, has a Heisman Trophy contender.

Trask completed 30 of 43 passes for a career-high 474 yards – 8 yards shy of Tim Tebow’s single-game school record – despite playing much of the night without standout tight end Kyle Pitts.

(At) No. 6 Cincinnati 38, Houston 10: Gerrid Doaks rushed for a career-high 184 yards and one touchdown, Desmond Ridder ran for three scores and threw for another and Cincinnati rolled past Houston.

The Bearcats (6-0, 4-0 American Athletic Conference) extended their school-record home winning streak to 18 games.

Doaks ran for the most yards by a Bearcats player since Mike Boone had 212 in 2014 against South Florida.

Ridder rushed for 103 yards and threw for 162. He has accounted for 13 touchdowns (eight running, five passing) in the past three games.

Doaks found a huge hole on a third-and-1 play in the first quarter and raced 72 yards, setting up his 2-yard touchdown run two plays later.

Houston dropped to 2-3 overall and 2-2 in the AAC.

No. 7 Texas A&M 48, South Carolina 3: Kellen Mond threw four touchdown passes to become Texas A&M’s career leader, Isaiah Spiller ran for 131 yards and the Aggies routed South Carolina.

Mond moved past Jerrod Jefferson with the 68th touchdown pass of his career, a 52-yarder to Devon Achane in the third quarter with the game long decided.

Mond also ran for a score to help Texas A&M improve to 5-1 – all in the Southeastern Conference – for its best start since opening 6-0 in 2016. The Aggies are 7-0 against the Gamecocks.

Mond and Spiller helped the Aggies open a 21-0 halftime lead and cruise to their fourth consecutive victory since a loss at Alabama last month.

Spiller had two short pickups for first downs – one on a fourth-and-1 with Texas A&M in chip-shot field goal range – before Mond flipped a 4-yard TD pass to Ainias Smith.

South Carolina (2-4), coming off an off week, had no answer.

(At) No. 12 Oregon 35, Stanford 14: Tyler Shough picked up where Justin Herbert left off, throwing for 227 yards and a touchdown and running for another score to lead Oregon past short-handed Stanford in the opener for both teams.

Stanford was hurt before game even kicked off when it was announced that starting quarterback Davis Mills was unavailable. Receiver Connor Wedington and defensive end Trey LaBounty were also listed as unavailable because of COVID-19 testing results and contact tracing protocols. Stanford did not specify whether the players had tested positive, but Wedington said on Twitter that he tested negative.

Shough completed 17 of 26 passes with one interception, and ran for 85 yards, as he assumed the starter’s role now that Herbert has moved on to the NFL. With Herbert at quarterback, Oregon went 12-2 last season and won the Rose Bowl over Wisconsin. CJ Verdell ran for 105 yards and a score for Oregon, which won its 11th straight game at Autzen Stadium, the seventh longest active streak in the nation.

No. 14 Oklahoma State 20, (at) Kansas State 18: Jason Taylor II returned a fumble 85 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, and Oklahoma State stopped Kansas State’s 2-point try that would have tied it with 2:08 to go.

The Cowboys’ Spencer Sanders was held to just 108 yards passing without dynamic wide receiver Tylan Wallace and with running back Chuba Hubbard slowed by an injury. LD Brown helped to pick up the load, running 15 times for 110 yards, as Oklahoma State (5-1, 4-1 Big 12) leaned on its defense to bounce back from an overtime loss to Texas.

The Wildcats (4-3, 4-2) were forced to try for a 2-point conversion after Will Howard’s short TD run because of their odd decision to attempt a 2-point try to stretch a 12-0 lead in the first half. Howard was incomplete on that one, and he never got a pass off on the second – he fumbled the ball as the pocket collapsed around him.

Oklahoma State guided the ensuing onside kick out of bounds and ran some time off the clock before punting it back to the Wildcats, but Howard immediately threw an interception with 1:47 to go to seal their fate.

Howard finished with 143 yards passing and a touchdown and 125 yards rushing and another score.

(At) No. 15 Coastal Carolina 23, South Alabama 6: Grayson McCall threw for 203 yards and a score, Massimo Biscardi had three field goals and Coastal Carolina improved to 7-0.

McCall completed 16 of 23 passes including a 9-yard scoring pass to C.J. Marable as the Chanticleers (5-0 Sun Belt) outgained the Jaguars (3-4, 2-2) by more than 100 yards and the defense recorded recorded five sacks.

(At) No. 16 Marshall 51, Massachusetts10: Grant Wells threw three touchdown passes, Brenden Knox ran for two scores and Marshall pummeled Massachusetts.

The game was added to Marshall’s schedule last month after several other opponents had previously pulled out due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Marshall (6-0) continued to produce a season-long balance on offense that keeps opponents guessing. Knox scored on first-quarter runs of 45 and 14 yards and got nearly all of his 118 yards in the first half. It was his fifth straight game over 100 yards.

Massachusetts (0-2), in its fourth season as a Bowl Subdivision independent, has 22 true or redshirt freshmen on its depth chart.

(At) No. 17 Iowa State 38, Baylor 31: Brock Purdy threw three touchdown passes in the second half after throwing three interceptions in the first, and Iowa State rallied to beat Baylor.

The Cyclones (5-2) are 5-1 in conference play for the first time in the program’s 128-year history and are first in the Big 12 by a half-game.

Breece Hall went over 100 yards rushing for the seventh straight game, finishing with 133 and two touchdowns. He also caught a TD pass. The Cyclones won for the first time since 2012 when committing four turnovers. Baylor (1-4, 1-4) scored its first 24 points off Iowa State turnovers, the last coming when Greg Eisworth muffed a punt.

Iowa State linebacker Mike Rose sealed the victory when he intercepted Charlie Brewer’s pass in the end zone with 57 seconds left.

No. 18 SMU 47, (at) Temple 23: Shane Buechele threw four touchdown passes, two to Tyler Page, and SMU broke away from undermanned Temple.

The game was pushed back from its original Thursday date while Temple dealt with virus-related issues. The Owls were missing 15 players who were in COVID-19 protocol.

SMU led 20-16 before Buechele connected with Kylen Granson on a 24-yard TD pass on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Mustangs (7-1, 4-1 American Athletic Conference) scored four touchdowns in the first 71/2 minutes of the period. Temple (1-4, 1-4) scored on the first play of the game, with wide receiver Randle Jones going 75 yards on a screen pass from Trad Beatty.

(At) No. 19 Oklahoma 62, Kansas 9: Rhamondre Stevenson ran for 104 yards and two touchdowns and Oklahoma routed winless Kansas.

Stevenson, in his second game back from a suspension, also caught four passes for 60 yards.

Spencer Rattler passed for 212 yards and a touchdown and ran for a score to help the Sooners (5-2, 4-2 Big 12) win their fourth straight game. It was Oklahoma’s 22nd consecutive November win dating to 2014.

The Sooners got a scare when Rattler left the game briefly in the second quarter with what appeared to be an injury to his left hip. He ran for a touchdown and took a hard shot right after he crossed the goal line. Rattler returned and played much of the third quarter.

Jalon Daniels completed 11 of 31 passes for 115 yards for the Jayhawks (0-7, 0-6).

(At) No. 22 Texas 17, West Virginia 13: Texas stopped West Virginia on fourth-down passes into the end zone twice in the fourth quarter, enabling the Longhorns to escape.

Texas (5-2, 4-2 Big 12) overcame an offense that produced nearly 100 yards and 27 points fewer than its average.

Sam Ehlinger, typically the Longhorns’ offensive star, completed just 15 of 31 passes for 184 yards, but he connected with Brennan Eagles for a 7-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and with Jake Smith for a 33-yard TD strike in the third. Freshman Bijan Robinson rushed for 113 yards on 12 carries for Texas.

Jarret Doege was 35 of 50 for 317 yards for West Virginia (4-3, 3-3).

No. 25 Liberty 38, (at) Virginia Tech 35: Alex Barbir hit a career-long 51-yard field goal with a second left to lift Liberty past Virginia Tech.

The Flames rallied from a 20-14 halftime deficit to move to 7-0 for the first time in program history.

Barbir had a 59-yard attempt blocked with 8 seconds left, and Virginia Tech’s Jermaine Waller returned it to the end zone for what appeared to be the winning score for the Hokies (4-3). But officials ruled Virginia Tech called a timeout before the attempt.

Liberty went for it on fourth-and-6 from the 41. Malik Willis found CJ Yarbrough for an 8-yard gain at the Virginia Tech 33 with 5 seconds left, allowing Barbir to come out for the 51-yarder.