TEMPE, Ariz. — The turnovers, floundering rushing attack and overmatched defense were afterthoughts for USC on Saturday night.
It faced few problems at Arizona State.
The Trojans, who looked woeful a week earlier in their second-worst loss ever to longtime rival Notre Dame, a defeat that also dashed their hopes of a College Football Playoff appearance, put together a dominant performance in a 48-17 victory over the Sun Devils.
No. 21 USC never trailed and moved ahead by as many as 28 points in the first half over resurgent Arizona State. Many of the fans in the announced crowd of 53,446 at Sun Devil Stadium started to head for the exits at halftime.
The seven-day turnaround appeared dramatic and immediate.
At Notre Dame, USC’s often-uneven offense was held scoreless in a first half for the first time in seven seasons.
At Arizona State, it scored 31 points over the first two quarters and amassed almost 400 yards, a total that at that point eclipsed its offensive production in three previous games this season, at Cal, at Washington State, at Notre Dame, when the unit had failed to muster much more than 300 yards.
The Trojans (7-2, 5-2 in the Pac-12) took an early lead in the important Pac-12 South Division contest after they found the end zone on their opening drive, when quarterback Sam Darnold hit receiver Deontay Burnett for a 32-yard touchdown, the first of three scoring tosses.
Darnold completed 19 of 35 passes for 266 yards. Although he fumbled on a sack on a fourth down in the second quarter, the heralded passer did not throw an interception for only the second time this season.
The showing by the offense came against an Arizona State defense that had undergone a mid-season revival under first-year under coordinator Phil Bennett. As the Sun Devils (4-4, 3-2) had posted consecutive upsets of No. 12 Washington and Utah the previous two weeks, they had held each of the teams to a touchdown apiece. Within the first quarter, USC had scored two.
Running back Ronald Jones was a scoring threat, adding 216 rushing yards on 18 carries, an average of 12 yards per attempt.
USC, which was held to minus-4 rushing yards in the first half against the Fighting Irish, totaled 341 at Arizona State.
Jones reached the end zone on runs of 64 yards and 67 yards. His 67-yard touchdown run in the third quarter gave USC a 21-point lead.
USC’s players celebrated in the end zone in front of the Arizona State student section. As they retreated back to their sideline, Chuma Edoga, the right tackle, waved at one fan.
The Trojans finished with a season-best 607 yards of total offense and kept the Sun Devils to 357 rushing yards, including 79 yards on the ground.
Last week, they gave up 377 rushing yards to Notre Dame, their worst effort ever under Coach Clay Helton.
The win set up a critical Pac-12 South contest with Arizona next week, the winner to take a critical step in the division race. The Wildcats, led by dual-threat quarterback Khalil Tate, have won four straight games.
Arizona is 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the conference.