Kessler throws 5 TDs, No. 19 Trojans roll past Sun Devils
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Cody Kessler and the rest of the USC Trojans are good at taking advantage of mistakes.
And Arizona State made plenty of them.
Kessler threw for 375 yards and five touchdowns and No. 19 Southern California capitalized on Arizona State's miscues to roll past the Sun Devils, 42-14 on Saturday night.
USC (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) scored touchdowns after all four Arizona State turnovers in the first half and led 35-0 at the break.
Arizona State (2-2, 0-1) had the ball first-and-goal at the 1 early in the second quarter when quarterback Mike Bercovici fumbled trying to hand off. Chris Hawkins scooped it up and ran 94 yards for the third of the four second-quarter touchdowns for the Trojans, who lost their conference opener at home to Stanford last week.
''They showed a great deal of heart, effort, work ethic and pride,'' USC coach Steve Sarkisian said.
Demario Richard ran for 131 yards and two scores for the Sun Devils in their Pac-12 opener.
Arizona State had won three of four in the series, last year on Bercovici's ''Hail Mary'' 46-yard pass to Jaelen Strong as the game ended.
There was no miracle on this night.
Kessler completed 19 of 33 passes. His string of 103 passes without an interception, dating to the final 12 passes last season, ended when Kareem Orr picked off an attempt at the Sun Devils 1 in the first series of the game.
Adoree Jackson had three catches for 131 yards, Juju Smith-Schuster five for 103 yards.
Bercovici was for 23 of 44 for 272 yards, but 195 of those yards came in the second half when USC had the game in hand.
''I think this is the best team we've had overall,'' Arizona State coach Todd Graham said, ''We're just not playing that way.''
USC took the lead early after Richard's fumble. On third-and-13, Kessler threw wide to Jackson, who broke tackles down the sideline on an 80-yard touchdown play.
''When I caught it and ran down the sideline and Steven (Mitchell) was pushing me and I was just carrying the pile of people,'' he said.
Then came USC's 28-point, second-quarter eruption.
Early in the quarter, Bercovici threw deep from midfield and USC's John Plattenberg intercepted. A roughing-the-passer penalty on Arizona State's Demetrius Cherry kept the subsequent nine-play, 74-yard drive going, Kessler throwing a 27-yard TD pass to Steven Mitchell Jr.
The third touchdown of the quarter followed Zane Gonzalez's missed 52-yard field goal. Kessler's 45-yard pass to Jackson set up a 5-yard TD toss to Smith-Schuster.
Arizona State's best drive of the half ended when De'Chavon Hayes burst up the middle on a 16-yard run and was stopped just start of the goal line. On the next play, Bercovici ran into his running back Richard and dropped the ball.
Hawkins picked it up and was untouched to the end zone.
''We had a pretty basic play on, they got some really good pressure from the backside,'' Bercovici said. ''Demario and I mishandled the snap. That's on me as a quarterback. You have to make sure those situations, first-, second-down, worst-case situations, just take a knee at quarterback and move on.''
Graham wished it had been a quarterback sneak, about the only time the quarterback is under center in his system.
''I'll tell you what I'm voting for,'' he said. ''Not being in the gun is what I'm voting for.''
There was time for one more Arizona State turnover.
Hayes fumbled on the kickoff return and Kessler threw a 10-yard TD pass to Smith-Schuster with three seconds left in the half to make it 35-0.
Kessler moved past Rodney Peete into fifth on USC's career completions list with 642 and past Carson Palmer into third in career touchdowns (74).
Arizona State's D.J. Foster became the fourth player in NCAA history with 2,000 yards rushing and passing.
AP college football website: http://collegefootball.ap.org