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Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California Attendance: 47,406
Harry's punt return TD pulls Arizona State past USC 38-35
By DAN GREENSPAN
LOS ANGELES (AP) Arizona State wide receiver N'Keal Harry still has work to do deciding when to catch a punt, when to signal for a fair catch and when to let the ball bounce.
Fortunately for the Sun Devils, it is a correction Harry won't make until next week.
Harry scored on a 92-yard punt return and Arizona State defeated Southern California 38-35 on Saturday.
"I was just trying to make something happen," said Harry, who also caught a 44-yard touchdown pass. "I noticed there wasn't a lot of room in the middle of the field so I just tried to get it outside, and there's no way I'm scoring without the blocking of my teammates, no way."
Eno Benjamin rushed for 185 yards and two touchdowns as the Sun Devils ended the Trojans' 19-game home winning streak, the second-longest active mark in the FBS. Manny Wilkins threw a touchdown pass and rushed for another, helping Arizona State (4-4, 2-3 Pac-12) win their fourth conference road game over the past four seasons.
Harry put Arizona State up 31-28 with 2:54 left in the third quarter after fielding the punt inside his own 10-yard line and eventually reversing field back to the 2. It was a decision that even his quarterback wasn't sure Harry should have made, only for the junior to cut to his right and find a lane down USC's sideline for the first Arizona State punt return for a touchdown since Oct. 22, 2016, when Tim White scored against Washington State.
"The punt return, everybody on the sideline was yelling, `Don't catch it. Don't catch it. Don't catch it.' And then he made an extraordinary play happen, and that's what he does," Wilkins said. "For him to come out and play the way he did and the ferocity he played with, I'm impressed with him."
Harry added a spectacular one-handed catch in the fourth quarter to flip field position after USC (4-4, 3-3) passed on a 38-yard field goal that would have tied the game at 31 with 10:16 remaining and running back Aca'Cedric Ware was stopped short on fourth-and-1 at the Arizona State 20.
"There really wasn't too much going through my mind," said Harry, who had four receptions for 95 yards. "The only way I could even get to that ball was one hand stretching out and I just happened to come down with the ball."
Redshirt freshman Jack Sears threw for 235 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start for USC, which had not lost at home since Clay Helton took over as interim coach midway through 2015. Michael Pittman Jr. had two touchdown receptions, and Tyler Vaughns threw a touchdown pass, caught a touchdown and returned a punt for a touchdown.
After a poor first quarter in which he completed one pass and lost a fumble on an option pitch, setting up Benjamin's first touchdown run, Sears was 20 of 27 passing for 213 yards over the final three quarters.
"He's playing his first college game today, so it's pretty good that he settled in the second half," said Pittman, who had six receptions for 90 yards. "Most guys don't settle in until their third or fourth game, so credit to him for stepping up big time."
Sears threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to Vaughns with 35 seconds remaining after Wilkins kept the ball on third-and-short for a 45-yard touchdown run to make it 38-28. Harry recovered the subsequent onside kick attempt.
Arizona State: Harry is the most talented receiver in the Pac-12, and possibly all of college football. Despite being the focus of USC's defensive game plan, Harry still made his mark by brushing aside cornerback Ajene Harris for his sixth touchdown catch of the season. And the punt return that won the game for Arizona State was simply jaw-dropping in its audaciousness.
USC: The heat is on for Helton. Fans made their displeasure with the erratic offense, inconsistent defense and penalty-prone special teams known by leaving plenty of seats at the Coliseum empty. It's not unreasonable to think the Trojans could become the highest-profile vacancy on the coaching carousel after winning the Pac-12 last season.
DEJA VU, SPARKY
It was no surprise to Arizona State's Herm Edwards that the outcome came down to the final possession, as six of his first eight games as a college head coach have been decided by seven points or fewer. Edwards was pleased to see his young team get their second win in a one-possession game, especially after USC scored three touchdowns in a row to take a 28-24 lead in the third quarter. "It's par for how we've played," Edwards said.
USC started the game with only two healthy safeties available, with senior Marvell Tell III not available after sustaining a stinger during the week. Harris started at safety and continued to play there extensively after freshman Talanoa Hufanga broke his collarbone, leaving redshirt sophomore C.J. Pollard as the last available scholarship safety.
Arizona: Host No. 23 Utah on Saturday.
USC: At Oregon State on Saturday.
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Updated October 27, 2018