Southern California defensive end Lawrence Jackson and Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter could not wait for Thursday’s kickoff to begin their exchange of unpleasantries. So, they started at the coin toss.
“He’s a feisty guy,” Jackson said, laughing. “He’s always been a good quarterback, very resourceful.
“As a defensive line, it’s kind of hard to get a guy like that down so I just let him know that we were going to come after him a little bit. Obviously, he wasn’t too happy about that.”
Jackson recorded four of USC’s six sacks on Thursday, including one on the opening play of the second half that left Carpenter with a cut on his lip.
“I think he got his lip a little bloodied and he was pretty upset about that,” Jackson said. “He had some not-so-nice words for me after that play.”
With 166 yards on five kickoff returns, ASU receiver Rudy Burgess has 1,288 yards in his career, the most in school history.
Burgess moved past Chris Hopkins, who had 1,225 return yards from 1992-95.
A 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Burgess in the first quarter got the Sun Devils back on keel after USC moved the ball downfield with ease on its first possession. But the Trojans had a lot more left in the tank.
“It was hard to regain momentum after they kept getting up on us,” Burgess said.
“We just couldn’t come back, like we normally do.”
Thomas Weber, a Lou Groza Award finalist for his kicking, averaged just 33 yards on three punts on Thursday and was replaced in the second half by Jonathan Johnson, the former punter.
Johnson — whose struggles resulted in Weber taking over the punting duties last month — did not fare any better, with a 32-yard average on two boots.
Sun Devils coach Dennis Erickson gave no indication that the switch was permanent.
“Weber wasn’t punting well, so I felt that we would give Jonathan a chance to do it,” Erickson said. “Neither of them kicked the ball very good.”
Five Heisman Trophy winners attended Thursday’s game: Marcus Allen (1982, USC sideline); Doug Flutie (1984, ESPN commentator); Mike Garrett (1965, USC athletic director); Matt Leinart (2004, USC sideline) and Gino Torretta (1992, radio announcer).
ASU groundskeepers Brian Johnson and Pete Wozniak — who for each game this season have made subtle additions to the on-field insignias and yard markers — painted a turkey leg on Sparky Sun Devil’s pitchfork at midfield.
In what was billed as his last public performance, Little Richard played with the ASU band at halftime, singing “Jenny Jenny,” “Good Golly Miss Molly” and “Tutti Frutti.”