Carmen Vitali

ASU vs. USC Experience in the Coliseum

Despite a lackluster performance by my Arizona State Sun Devils I ended up having a great time as they took on the USC Trojans in the infamous Coliseum this weekend.

A friend of mine from when I worked at ASU had asked me to cover the game for his website, which is a part of scout.com, as I live in LA now. If you want to check out my game story, take a gander here.

I’m no stranger to press boxes as I worked the other side of the pillow in media relations for ASU. I was the football intern for a number of years and always was the one to coordinate credentials and compile the stats rather than write about them. Being in the USC press box was a new experience, but not one that I expected.

First off, parking was a nightmare. While USC may be a prestigious university, as much as that pains me to say, people aren’t kidding when they say it’s literally in the hood. The freeway was jammed so we took side streets. They had names like Crenshaw and King Blvd. You get the idea.

But fine, all well and good, we park not terribly far, I rush to the gate to get my credential and make my way up the elevator. I step into the press box only to realize it’s open air. Let me just say that even at ASU we didn’t have an open air press box. Sure, the windows opened, but no one actually opened them. I personally loved it, the cool breeze rushing in matching the press box temperature with the outside air of about 60 degrees. This was football weather. However, the visiting cast from Arizona didn’t exactly see it that way. It was kind of hilarious how cold they thought it was.

Aside from that, the view was absolutely insane. You could see over the walls of the Coliseum and spot the Hollywood sign amongst snowcapped mountains on one side and on the other: the LA skyline. Totally worth the hassle. Totally.

As far as the game itself went: what a disaster. There were a total of nine turnovers. NINE. ASU actually won the turnover battle by one yet you’d never know with a final score of 38-17. The offense was downright dismal and the defense had a deceivingly stellar performance. Two of USC’s touchdowns came late and when you consider our offense turned the ball over four times you see why the defense may have been a bit tired out by then.

Since I am a defensive-minded person, growing up a die-hard Chicago Bears fan, I was actually pretty entertained the whole game. Our D-line managed to sack Matt Barkley multiple times and picked him off not once, not twice, but three, three times he picked the ball off (in my best Count from Sesame Street voice). That’s only happened one other time in Barkley’s career.

Before I knew it, the fourth quarter was half over and it was time to get down to the field. I always loved and hated this part when we were losing. Sure it was cool to be on the field, but to be right next to all the guys and see the exasperated, disappointed looks on their faces is pretty heartbreaking.

The game ends and we wait for ASU to scurry up the tunnel. I start to follow but my friend taps me on the shoulder and points behind me. I almost get trampled by a couple SC linemen as I realize, oh both teams go up the same tunnel. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that.

We finally get through the tunnel and the visitor press conference is in a tent. No I’m not kidding. A makeshift white tent with a rickety stage and plastic folding chairs. Awesome.

ASU brings in an offensive lineman, Evan Finkenberg,  and a defensive lineman who had the best game of his career, Carl Bradford. This is typical. Then comes the QB and coach, right? Wrong. They brought in Alden Darby, a defensive back who had a pick six and then finally coach. Apparently, things have changed since I was there.

I cannot tell you how long Coach Todd Graham droned on for. Actually, I can. My recording for all four people was 22 minutes long and you know football players don’t talk too long. I’d estimate Graham took about 16 minutes. It’s amazing how much coaches can say without actually saying anything.

What I did like though that I hadn’t heard from the previous head coach, Dennis Erickson, is that Graham actually broke down their game plan and described specific coverages used. For instance, when asked about why they didn’t have an answer for USC receiver extraordinaire Marqise Lee, he told us straight up, “That was bracket double coverage.” He went on to say, “That kid is special, I’m just telling you that.”

Considering no one else has had an answer for Lee, I absolutely believe him.

So far this had been a blast. I was wondering why I had ever chosen to be on the PR side of things. Reporting was great. That is, until after the press conference, when all the stairs we walked down to get to the field, we now had to walk up. I don’t know how these guys do it and maybe it was because I was in heels, but my legs STILL feel like Jell-O. Ow.

I get finished with my story, say my goodbyes and get down to the parking lot. I start to walk to my car when the security guard stops me.

Security Guard: “Excuse me miss, where’s your car?”

Me: “Oh, it’s just over there (points to car about 200 yards away)”

Security Guard: “Let me walk with you, the police are gone and this place is South Central again.”

And just like that, I turned back into a pumpkin.

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