Postgame notes: Arizona State

LOS ANGELES -- USC (No. 19 BCS, No. 21 AP) played a strong second half to comfortably beat Arizona State 38-17 on Saturday at the Coliseum. Here are notes and quotes from the game that won't make it into our other coverage off the day:

McNeal's big game

Curtis McNeal hadn't ran the ball more than 11 times all season as he settled into a clear-cut backup role behind Penn State transfer Silas Redd.

But with Redd hurt on Saturday, the Trojans used McNeal more than he's ever been used before, running him 31 times. He gained 163 yards on those carries, including two touchdowns, and added a 22-yard scoring grab.

USC coach Lane Kiffin praised McNeal after the game. Kiffin said he was especially proud that only one of McNeal's carries went for negative yardage throughout the contest.

"It felt good," McNeal said. "But the only thing I'm worried about is getting the W. No matter if I get the ball or not, I'm just going out there to compete with my team."

Kiffin said Redd was not available for Saturday's game. He did not specify why.

Redd was in uniform and on the USC sideline throughout the game.

Much better on defense

USC played horrible defense against Oregon last week -- that much is indisputable. But the Trojans looked a lot better this week, and that's what players were focusing on by the time they left the stadium on Saturday night.

Defensive tackle George Uko said it feels like USC has been going against nothing but no-huddle offenses all year long. The key to its success, he said, was stopping one part of Arizona State's offense and letting everything flow from there.

"The biggest thing was we stopped the run," Uko said. "And that allowed us to have a pass rush and know they were passing on certain downs."

The Sun Devils ran the ball 35 times but gained just 71 yards. As a whole, they gained 250 yards, which tied the least amount USC has allowed this season.

ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly also was credited with minus-9 yards rushing, his worst total of the year.

Phasing Woods out?

Marqise Lee had 16 offensive touches; Robert Woods had two.

What gives?

"That's a good question," Kiffin said. "I don't really have the answer."

Kiffin said USC made a concerted effort to get Woods the ball in the second half, but he didn't even touch the ball once on offense in that 30-minute stretch.

Woods said he wasn't upset about it after the game, but he certainly didn't exude happiness.

"There was a couple plays where they tried to get me the ball," Woods said. "It just happens -- one of those games where the defense was playing well."

Woods said one of the times Matt Barkley tried to throw to him was the tipped interception by Carl Bradford. Another one was the overthrow from Barkley.

Kiffin said he felt like Woods was a "little down" after the game.

"He's human," Kiffin said. "You're going to want the ball. It was nothing negative; just from our relationship I could feel it."

Lee said he didn't think Woods was bothered by the lack of involvement in the offense at all.

"He gives up himself for me, basically," Lee said.

A rested -- and improved -- offensive line

Since Max Tuerk stepped in for Aundrey Walker against Colorado, USC's offensive line has looked better.

That continued on Saturday, with Tuerk playing most of the game and Marcus Martin and Abe Markowitz switching in every other series at left guard. Barkley was largely kept off the ground all game.

"I definitely think we're steadily progressing," right guard John Martinez said. "We still have little mistakes here and there, but I definitely think we're progressing on an upper slope.

"We're just creating competition and wanting to find the best from the group."

Walker played every third series at left tackle. He did similar things last week subbing in for Tuerk.

No distractions

The ball-deflating incident that dominated Trojans-related conversion on Thursday and Friday was largely hushed on Saturday, to Kiffin's obvious relief.

But the coach brought up the situation -- a student manager was fired for admitting he deflated five balls before last week's game -- on his own during his postgame news conference.

"That was an unfortunate situation, what happened with the ball deal," Kiffin said. "And it was such a story, unfortunately."

Barkley said he had been hearing very little about it from his teammates.

"Players weren't really talking about it in the locker room," Barkley said. "There's attention on it in social media and the media, but we weren't talking about it on the practice field."

He also repeated the story provided by USC in its initial announcement regarding the situation: He had no knowledge of the student manager's actions.

"I didn't know anything was going on," Barkley said. "I can't tell the difference [in football weights]."

Final notes: Lee filed his ticket requests for Saturday's game too late, he said, so his biological father, Elton, and aunt Valencia couldn't come to the Coliseum like they had planned. But they now plan to attend the UCLA game next week, Lee said. ... Lee now has 11 100-yard receiving games in 22 career games. He's also had seven games with double-digit catches this season. ... Barkley became the all-time conference leader in passing yards during the first half, surpassing Carson Palmer's mark of 11,818 yards and setting a new record of 12,026 yards by game’s end. ... The Sun Devils entered the game outscoring their opponents 102-24 in the fourth quarters of games this season, but the Trojans topped them 10-0 in the last stanza on Saturday.