The USC Trojans got stunned in the Pac-10 opener, to a team with inferior talent, a week after beating Ohio State in one of the most anticipated games of the early season.
Stop me if this sounds familiar.
On Saturday, the Trojans jumped out to a 10-0 lead behind an impressive running game that featured several big plays.
Stanley Havili, Stafon Johnson and Joe McKnight all broke off runs of 25-plus yards during the Trojans’ opening two possessions of the game.
With the Trojans’ dominating the line of scrimmage and opening up massive holes, it looked like Carroll’s boys were on their way to another romp over an overmatched team. But the Washington Huskies, led by former USC assistant Steve Sarkisian, weren’t intimidated by the Men of Troy and pulled off a shocker in Seattle, beating the Trojans 16-13 in front of 61,889 fans.
“They held onto the football. They did a nice job,” Carroll said. “When they needed it Jake made great plays, their defense was capable of hanging in there.”
After scoring on the first two drives of the game, USC sputtered and stumbled through another lackluster performance on offense, putting together just one touchdown drive on the day, and losing three costly turnovers.
“Really, we didn't get any better from last week,” Carroll said. “That's me. I'm not doing a good enough job of making points of how we win.”
All three of USC’s turnovers came as they were driving in Washington territory.
The Trojans’ inability to hold on to the ball was the story of the day, and the main reason that they are headed back to Los Angeles with a loss in the Pac-10 opener, for the second year in a row.
“If you look back at the games that we have lost over time, it's always turnovers, and usually there's penalties to accompany it,” Carroll said. “And that's what it was today.
"When you play football like this, your chances of winning are so difficult.”
Sophomore quarterback Aaron Corp, starting in place of the injured Matt Barkley, was never able to get into rhythm, passing for just 110 yards on 13-of-22 pass attempts.
"We didn't throw the ball very well today. It was obvious,” Carroll said. “We threw the ball for 110 yards and couldn't get the ball down the field. We rarely get in that situation."
While Corp struggled in his debut, Washington quarterback Jake Locker played like the veteran leader that he is.
Pete Carroll said earlier in the week that the Trojans don’t play a better player than Jake Locker all year, and the Huskies signal caller proved Carroll right on Saturday.
“I don't think it was Jake [Locker]'s best night, but when we needed him, he made his plays,” Steve Sarksiain said. “He found a way to stay in the game and I'm just really proud of him.”
Locker led the way for Washington, completing 21-of-35 pass attempts for 237 yards and stepped up on a handful of critical third down plays.
The Huskies were 7-of-15 on third down conversions while the Trojans didn’t convert on a single third down all afternoon.
But just like last week, the Trojans found themselves trailing with a little over seven minutes left on the clock and an opportunity to escape with a come-from-behind victory.
Joe McKnight opened the drive by racing off the right side for 34 yards, fumbling in the process, but David Ausberry recovered the ball.
Stafon Johnson then took a handoff and sprinted for 11 yards and another first down, and it looked like the Trojans were ready for some more late-game heroics, but the Husky defense was up for the challenge.
After Donald Butler stopped Stafon Johnson for no gain on a critical third-and-6 from the Washington seven yard-line, Jordan Congdon connected on a 25-yard field goal attempt to tie the game 13-13.
Jake Locker then took the ball and took over the game with 4:07 left on the clock.
The Huskies’ quarterback connected with Jermaine Kearse for a 21-yard gain in front of a trio of USC defenders on third-and-15.
Locker later rushed for 4 yards on third-and-2 to keep the drive alive, and hit Kearse again for a 19-yard gain that set up Erik Folk’s 22-yard field goal to give the Huskies, a stunning victory over USC, and their first big win of the Sarkisian era.
"I think the difference in this game was Jake,” Carroll said. “I thought he was able to come up and make the plays when they really needed it in the last drive.”
USC's offense scored just 13 points against Washington. (Doug Zylstra Photo)
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