John Anderson celebrates (AP/Elaine Thompson)
John Anderson kicked a 32-yard field goal with no time remaining to knock off the University of Southern California 27-24 this afternoon in Husky Stadium. Anderson had missed earlier from 35-yards out, adding to the drama that unfolded in the final five minutes of the game.
“Hell of a win. How about them Dawgs?” extorted Neuheisel as he came back up the tunnel and entered the team meeting room. His team erupted in the tunnel.
Reserve quarterback Taylor Barton came in off the bench when Cody Pickett went down late in the first half with an extremely sore right shoulder. Barton showed why Washington used two scholarships to secure his commitment to Washington this afternoon. The junior from Beaverton, Oregon, completed 11 of 20 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns and was the field general on Washington’s final drive that ate the final 3:47 off of the clock and moved 49 yards. That was close enough for Anderson to put the nail in the coffin.
Hurst finished the game with 102 rushing yards and 45 receiving yards, including a 14-yard touchdown.
Washington had taken the lead 24-17 on a 14-yard touchdown on a screen pass from Taylor Barton to Willie Hurst with 5:35 remaining in the game and looked to be comfortably in the driver’s seat. The Husky defense had forced USC into four straight three and outs up to that point.
However Carson Palmer saw Husky free safety Wondame Davis blitz and knew that he had Kareem Kelly in one-on-one coverage. The protection held up and Palmer hit Kelly as he streaked past Omare Lowe and took it 58 yards to tie the game.
That set Barton up for the final drive of the game, starting on the 35-yard line. Willie Hurst showed why he’s the captain of this team, running for 30 yards on five carries. Those clutch runs combined with an 18-yard Barton to Elstrom hookup down the middle left the ball on the USC 15-yard line as Barton let the clock tick down to 0:03.
Rick Neuheisel was a keen soothsayer in this game. After Anderson’s miss from 35-yards out, he had a very interesting message for him as his kicker returned to the sidelines. “I told him to not get down because he would need to make one for us to win it.”
During the final time out, Neuheisel once again had a message for Anderson.
“I told him to not hurry this, to just relax and enjoy it. It’s why we’re here,” said Neuheisel. “He smiled. Then I walked back to my spot and resumed being nervous.”
Anderson didn’t even pretend to be stoic after the game. “I was so nervous,” he said in a shaky voice.
When the ball hooked through the uprights, Anderson went nuts and was mobbed by his entire team.
USC showed a commitment to running the ball at the Huskies and were impressive for the entire first half. They ran the ball between the tackles and had great success picking on Washington’s outside linebackers. Their initial drive went 15 plays, 10 of them Sultan McCullough runs that gained 46 yards. However on fourth and inches inside the UW 16-yard line, Larry Tripplett and Jerome Stevens were able to finally stuff the middle and leave no room for Carson Palmer to sneak through. USC ate up the first six minutes of the game but had nothing to show for it after turning it over on downs.
The Huskies got the first break of the game when Palmer and Lenny Vandermade were unable to make a clean exchange and Ben Mahdavi recovered on the Trojan 20-yard line. Pickett would capitalize on third down and forced a bullet to a well-covered Elstrom in the endzone. The senior from Puyallup was able to get his hands on the rocket and pull it down in back of linebacker Mike Pollard to stake the Huskies to a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.
USC tied the game in the first minute of the second quarter when Palmer floated a ball just out of the reach of Husky linebacker Jamaun Willis and into the arms of fullback Charlie Landrigan who took it in at the 10 and ran untouched into the endzone. The drive went 75 yards in just six plays.
After a generous roll off of a shank netted punter Mike McGillivray a 55-yard kick, Washington was pinned back on their own five-yard line. Two plays later Cody Pickett misfired and paid the price. He tried to hit Kevin Ware but was long and Trojan safety Troy Polamalu intercepted him and returned it 22-yards for a touchdown to give USC the lead.
Cody Pickett would be forced to leave the game when he picked up 13 yards on a keeper but sprained his right shoulder after a collision with Trojan cornerback Chris Cash and the turf. Barton entered at the 6:32 mark with the ball on the UW 44-yard line, a first and 15 situation. He responded by throwing a strike to Elstrom to pick up a third and eight, but a fumbled exchange two plays later gave USC the ball back with just under 4 minutes remaining in the first half.
A Palmer to Kelly 18-yard connection quickly moved the ball into Husky territory but a holding penalty negated another first down and stalled the Trojan drive. Washington took over on their own 20 with just over a minute remaining in the half but two more fumbled snap exchanges quickly ended any thoughts of generating any offense.
Pickett was able to return for the third quarter for the first two plays but then gave way to Barton again. Barton responded in a big way. First he picked up 10 on a draw to convert third down and then ran for seven more on second down to move the chains again. Hurst took a handoff going off tackle left, cut back right and ran for 27 yards to move the ball all the way down to the USC 12. Facing third and 11, Barton correctly read blitz and after Rich Alexis was able to pick off a linebacker, Barton hit Reggie Williams on a slant for a 13-yard touchdown. The drive covered 77 yards and tied the game at 14-all.
USC changed up their game plan a bit on their initial drive of the third quarter, running wide to the right side of the Husky defense and found success. McCullough had runs of 12 and 15 yards to move the ball into Husky territory. Washington stopped the drive when Greg Carothers was able to hit Palmer on a keeper one yard short of the first down. Dave Davis split the uprights from 40 yards out to push USC back on top 17-14.
A Ben Mahdavi sack at the 2-minute mark of the third quarter brought the Husky crowd back to life. It forced Palmer into a third and 12, and after playing nearly 44 minutes of football, the USC quarterback threw his first incompletion of the game after completing seven of seven for 94 yards and a TD to that point.
Mahdavi led all Husky tacklers with 15 stops today in addition to his fumble recovery and sack. Zach Tuiasosopo made his first career start at outside linebacker and wound up with nine tackles.
Washington took advantage of some great defense and prime field position to knot the game at 17. Facing second and six, Barton threw to Reggie Williams on a deep post. Williams went high to snag the reception in front of Chris Cash and DeShaun Hill, good for 42 yards. However Washington was unable to punch it in from the seven-yard line in three tries, settling for a John Anderson 26-yard field goal.
When USC went three and out for the third consecutive drive, Washington set up shop on their own 48 with 9:38 remaining. The first play was a beauty as Barton fooled the entire USC defense by rolling right on a bootleg and then throwing back left to Hurst in the left flat. Hurst took the ball and picked up 31 yards on the screen. The drive looked promising but Barton was unable to hit Arnold on first down in the endzone and missed Williams long on a fade on third down. Anderson’s 35-yard field goal attempt went wide right, deflating the offense and giving USC the ball back with 8:35 remaining and renewed enthusiasm.
The teams exchanged punts before the Palmer to Kelly connection for the tie, which set up Anderson’s heroics with no time remaining.
Washington gutted this one out without Kai Ellis, Cody Pickett, and Roc Alexander at times. “Injuries have been a major story,” said Neuheisel after the game. “For whatever reason, we’ve been hit hard by them this year.”
Washington hopes to get a bit healthier as they head to Pasadena to take on the UCLA Bruins next Saturday.
Notes and quotes from the Husky locker room will be posted tomorrow.
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The last time…: Washington won a game on the last play of a game was October 18, 1980 when Chuck Nelson kicked a 25-yard field goal to beat Stanford 27-24.
Close calls: In the last 39 meetings since 1960, the winner of the UW vs. USC game has gone to the Rose Bowl 23 times, 15 of those by USC. 16 of those contests were decided by 12 points or less.
Happy Birthday Willie: Willie Hurst, Senior was in the audience today to see his son play against his former hometown team. He got a great birthday present when Willie, Jr. took a screen pass and ran it 14-yards in for the touchdown.
Captain Todd: Senior wide receiver Todd Elstrom was today’s game captain, joining team captains Larry Tripplett, Kyle Benn, and Willie Hurst. Elstrom had his first touchdown reception this season today.
Streaking: Washington’s winning streak of 12 is the longest in the Pac-10 and the third longest streak in the country.
Don’t count ‘em out: The Huskies have trailed at the half in three of their four games this year. The Huskies have now come from behind in 16 of their 21 wins under Coach Rick Neuheisel.
Starting with a bang: By the end of the first quarter McCullough had 15 carries for 71 yards. Washington’s Ben Mahdavi ended the quarter with seven tackles and one fumble recovery. He would finish the game with 15 stops.
Workhorse: Sultan McCullough’s 32 carries today were the most by a USC tailback since Chad Morton had 36 versus UCLA in 1999.
Picks for points: Polamalu’s interception return for a score was the first against Washington since the Colorado game last year in Boulder by Phil Jackson. It was the first Trojan pick for a score since USC’s season opener in 2000.
Taking their time: Washington’s 5:45 second drive to open the third quarter was their longest of the season.
Early arrival: The Husky crowd is arriving earlier to the games now. In years past there were still many seats open as the kickoff occurred. Today most of the 72,946 fans were in their seats by the time the coin toss happened.