USC RB Reggie Bush (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)
In a game that matched two teams from opposite galaxies, the USC Trojans handed the Washington Huskies a 51-24 defeat at Husky Stadium in front of 64,096 fans. The differences between the two teams weren’t as stark as many thought, but the outcome was still more of the same.
Unlike last week against the Oregon Ducks, the Huskies appeared “up” for their opponents – the number one-ranked USC Trojans. Kick return Marlon Wood took the opening kickoff straight up the middle and got a huge block from FB Ty Eriks to spring him on a 92-yard romp that ended when Woods was tackled on the USC eight yard-line.
As has been the norm for the Huskies, when they make a great play, something bad always seems to happen and sure enough, Wood was helped off the field and would later be diagnosed with a fractured left ankle.
Also indicative of how the season is going for the Huskies is their inability to take advantage of stellar field position. With first-and-goal from the eight, QB Isaiah Stanback and the offense went three-and-out, settling for a 23-yard Evan Knudson field goal and an early 3-0 lead.
The Trojans, as usual had an answer. Senior QB Matt Leinart and the Trojans’ amazing array of offensive talent sliced and diced the Husky defense on an 85-yard drive ending when Leinart hit Steve Smith behind the Husky defense for an eight-yard touchdown pass.
Leinart played three quarters and finished the day 20 of 26 for 201 yards and four touchdowns. He also surpassed former Arizona State QB Andrew Walter for the career-record in touchdown passes totaling 87 in his four-year career.
“I thought (Washington) played us tough,” Leinart said following the game. “They are a good team. They played UCLA tough, they played Notre Dame tough and we gave them that long return to start the game, but I think we only had something like 26 plays in the first half and put up 37 points.
“We had a lot of short fields to work with, but when we did have long drives we executed well. I think overall it was a great game and that offensively we finally got back on track and got some rhythm going. We got back to the basics and just executed a lot of plays that we know how to do very well.”
The Huskies answered the bell with their second offensive drive, going 80 yards in 12 plays finally finding the endzone when Stanback hit WR Craig Chambers in the right corner of the endzone over Trojan CB Justin Wyatt. Chambers finished the day with two catches for 33 yards and the one touchdown.
“I think if you look at last year’s game against USC and this year’s game it’s basically night and day,” Chambers said referring to last season’s 38-0 shellacking down in the Coliseum. “We didn’t really do anything last year. This year we had a lot of plays that were working. We didn’t win this year, but I think we all can see that we’re a much more improved team from last year.”
In the second quarter, the injury bug hit the tailback position as starting tailback Louis Rankin suffered a turf toe injury and he was lost for the day. Junior RB Kenny James played into the second half, but was also lost to a shoulder injury, but head coach Tyrone Willingham said he could have returned if need be. Senior James Sims finished out the day for the Dawgs and finished with 28 yards on 10 carries.
On the next drive, USC S Darnell Bing gave the Trojans excellent field position when he took the kickoff 68 yards and set up a one-play drive for the Trojans as Leinart hit Dwayne Jarrett over Husky S Dashon Goldon for a 24-yard touchdown.
That was only the beginning of Goldson’s woes as the Husky safety got run over by Reggie Bush at the one for another Trojan touchdown following a Husky turnover. Goldson would, however, redeem himself later.
Bush, the electrifying playmaker from Southern California, then proceeded to show why he is one of the favorites to win the Heisman when he took a booming Sean Douglas punt at his own 14 and ran into a crowd of Husky tacklers. Amazingly after getting spun around by CB Matt Fountaine, Bush was able to break free, elude six more tacklers and then head down the Trojan sideline for an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown.
“I called that, actually. I called that return,” Leinart said laughing. “He was about due to have one. It’s great, because he always steps up in games like this and makes big plays. I think he’s probably pretty relieved he finally got his first punt return of the season.”
The Huskies then proceeded to do something that they hadn’t done in a while – answer adversity. Trailing 34-10 and with 9:08 left in the first half, Stanback and the offense went on an 13-play, 80-yard drive that Stanback capped off with a one-yard touchdown run.
The Husky defense then stepped up and forced the Trojans to punt for the first time on the day, when they held the Trojans to a three-and-out and the Huskies had a chance to get something going before the half, but as has been the case for most of the season, the offense couldn’t take advantage, going three plays and gaining only six yards.
The Trojans then came after Douglas on the ensuing punt and true freshman LB Brian Cushing was able to get a hand on the kick and the Trojans were able to convert the excellent field position into points, when K Mario Danelo hit a 31-yard field goal to end the half.
If one were only looking at the halftime statistics, you would think the game was a tight affair instead of a 37-17 USC lead. The Trojans and Huskies had near equal yardage totals (185 to182), almost equal first downs (9 to 10) and Washington was winning the time of possession battle 19:47 to 10:13.
The problem was that the Huskies were also leading in turnovers (two to none) and while the Huskies average starting position was on their own 34 the Trojans average starting position was the Washington 45.
The second half started with the Huskies stopping the Trojans on fourth-and-five, but again the Husky offense was unable to take advantage. After a 27-yard completion to Sonny Shackelford, the drive stalled and on fourth-and-six Stanback was sacked for a ten-yard loss.
USC then took the ball at the Washington 49 and converted not one, but two fourth downs en route to a beautiful one-handed touchdown catch by Jarrett in the right corner of the endzone. Husky CB Roy Lewis had good coverage on the play, but Jarrett showed the type of body control reminiscent of former Trojan Mike Williams as he snatched the ball with his right hand and then got his right toe down before he was pushed out of bounds.
After Leinart left, sophomore QB John David Booty came in and threw an interception on fourth-and-seven to Goldson who then went 76 yards the other way for another Husky touchdown.
“I felt it was time for me to make a play, because earlier in the game I made a few errors and it was just time for me to make a play,” Goldson said. “I was just praying that there wasn’t a penalty and it would be called back.”
It didn’t get called back and it resulted in Goldson’s first touchdown in division one football.
Stanback finished the day an efficient 14 of 18 for 201 yards and one touchdown through the air, while also running for another 39 yards and a touchdown.
Offensive coordinator Tim Lappano said the plan was to get Stanback out on the edge more and to use his abilities to throw off the defense.
“We saw some stuff in film that allowed us to get him out on the edge more,” Lappano said. “He presents so many problems for defenses because they have do decide, ‘Are you going to let him get the edge and run?’ or ‘Are you going to come up and let something happen over the top of you?’ So he gave us a lot of that today and it was really a nice weapon for us.”
Another weapon that has been emerging of late is TE Rob Lewis who caught a career-high four passes for 50 yards and was a thorn in the side of the Trojans all day.
“I think they’re trying to get the ball to me a lot more because I haven’t got the ball that much,” Lewis said. “I don’t think the defense thinks I’m going to get the ball so, it’s open and we’re going to take it.”
The Huskies won the time of possession, holding the ball for 31:20 to USC’s 28:40 and they also held the Trojans to only 118 yards on the ground, but the telling stat in this game was their inability to get to Leinart (only one sack and no hurries) the field position game that the Trojans won by a big margin.
Next week the Huskies travel to the desert to face the Arizona State Sun Devils who lost to Stanford 45-35.