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NO. 3 USC 28, ARIZONA STATE 21

Groundbreaking

After squandering a 21-0 lead, the Trojans turn to their running game, and Washington gains 64 of the 74 yards on drive to his winning touchdown.

October 15, 2006|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

Chauncey Washington had waited for what seemed like forever.

The powerful running back spent more than three years watching Reggie Bush and LenDale White, members of the same recruiting class, star for USC teams that plowed through opponents and won two national titles.

On Saturday, with third-ranked USC facing a stubborn Arizona State team primed for an upset, the Trojans finally put the ball, and perhaps their season, in Washington's hands.

And the junior who had endured more than his share of setbacks put the Trojans squarely on his back.

Washington carried the ball 10 times on a 14-play, 74-yard drive in the fourth quarter and scored the game-winning touchdown in a 28-21 victory before 91,126 at the Coliseum.

"I'm not tired at all," Washington said as he ran toward the tunnel to the locker room. "I could play another quarter right now."

Washington's clutch performance helped USC improve to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the Pacific 10 Conference. With Florida's loss to Auburn on Saturday, the Trojans are expected to be second in the first Bowl Championship Series standings that will be released today.

Despite blowing a 21-point lead, USC extended its home winning streak to 30 games with its 27th consecutive Pac-10 victory.

Much of the credit goes to Washington, who missed most of his freshman season because of an ankle injury and two more because of academic ineligibility.

With Bush and White bolting to the NFL after their junior seasons, Washington entered fall camp this year as the No. 1 tailback. But he was set back again by a hamstring injury during the summer and aggravated it during the first week of camp.

Washington appeared on the verge of a breakout performance after last week's nail-biting victory over Washington.

"We've been waiting for him," Coach Pete Carroll said. "We've known all along what he's capable of."

Washington, who finished with a career-high 108 yards in 22 carries, said Carroll challenged him on Friday night.

"He reminded me of the great backs that came before me and that it was my time to step up and to run strong," said Washington, who gained 64 yards during the fourth-quarter drive.

One of the former USC greats was not surprised.

"He reminded me of a horse," said Athletic Director Mike Garrett, the 1965 Heisman Trophy winner at USC. "Let that horse run. I knew he would have a breakout game if they just gave him the ball."

The Trojans, coming off consecutive victories that were not decided until the final seconds, did not look as if they would need a savior after jumping out to a 21-0 lead. Quarterback John David Booty sandwiched touchdown passes to Allen Bradford, who lined up at fullback for the first time, and Dwayne Jarrett around a two-yard touchdown run by tailback C.J. Gable.

"We had a chance to kill 'em or put 'em away and for whatever reason we didn't do it," said Booty, who committed two costly turnovers in the second half.

Arizona State (3-3, 0-3), coming off a week off after blowout losses to California and Oregon, had pulled to within 14 points on a short touchdown run by tailback Ryan Torain late in the second quarter.

At halftime, Sun Devils quarterback Rudy Carpenter said, Coach Dirk Koetter told his team that "we took their best shot. They threw their haymaker and we were going to throw ours."

Booty absorbed the first blow on the first play of the second half. He tripped after taking the snap, then was sacked and fumbled. Defensive end Dexter Davis recovered for the Sun Devils, who cut the deficit to seven points on Carpenter's eight-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Miller.

About six minutes later, on second and 12 at his own 33-yard line, Booty dropped back and threw into the left flat toward Jarrett. The split end, however, had cut upfield and Sun Devils cornerback Keno Walter-White picked off the pass and raced 37 yards for the tying touchdown.

"It was just a miscommunication between me and D.J." said Booty, who finished 12 for 25 for 148 yards. "I thought one thing, he went the other. That's just how it kind of went."

The teams traded possessions before USC took over at its 26-yard line with 11 minutes 27 seconds remaining in the game.

That's when the Trojans turned to Washington.

"We wanted to pound it," Carroll said. "Every play and every situation was discussed, but Chauncey was hot. Chauncey was the real deal."

Washington carried for six yards and then broke free for 23, his longest gain of the night.

Emmanuel Moody carried once for a yard and Booty rushed for three yards on fourth and one at the Arizona State 36, but it was Washington who moved the pile and moved the Trojans.

"Every time he came back in the huddle he kept saying, 'Give me the ball. I want more,' " Guard Chilo Rachal said.

Gable gained five yards and Booty threw an incomplete pass intended for fullback Jody Adewale before Walter-White was called for an offsides penalty and Arizona State took a timeout.

Two plays later, Washington bulled in from the two-yard line for a 28-21 lead with 4:29 left.

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