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They're Finally Driven to Success

After USC loses a 21-point lead and Booty looks shaky, Washington does the heavy lifting for the winning touchdown.

October 15, 2006|David Wharton | Times Staff Writer

The offensive linemen figured it out quickest.

On the second play of the drive, after USC tailback Chauncey Washington broke loose for big yards, linemen Ryan Kalil and Chilo Rachal turned to the crowd and pumped their fists, screaming.

"We were feeling it," Rachal said. "We knew we could get it done."

The Trojans were on their way to a game-winning touchdown, a fourth-quarter finish that would give them a 28-21 victory over Arizona State at the Coliseum.

On a Saturday night when there was much to bemoan -- a big lead slipping away, a quarterback turned jittery, the defense giving up big gains -- that final 74-yard drive allowed the players to celebrate.

Washington, standing in the locker room with a gash in his right arm, ankles still taped, talked about pounding the middle time and again.

"Yeah," he said. "I guess they saw me get in a groove."

Not that USC planned it that way.

Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin had watched his offense self-destruct, sprinting to a 21-0 lead, then sputtering as the Sun Devils fought back.

Two Arizona State touchdowns came off turnovers by quarterback John David Booty, who fumbled in his own territory, then misread a route adjustment and threw an interception that was returned to the end zone for a 21-21 tie.

At that point, there was no indication the running game would take over, the Trojans rushing for only 90 yards through three quarters.

But after Washington bulled for six yards to start USC's winning drive, then ran for 23 more, Kiffin saw something too.

He often misses the end of plays, glancing at his papers for the next call. This time, he noticed the way Washington finished the run and bounced up. The game plan quickly turned basic with zone blocking and Washington going between the tackles.

"He was running so physical," Kiffin said. "You really want to stay vertical with the run... stay inside."

Washington grinded for six yards here, four yards there, and the huddle grew animated.

Washington and guard Drew Radovich joked about the video game "Mortal Kombat" in which players fight hand-to-hand combat and must finish off their opponents. Everyone wanted to keep running.

"They were like, 'Let's do that again,' " Booty said.

On fourth and one, Booty sneaked over center for three yards. On third and two, Washington hit a wall, then bounced outside for a first down.

"We kind of knew they were going to their bread-and-butter," Arizona State nose tackle Jordan Hill said. "We just didn't make the plays when we needed to."

Near the goal line, on another third-and-short play, there was no question about the call.

"That's still a heavy pass tendency, but you've got to stick with Chauncey," Kiffin said.

Washington got the first down by the nose of the football, then punched it over the goal line on the next play, led by linebacker Thomas Williams inserted at fullback.

Seventy-four yards in fourteen plays -- only one a pass -- eating up almost seven minutes on the clock. Washington carried 10 times for 64 of those yards.

Offensive lineman Sam Baker wasn't thrilled about USC playing another close game, but he liked the ending.

"Just the urgency of the moment," he said. "We got to wear them down ... and keep beating on them."

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david.wharton@latimes.com

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