Trojans suffer another stunning loss

Mistakes are costly against Huskies and they might have cost USC another shot at a national title.

September 20, 2009|Gary Klein

SEATTLE — As dark clouds began rolling over Husky Stadium late Saturday afternoon, Pete Carroll walked semi-dazed across the turf searching for Steve Sarkisian.

Carroll wanted to shake his former assistant's hand, to offer him congratulations on a job well done.

But Sarkisian was unreachable, swallowed up in a wave of pulsating Washington fans who stormed the field after the Huskies upset third-ranked USC, 16-13.

Erik Folk's game-winning 22-yard field goal with three seconds left set the stage for an all-too-familiar postgame scene for USC, reminiscent of last season when Oregon State fans also celebrated an upset over the Trojans in a Pacific 10 Conference opener.

Just like last year, this loss followed an emotional victory over Ohio State.

Turnovers, once again, played a major part in the script.

So did penalties and the inability to convert third downs.

"This is how it happens," Carroll said.

So what happens now?

Last season, the Oregon State loss all but ended the Trojans' hopes of gaining a berth in the Bowl Championship Series title game.

The defeat by the no-longer-hapless Huskies, who ended a 15-game losing streak last week, probably will do the same.

But USC, which had to rally for a three-point victory at Ohio State last week, has more immediate issues.

"We're not real good right now," Carroll said. "We weren't really good last week either, to tell you the truth.

"We won a game and we got a great victory on the road, but we didn't do anything a whole lot different."

For the second consecutive game, the Trojans' passing attack struggled.

With freshman Matt Barkley sidelined because of a bone bruise, Aaron Corp made his first career start.

The third-year sophomore looked fine in the first quarter, but he struggled the rest of the way and had a third-quarter pass intercepted.

"I wish I had some stuff back," said Corp, who completed 13 of 22 passes for only 110 yards. "I didn't play well by my standards."

With USC losing two of its four fumbles and Corp unable to find a rhythm, Washington quarterback Jake Locker seized the opportunity.

With the score tied, 13-13, Locker drove the Huskies 67 yards in the final four minutes, converting one third down with his arm and another with his legs to help set up Folk's game-winning kick.

Locker completed 21 of 35 for 237 yards with no interceptions. He also rushed for Washington's only touchdown to pull the Huskies to within 10-7 near the end of the first quarter.

But USC gave Locker and the Huskies opportunity after opportunity by committing turnovers inside the 20-yard line.

"All of them were inside the red zone," said Jeremy Bates, USC's quarterbacks coach and play-caller. "We have to take advantage of that and score touchdowns."

That didn't look as if it would be a problem early in the game when the Trojans ripped off large chunks of rushing yardage en route to a 10-0 lead.

"Early in the game, you would have thought we were going to get beat 50-0," Sarkisian said.

But USC helped the Huskies stay in it.

"We just came out the next series flat," said tailback Joe McKnight, who scored the Trojans' first touchdown. "We thought it was going to be a cakewalk and it wasn't."

Tailback Stafon Johnson lost a fumble on a fourth-and-one play after getting enough yardage for a first down early in the second quarter and the Huskies tied the score with four minutes left in the half on the first of Folk's three field goals.

"You can't put the ball on the ground," Trojans middle linebacker Chris Galippo said. "As great as long runs by running backs are, when you put the ball on the ground, you lose."

It got worse in the second half, fullback Stanley Havili fumbling at the Huskies' 16 after taking a short pass on the Trojans' first possession of the third quarter.

On the next possession, Washington linebacker Donald Butler picked off a pass by Corp at the Huskies' 18.

"I just didn't see the guy," Corp said.

The Trojans also did not help themselves by committing penalties that consistently led to poor field position.

Those miscues, coupled with Sarkisian's and defensive coordinator Nick Holt's intimate knowledge of the Trojans' system, made for a long afternoon.

"They were calling out our plays," McKnight said.

The Trojans knew what was coming after they tied the score, 13-13, on Jordan Congdon's 25-yard field goal with 4:07 left.

Sarkisian was going to put the ball, and the game, in Locker's hands.

Trojans defensive end Nick Perry sacked Locker for a 12-yard loss on the first play of the final drive, forcing the Huskies back to their own 21.

But Locker connected with receiver Jermaine Kearse for 21 yards on a third and 15, and the Huskies were on their way.

"It wasn't even in our game plan,' Locker said. "They just kind of called it up on the spot."

Later in the drive, Locker scrambled out of the pocket and hit Kearse again for 19 yards.

A roughing-the-passer penalty against USC defensive lineman Averell Spicer advanced the ball to the eight, and Washington ran two more plays before summoning Folk for the winning kick.

"Every win is a good win, but this is kind of surreal right now," said Holt, who left USC after last season with Sarkisian. "But it was a hell of a football game. That's how it's going to be in the series from now on."

Carroll is not concerned about future games against the Huskies.

Today, he will begin trying to put the pieces back together for this season.

"Right now," he said, "we have a long ways to go."


Los Angeles Times Articles