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Washington looks to rebound against USC

Huskies defensive coordinator and Coach Steve Sarkisian, former Trojans assistants, are smarting from a loss to Oregon and aiming to extend their winning streak against USC to three in a row.

November 06, 2011|By Gary Klein
  • Washington defensive coordinator Nick Holt faces up against USC this Saturday, where he previously was an assistant.
Washington defensive coordinator Nick Holt faces up against USC this Saturday,… (Elaine Thompson / Associated…)

Nick Holt wasn't trying to be flip or funny.

Based on his experience, Washington's defensive coordinator was just calling it the way he saw it.

"I'd rather play USC than Oregon, quite honestly," Holt told reporters on Saturday night after Oregon defeated the Huskies, 34-17.

With the Huskies coming to the Coliseum on Saturday, Washington Coach Steve Sarkisian said, "we have to get right and get right fast."

Count on Sarkisian and Holt to have the Huskies prepared.

Since leaving USC to become Washington's coach, and taking Holt with him, Sarkisian has directed two victories over the Trojans.

The former USC assistants have an opportunity to continue their winning streak this week.

But it would require another upset.

On Sunday, two days after its 42-17 victory at Colorado, USC moved up three spots to No. 18 in the Associated Press media poll.

Now, perhaps Trojans Coach Lane Kiffin can do what neither he nor former coach Pete Carroll could do: beat Sarkisian.

Two years ago in Seattle, Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley was forced to sit out because of a shoulder injury. Washington quarterback Jake Locker played like the first-round NFL draft pick he would become and engineered a fourth-quarter drive that ended with an Erik Folk field goal with three seconds to play. The Huskies beat the third-ranked Trojans, 16-13.

Last season, Locker struck again in the fourth quarter and Folk kicked a field goal on the final play to give Washington a 32-31 victory over the 18th-ranked Trojans.

So USC is thankful that Locker now plays for the NFL's Tennessee Titans.

But the Huskies, 6-3 overall and 4-2 in Pacific 12 Conference play, are still formidable.

Their losses came in September against then-No. 11 Nebraska, in October against No. 3 Stanford and Saturday against No. 6 Oregon.

Washington quarterback Keith Price ranks third in the Pac-12 and 14th nationally in passing efficiency. He has passed for 25 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions.

Running back Chris Polk, a former star at Redlands East Valley High, is second in the conference and seventh nationally in rushing, averaging 121.8 yards per game.

And Folk, a former Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High standout, has made nine of 11 field-goal tries.

On defense, however, the Huskies have been vulnerable. They rank 93rd among 120 major-college teams in total defense, giving up 424.9 yards per game. Washington is 113th in pass defense, giving up 283.1 yards per game.

That might bode well for Barkley, who passed for a school-record six touchdowns against Colorado. Barkley has passed for 28 touchdowns, with six interceptions.

Quick hits

Robert Woods is averaging 10 receptions per game, which ranks second nationally and first in the Pac-12. He is fourth nationally and first in the conference in receiving yardage, averaging 124.6 yards per game. … Curtis McNeal, who had 87 yards in 10 carries against Colorado, is eighth in the Pac-12 in rushing, averaging 71 yards per game. … Kickoff for Saturday's game is 12:45 p.m.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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