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Thought's on the Washington Game

A Bright Spot - Patrick Turner
Photo: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

On a weekend where Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, West Virginia and Rutgers all lost SC truly had their watershed moment. No team is sacred and the college football gods showed how merciless they could be. There are no foregone conclusions as even some of the great teams with all of their talent took it on the chin.

I chewed on this game for a bit before deciding to turn in. I read the various comments and some emails, especially one in particular that that made me feel a whole lot better. I said from the beginning of training camp that all the hype that was being written was premature. All that talk simply blows things out of proportion before a game is even played. This SC team has a ton of talent, which is at the center of all that hype and for the most part the talent has lived up to expectations. As I said last night it is because of that depth of talent that SC could stay in this game and get the win. The "bend don't break" philosophy couldn't be more evident than what we saw last night.

The numbers will point to a lot of things, especially the penalties, which will obviously be a major topic of discussion. But if you think about it this game gave us a lot of answers to some questions and SC can shake this performance off, even with a win, and focus on the rest of the season. I still think SC will lose a game this season but they can grow from this poor performance.

If you are into silver linings this one is perfect, This team will never have more penalties or stupid plays, and yet it survived on the road against a mobile QB, which is the Achilles heel of the defense and without 2 major Offensive Linemen and a third string LB (Thomas Williams) at one spot. For all of their mistakes and sloppy play last night does anyone actually think that SC will play this way for the rest of the season? Sometimes you need to get hit in the mouth before you start paying attention. SC definitely got hit in the mouth last night and they and they didn't fold like a 2-dollar suitcase. This was definitely a character builder and we all know character builders are not always pretty, especially when they are national TV.

I think its is safe to say that SC will drop to #2 in the polls but I really couldn't care less. LSU didn't exactly look like world beaters in the first half of their games and Bob Toledo found a few more holes within LSU's game that indicate they may have some issues of their own. Besides as we saw last season even teams with one loss can find their way into the title game so I'm not sweating that one there is still a lot of football yet to play.

The Huskies should be commended for hanging in there but they are also a young team with a young and inexperienced QB. UW had their chances but they couldn't pull the trigger. Ty Willingham is doing some good things with this team and he will bring UW back as a Pac 10 power. Just curious though, compared to crew cut Charlie Willingham is looking like Belichick right now.

SC may have played some ugly football but they also made the most of their chances that came their way.

USC's biggest break of the game turned out to be the replay reversal of an apparent end zone interception by cornerback Byron Davenport with 3:06 left in the game. The pass was ruled incomplete when Davenport couldn't completely hold on. The Trojans then extended their lead to 10 points with David Buehler's 33-yard field goal that barely curled inside the right

Cornerback Terrell Thomas made two key special teams plays. He forced and recovered a fumble on a punt return by Washington's Anthony Russo, which set up Buehler's field goal. Thomas also recovered the onside kick moments after Washington scored to pull close in the final minute.

Teams get up for big games especially when SC comes to town and UW got up for this one but they couldn't close it out. The fact is even the great teams have poor performances. This wasn't a game where SC experimented with different schemes, as the injuries to Rachal and O'Dowd forced SC into bringing in the reserves quickly.

The Offensive line did a great job of giving Booty time and opened up a lot of holes for the running backs. They only allowed Booty to be sacked once. Where the O line had problems was with motion penalties and a few ball exchanges between center and QB.

The receivers continue to have problems hanging onto the ball with some easy catches simply dropped like one to Havili. Booty continues to have tipped ball issues but the new wrinkle is his either over throwing the receivers or throwing behind the receivers. That's an issue that needs to be fixed and quick. Also for the first time Booty's leadership is being questioned.

Oklahoma may lose to Colorado, and Florida may lose to Auburn, but USC rarely loses to a young and struggling team such as Washington.

"Explanation, no, I don't have that," Carroll said.

There are a couple of clues, though.

First, the Trojans have not seemed to jell under Booty's leadership, which is scattered and inconsistent.

Four games into the season, and he seems like a different quarterback than the one who led them to a Rose Bowl victory last January over Michigan.

While he completed 20 of 37 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown Saturday, Booty was intercepted twice and missed badly on several big passes, while his receivers dropped several others.

Plus, of course, there were the usual couple of batted-down passes that have come to plague his time here.

That's unfortunate to read but there is some truth in it as well. I don't want to here anything about what Norm Chow would have done. People need to move on, Chows gone, he's been gone three years and he is never coming back. Steve Sarkisian needs to get it right and fix Booty's problems. His Heisman chances are over so we can put all that talk to bed and worry about winning the Pac-10and hopefully getting to the BCS Title game though unless he gets back on track that could be in jeopardy.

The running game produced some productive yards though it wasn't a consistent effort.

Second, it seems like the running backs can't find the rhythm required to lead the Trojans on long, clock-killing drives.

While Stafon Johnson and Chauncey Washington combined for 234 yards, they did it more with big gains than consistent gains.

When the Trojans needed to protect the lead in the fourth quarter, three of their four drives were only three plays each.

Would it help, at some point, to stick with one running back? Maybe give the ball to Johnson, who leads the team in rushing and has proved he can run both inside and out, and see what happens?

I have said before that the lack of a dominant running back, at least in some people's eyes, isn't a necessity when you have all the talent we have at that position. Over 200 yards rushing is pretty good and it's only a part of the whole picture. I mean Darren McFadden is a dominant running back yet he doesn't have the players around him or the coaches to win games so hoes that working out for him or the Hogs? I would agree with Plaschke that a lot of those yards were on big gains but just like luck it's a part of the game. You don't always get 3-7 yards per carry.

The defense did what they hoped to do for the most part try and contain Locker. If SC's game plan was to pound him they succeeded in the first half. He wasn't as mobile in the first half and when he tried to move with the defense closing in he had two illegal forward pass calls and an INT. Once again it bend don't break and while they may not have contained him 100% you can say mission accomplished as he was not able to beat us on his talent alone a la Vince Young. I am less concerned about the defensive penalties as it shows the level of aggressiveness that this team needs to have. That Personal Foul call when Wright hit Locker was shaky at best but again the message was sent and Locker was more cautious about taking off on his own knowing that SC was gunning for him. The PI call on Mays was horrendous for two reasons, 1- the ball was completely uncatchable and 2- Mays tripped over his own two feet with minimal contact to the UW receiver. McCurtis' PI call was borderline as well but the officials will always call PI if your back is to the ball regardless of the amount of contact, yes he was hand checking the receiver but that happens all the time, I actually thought that there was offensive PI there.

About the injuries, I will have more on O'Dowd's dislocated patella as this is an interesting injury and he will be out for a while and depending on the severity of the injury he could be lost for the season. I did some quick research last night and there are neat things I can use to show you about this injury. Rachal's sprained knee will probably keep him out 3-4 weeks and Wright's hammy shouldn't really be an issue.

So we have lots of work to do to get ready for Stanford. Yes, Stanford. I want PC to hang a hundred on them after all of Harbaugh's comments in the preseason.

So for now we will close the book on the Huskies but we will have a round table of sorts on Monday with new proprietors of U-Dub Dish.

Enjoy your Sunday!