On a night where 17th ranked USC was expected to yawn and stretch their way passed unranked Washington on the way to South Bend, it all went horribly wrong and the Trojans lost 17-12 at home.
I'm not sure who suited up with the gold 6 on their chest, but I defy anyone to prove that it was Senior, captain, Heisman contender, Cody Kessler. After being sacked on the very first play from scrimmage, he clearly won a staring contest with Steven Mitchell Jr. and was picked off, doubling his total for the year so far. Two series later, Kessler threw into traffic that makes the 10 freeway look palatable, giving it back to Washington in USC territory. Not to be outdone, Huskies Freshman quarterback Jake Browning was intercepted by Iman Marshall the very next series, giving the star recruit his first career pick and USC the lead at 3-0.
In case you're keeping track, we're still in the first quarter, and the number of turnovers match the number of points scored.
With minutes left in the first quarter, things went from bad to worse when USC center and team captain, Max Tuerk, left the game with a knee sprain and would not return. The rest of night played out like a grindhouse film for Kessler, getting hammered by the Huskie pass rush, picking shotgun snaps up off of his shoelaces, and unable to utilize some of the greatest weapons in college football.
One of USC's deadliest offensive threats, JuJu Smith-Schuster, found himself frustrated often, and although he was able to haul in 6 catches for 82 yards, he coughed up the football minutes into the second half in his own end. Unable to resist the urge, Washington coach Chris Petersen took the opportunity to dial up a double pass that caught the young USC secondary napping and Washington went up for good.
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It was only the third quarter, 10-6 Washington, but "boo's" began to rain down from the Coliseum seats and Washington began to play with swagger, often taking time to jaw at the Trojans between plays. It became abundantly clear that intervention from some deity would be required for USC to come back when Huskies receiver, Brayden Lenius, hauled in a catch you'll certainly see on every edition of SportsCenter today, over top of Iman Marshall.
Fast forward 3 USC punts and another Washington touchdown, when Freshman running back Ronald Jones II decided he would not allow the upperclassmen to cramp his style, and ripped off two big runs of 15 and 23 yards before climbing over bodies to hang the ball over the plane. The two-point conversion would fail when Tre Madden dropped what looked like an easy score. The score was 17-12 Washington, and that is how it would stay.
USC was able to drive back down into Washington territory with 3:44 remaining, but on 4th and manageable, Sarkisian elected to play the long game (with 3:44 remaining) and sent Alex Wood to kick a 46-yard field goal. It bounced harmlessly off the crossbar and USC could not come up with another stop.
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USC fans are frustrated with this one, feeling the all too familiar sting of losing very winnable games. Sarkisian and Co. are on the hot seat again with some mindboggling decisions to answer for. Besides the field goal attempt while down by 5, the Trojan's rushing total came to 190 yards net, taking into account Kessler's -25 yards of punishment. All 3 featured backs had success running the ball, but even after Kessler was clearly rattled and largely unprotected, they continued to go to the air.
And go ahead, Ctrl+F and you will notice that Adoree Jackson is, indeed, not mentioned as of yet. His final stat line... 3 catches... 3 yards. He was largely a decoy and Washington was not biting.
Certainly credit where it is due, as an un-intimidated and athletic Husky defense showed why they are among the best in the conference, and they won the battle in the trenches, but the USC staff, once again, could not come up with an answer after a bye week to prepare.