Another early-season stumble will again leave USC pining for a playoff
USC stumbles again early in a season, this time in a loss at Washington
Despite overall success, Trojans are 4-7 in Pac-10 road openers since 1999
A QB controversy between Matt Barkley and Aaron Corp was never necessary
As Steve Sarkisian and Pete Carroll stood on the field at Husky Stadium before the game Saturday, laughing and joking with one another, Carroll said during a pregame interview, "I like the guy and I'd like to beat the heck out of him. It's a sign of respect."
Well, Sarkisian, who served as USC's offensive coordinator the past four years, showed Carroll and the Trojans his own sign of respect when he pointed to the scoreboard at the end of the game, as he was surrounded by a sea of purple, to reveal the biggest upset of this college football season.
Washington 16, USC 13.
The only thing more amazing than Washington's current two-game winning streak (after losing 15 straight) is that there was ever a quarterback controversy at USC between Matt Barkley, who was ruled out of the game with a bruised right shoulder, and Aaron Corp, who looked more like a true freshman than a third year player in his first start at quarterback.
Corp, who was tabbed as USC's starting quarterback after spring practice, connected on 13-of-22 passes for just 110 yards and one interception. It was the fewest yards the Trojans had passed for in a game since Aug. 27, 2000, and Corp's inability to connect with his receivers was a big reason USC went 0-for-10 on third down.
USC's play calling didn't help, either. At the end of the first half, the Trojans called a run for fullback Stanley Havili on third-and-one with no timeouts and 18 seconds on the clock. When Havili was stopped for a loss, time ran out and Jordon Congdon's hurried 49-yard field goal was waived off. USC also went away from the run far too often in a game where it rushed for 250 yards and averaged 7.7 yards per carry.
In addition to Barkley, USC was also playing without All-America safety Taylor Mays, who missed his first career game with a sprained right knee ligament. Mays, who is from Seattle, had promised to dedicate some hits to Sarkisian and former USC defensive coordinator Nick Holt but was reduced to cheering on his teammates from the sideline.
While the focus coming into the game was on who would start at quarterback for USC, the hero turned out to be Washington quarterback Jake Locker, who connected on 21-of-35 passes for 237 yards and led Washington down the field for Erik Folk's 22-yard game-winning field goal. He went 4-for-4 for 56 yards on the last drive, including a 21-yard dart to Jermaine Kearse on third-and-15.
The loss was yet another reminder that the toughest game on USC's schedule tend not to be a flashy nonconference matchup, but rather its conference road opener. Despite the Trojans' recent success, they are now 4-7 in conference road openers since 1999, including last year's loss at Oregon State, which also came on the heels of a big win against Ohio State. Even USC's four wins during that stretch came with some fourth-quarter dramatics.
As successful as USC has been over the past seven seasons (seven consecutive Pac-10 titles, 11-win seasons, AP Top 4 finishes, BCS Bowls), loses like these to unranked, in-conference, double-digit underdogs are the reason the Trojans are usually griping about playing in the Rose Bowl at the end of the season and pining for a college football playoff. As good as they have been, Carroll knows that they are a Stanford and UCLA win here and a Oregon State and Cal win there from playing for much more at the end of the season.
After losing another conference road opener, the Trojans will be lucky if they're able to gripe about playing in the Rose Bowl this year.
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