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This is precisely when the Trojans are most vulnerable: returning to conference play after a flashy win on the national stage—in this case against Ohio State—and forced to lower their sights to some plebeian Pac-10 foe. Since 2006 the Trojans have also been on the humbling end of comeuppances from Oregon State (twice), UCLA and Stanford. All, like Washington, were double-digit underdogs.
If Washington is much better than people thought, the converse may be true of USC. What ailed the Trojans (other than, for the second straight week, a profoundly anemic offense)? Possibly a spot of brain-drain. When Sarkisian left USC, he took along defensive coordinator Nick Holt, whose deft adjustments choked off the Trojans' rushing attack after USC had taken a 10--0 lead. Sarkisian also poached strength coach Ivan Lewis, director of football operations Dennis Slutak and director of player personnel Jared Blank. End result: The Huskies knew USC's tendencies as well as the Trojans did.
Also, it was quarterback Aaron Corp's misfortune to be making his first career start in one of the game's most deafening venues. A redshirt sophomore playing in place of freshman Matt Barkley, who'd bruised his right shoulder against the Buckeyes, Corp had been known for taking good care of the ball. But he repeatedly put it up for grabs against Washington before linebacker Donald Butler finally picked him off late in the third quarter.
That interception was one of three turnovers by the Trojans, who had no takeaways themselves—an embarrassment for players who spend so much time talking about holding on to the ball when they have it and taking it away when they don't. Thus did the visitors endure the double indignity of suffering a devastating blow to their national title hopes against a bunch of guys who then parroted their own familiar talking points:
"We put an emphasis on stripping the ball," explained Butler.
"Our team is all about the ball," added outside linebacker Mason Foster.
Asked if he and his buds had celebrated with extra gusto on Saturday night, Butler replied, "We kept it under control. Hopefully, this is the start of something big."