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September 19, 2009SEATTLE- The USC offense stood on the field at Husky Stadium Saturday and had Washington and the Huskies' hopes for an upset in the crosshairs.
But instead of drawing and firing, the Trojans aimed straight down at their cleats and shot. And then, they shot again. And again.
Flags littered the field, the ball squirted loose and the offense stalled when it was on the doorstep. Normally sure-handed players like Stanley Havili and Stafon Johnson both coughed up the ball with USC driving. Aaron Corp, the guy who couldn't throw a pick in the spring, flirted with the Husky defense before finally throwing a drive-killing pick inside the Husky 25.
The mistakes were too much to overcome for USC, as the Trojans fell to Steve Sarkisian and Washington 16-13 on a last-second Husky field goal. For the second straight year, USC lost its Pac-10 opener.
"When you play football like this, your chances of winning are so difficult," USC head coach Pete Carroll said. "It goes right to me. For us to go out there and turn the ball over like that and to be penalized on numerous occasions...
"Really we didn't get any better from last week.... If you look back at the games we have lost over time, it's always turnovers. Usually there are penalties to complement.
The Trojans fumbled four times, losing two, and were penalized eight times for 75 yards.
USC was without two key components from their win at Ohio State - quarterback Matt Barkley and safety Taylor Mays.
In Barkley's place, sophomore Aaron Corp made his first career start and failed to ever settle into anything resembling rhythm. Corp finished 13-of-22 for just 110 yards passing with an interception.
"We didn't throw the ball very well today; it was obvious," Carroll said. "We threw the ball for 110 yards, and we couldn't get the ball downfield much. We've rarely been in that situation."
Corp, making his first collegiate start, said he had a great week of preparation but said he wasn't happy with his performance when it mattered most.
"I wish I had some stuff back," Corp said. "I didn't play to my standards."
Carroll said he considered pulling Corp for Barkley or Mitch Mustain late, but he decided not to make a change at the position.
"I didn't think it was the right thing to do," Carroll said. "I told (Barkley) to get warmed up, but he couldn't get loose."
In the loss, the Trojan offense struggled for the second week in a row.
"We're not real good right now," Carroll said.
USC dominated the line of scrimmage early on both sides of the ball, gashing the Washington defense for 111 yards on eight carries in the first quarter.
"We were fine in the first quarter," Carroll said. "It wasn't a question of being ready to play emotionally. We came out firing at it."
Joe McKnight had some big holes to run through on USC's first drive, leading to a 7-yard run for USC's first score. USC added three more points on its second drive, but the Trojans missed a chance to kick a long field goal at the end of the half.
Facing third-and-1 with just under twenty seconds in the half, USC handed the ball off to Havili in hopes of getting a first down. He was stopped and the clock ran out just before the Trojans were able to snap the ball for the long field goal.
While the offense sputtered after the early 10-0 lead, the Trojan defense did a good job containing Washington and star quarterback Jake Locker. Locker rushed in from 4 yards for a score in the first quarter, but for the most part, USC held him in check - until late in the game.
Locker led Washington on two scoring drives, including one with the score tied at 13 and the clock running down. Needing big plays down the stretch, Washington put its faith in Locker's arm, and he delivered.
"The difference in the game was Jake," Carroll said. "He was able to come up and make the big plays when they needed it. That's a great player. I thought we kept him under wraps a lot, but when they had to have it, he did it."
Locker's late-game heroics set the stage for Erik Folk's easy 22-yard field goal, giving the Huskies a dramatic last-second win.
"I'm proud of our kids," Sarkisian said. "It's a great moment. It's a great moment for our program. Hopefully it sends a message about where we're headed and what we're trying to do. It was just a great win over an excellent football team."
While Carroll said he was happy for his former assistant Sarkisian, he said USC underachieved and underperformed.
"Turnovers and penalties will always have a chance to beat you," Carroll said. "And, that's what happened today."
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