Sunday, September 20, 2009

USC tired of repeating itself

The bogeyman made his annual visit to a USC football game on Saturday, this time in Seattle where the Trojans were upset by the lowly Washington Huskies, 16-13.
Say goodbye, for now, to playing for the BCS championship, and maybe the Rose Bowl too. USC had its season upended again by a Pacific 10 opponent, and in a way that was almost identical to what happened to the Trojans last season.
USC bowled over Ohio State at the Coliseum, then traveled to Corvalis, Ore., the following week and lost to Mike Riley and his upstart Beavers. This year, a dramatic win at Ohio State was followed by a trip to Washington. The Huskies must have barked all night after Erik Volk kicked the winning field goal with seconds to go. Volk is the younger brother of Nick Volk, who kicked for the Arizona Wildcats and the Dallas Cowboys. Washington joined a growing list of conference adversaries who have stabbed USC in the back. They include UCLA, Stanford, Oregon and Oregon St.
After the game Coach Pete Carroll took the blame for the loss, although most of the finger-pointing by the frustrated USC legions was directed at offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates and quarterback Aaron Corp. One booster quipped, "I didn't know Lane Kiffin was back on the coaching staff," in reference to the unpopular former Trojan offensive coordinator who is now coaching at Tennessee. Corp, who is still recovering from a broken leg, was filling in for the injured freshman Matt Barkely, who suffered a deeply bruised shoulder at Columbus.
Ironically, Washington Coach Steve Sarkisian was USC's offensive coordinator last year. Although USC was favored by nearly three touchdowns, it is evident now that Carroll was concerned about playing the Huskies on their home field because Sarkisian knew so much about USC's offensive schemes. Corp said that he was never told he would be the starter, which had to have a negative effect on his confidence. Carroll didn't want to give Sarkisian any more advantage than he already had by revealing if it was going to be Corp, Barkley or the seldom-used Mitch Mustaine who would start under center.
Even so, USC dominated Washington in the first quarter, rolling up 110 yards of offensive on easy runs by Joe McKnight and crisp passing by Corp. The Trojans took a 10-0 lead and looked like they would swat the Huskies like a fly.
Sarkisian told the Seattle Times that the adjustments Washington made after the first quarter saved the day for the Huskies. He and defensive coordinator Nick Holt, also a former USC assistant, pulled their beefier and slower defensive lineman out of the game and replaced them with lighter, and quicker, players. One lineman who weighed 348 pounds gave way to another at 262.
Washington was now able to compete against the lightning-fast zone blocking of USC's offensive line and the changes worked. The Huskies stopped McKnight and the other USC backs, while giving Husky quarterback Jake Locker a chance to direct the Washington offense. Locker made two brilliant passes on the drive that set up Volk's winning kick
Carroll has said more than once that Locker is the best quarterback in the Pacific 10. He was heavily recruited by USC but chose Washington, thanks mostly to the persuasion of former Husky Coach Tyrone Willingham.
So now USC must win the rest of its games to have any chance of getting to a major post-season bowl, and this won't be easy. It has road encounters at California, Notre Dame, Oregon and Arizona State.
Up next is Washington State at the Coliseum, which beat SMU Saturday in overtime, 30-27. It isn't known yet if Barkley will return from his injury or if Corp gets another chance.
The play at quarterback and also special teams has to improve dramatically or else a team that was so highly rated just a week ago, will remain on the road to disappointment for the rest of a long season.

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