To Get Revenge, USC Must Contain Locker

The Washington quarterback's ability to improvise when the play breaks down is major concern for Trojans.

As Washington coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff started breaking down tape of the Trojans last week, it probably hit them pretty quickly that this team bears little resemblance to the one the Huskies ambushed 16-13 last season.

No Matt Barkley. No Ronald Johnson. No Shareece Wright. No Armond Armstead. None of the freshmen contributors like Robert Woods or Nickell Robey. And no Lane Kiffin.

But USC (4-0, 1-0 Pac-10) still has to deal with quarterback Jake Locker, who should have plenty of incentive to knock off the Trojans for a second straight year. In his last game against Nebraska, Locker completed just 4 of 20 passes for 71 yards, one touchdown and two critical interceptions, putting his status as the possible first overall pick in the next NFL Draft in jeopardy.

Against USC on Saturday evening (5 pm, ESPN2) in the Coliseum, Kiffin expects the senior quarterback to respond in a big way.

"One game is never going to define a player," he said of Locker, who has thrown for 626 yards and six touchdowns this season and rushed for two touchdowns.

For all his impressive physical attributes, it's not Locker the runner that causes concern but his ability to scramble once the play breaks down. He officially rushed eight times for -15 yards with a four-yard touchdown last year, but ran for a key third-down conversion on the game-winning drive.

"It's when the play breaks down and everybody is back in man or zone 20 yards down the field, he takes off," Kiffin said. "Even when you cover, do a great job with the back seven, if you leave him any space he takes off and runs. This will be the most dynamic player we have played and a very big challenge for us."

In spite of Locker's skills, the Trojan offense deserved much of the blame for the 16-13 upset loss. They failed to convert any of the 10 third downs they faced, lost two fumbles at dire moments and the play-calling did nothing to protect Corp in his only USC start.

The play-calling and third down struggles have been largely resolved, as the Trojans have converting a blistering 26 of 49 tries this season, but the turnovers could again prove costly.

Barkley has thrown a pair of interceptions in each of his last two games. Add in four lost fumbles and USC ranks 74th nationally in turnovers lost.

That can't happen against the premier teams in the Pac-10 or even against struggling Washington (1-2, 0-0 Pac-10), but again the Trojans have plenty of motivation.

"We get one year to make it right and make sure that never happens again," linebacker Chris Galippo said, recalling his mindset leaving Husky Stadium last year.

"I just want to get back at them so bad," defensive end Wes Horton said after the win at Washington State. "It was an embarrassing loss last year. We have a lot of fuel. We have a lot of fire built up. We're really going to let it loose on them next week."


T.J. McDonald and the USC defense will look to contain Jake locker on Saturday night.


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