Trojan Sun Emerged Through the Clouds

Amidst a cloudy backdrop, the Trojans shined in its 40-17 win over burgeoning rival Washington.

LOS ANGELES -- While the forecast in Los Angeles predicted a chance of showers Saturday, the only downpour seen in the L.A. Memorial Coliseum was that of little yellow flags.

In USC's dominant 40-17 win over burgeoning rival Washington, a total of 23 penalties were handed out to both teams. Like the unusual weather, it was a most unorthodox win.

For starters, there were no turnovers in this game. Not a single forced takeaway. No fumbles recovered by the opponent. No interceptions by either Washington quarterback (Keith Price and Nick Montana) or USC's Matt Barkley.

Nearly three times Barkley was intercepted, but the ball must not have been slippery enough for Washington defenders. In other games, those passes were goners. But luckily for for Barkley (18 of 28 for 174 yards and a touchdown) and his offense, they didn't need to play amazing to win.

In the first half, Washington had more penalties (9) than first downs (5).

"It's really frustrating when you feel like you've got a good week of practice and you haven't had [penalties] all week and you come to the game and you have 11 penalties for over 100 yards," Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins said.

Under a gloomy sky, the circumstances got even cloudier as the quarters unraveled. In the second quarter USC punter Kyle Negrete faked a punt and ran for more yards than his first punt of the game. The Trojans' punter rushed for more yards (35) than the entire Huskies team in the first half (19).

"We have a lot of these spark plays that we call them…we preach on this team about building relationships and that was a player called play. We called it out on the field," Negrete said of his run. "Then we executed it perfectly."

For a team that doesn't typically run trick plays, the punt came out of nowhere. It brought energy into the fairly lackadaisical crowd of 64,756.

But the special teams' phenomenon didn't end there.

Marqise Lee opened the second half with an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the first Trojans' kickoff returned for a touchdown since Minnesota in 2010.

For a dark and dreary setting, Lee brought a lot of bright. Two days ago, the true freshman ran a fever and was in the hospital. On Saturday, Kiffin said Lee was the Trojans' best player on the field.

"I didn't want to sit out, so I called the coaches and told them [about the fever]," Lee said. "I had a couple IVs Thursday night and Friday.

"It wasn't a big deal."

Clearly. Lee also caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Barkley.

While it rained touchdowns last week in Colorado, where Lee and Robert Woods each caught scored twice, it was a strange turn of events against Washington, where Woods caught just two passes, for a total of five yards.

Another unusual occurrence was the Trojans' pouring of sacks. Through its previous nine games, the Trojans had recorded 16 sacks. Against Washington, the team nailed Husky quarterbacks seven times. After a personal drought of sacks, defensive end Nick Perry came up with 2.5 Saturday, a total of 7.5 on the season.

"We're playing close to where I think we can as a team," Trojan head coach Lane Kiffin said.

The Trojans' defense showed how close by recording its first safety of the season. After a holding penalty against Washington in the second quarter, the Huskies were backed up at their own 10-yard line. Devon Kennard utilized the field position and sacked Price to give USC its first safety since 2006 at UCLA.

"Glad that we could get a win, get to 8-2 and just keep trying to move those clouds away," Kiffin said.

"We'll just keep trying to move them out of the sky and get some sun around here."

Amidst a sanctioned season, these Trojans continue to contest opponents and collect wins.

No matter how dreary 2011 looked to fans and critics, this USC team keeps shining brighter each week.

Such improvement only speaks to a future that has the potential to be nothing short of brilliant.


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