Special teams, defense smother Huskies

Punter Kyle Negrete's 35-yard run, Marqise Lee's 88-yard touchdown return spark 40-17 rout of Washington.

LOS ANGELES – Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian spent the week praising USC quarterback Matt Barkley, saying he would take the junior ahead of Stanford's Andrew Luck.

Maybe Sarkisian should have been more concerned with the Trojans defense and special teams.

USC relied on both en route to a resounding 40-17 win over Washington, breaking a two-game losing streak to Sarkisian, Saturday afternoon at the Coliseum in front of 64,756.

After a sluggish start, it was punter Kyle Negrete who energized the team by running for 35 yards on fourth down and nine from the USC 45-yard line.

Running back Marc Tyler scored on a one-yard run five plays later for a 14-3 lead and USC (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12) never looked back.

Head coach Lane Kiffin authorized the fake, noting that special teams coordinator John Baxter was "a little bit nervous" given the distance Negrete had to go, but it was on the players to execute it.

"You go through scenarios and then stuff is up to the players," Baxter said. "Either they have the green light or they don't. They either execute it or they don't. It's just kind of that simple."

"I didn't even know that fake punt was going to happen. I was mad we didn't convert," quarterback Matt Barkley said.

"Coach Baxter does it again."

Baxter looked even better after wide receiver Marqise Lee returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown to start the second half.

The return was designed to go to the right, but the freshman initially headed up the middle. It wasn't until Lee, who also caught nine passes for 74 yards and a touchdown, hit a wall of players that he finally bounced it to the outside as intended.

"I think we lucked out a little bit, but hey, you get stuff to go your way sometimes and we'll take it," Baxter said.

"Both the fake punt and that kickoff return, those were huge plays," Barkley said.

Those bolstered another strong effort by the defense, limiting Washington (6-4, 4-3 Pac-12) to 244 yards of total offense, 96 of which came in the fourth quarter. Defensive ends Nick Perry, Wes Horton and Devon Kennard had quarterback Keith Price under constant pressure, coming away with 3.5 of the team's seven sacks.

Price completed 12 of 16 passes for 125 yards before exiting with a knee injury.

Running back Chris Polk was even less effective, managing 36 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.

"We're a lot better. We are extremely a lot better," cornerback Nickell Robey said. "Last year, we gave up almost 600 yards of offense to those guys. It shows that our leaders and our young guys are learning the defense and we understand what's going on."

Sarkisian, the former USC offensive coordinator, wasn't alone in eating crow. His defensive coordinator, Nick Holt, said after a 34-17 loss to Oregon that he would rather play USC because "I know how to stop them."

Holt's defense certainly couldn't stop redshirt junior Curtis McNeal, who rushed for 148 yards with a 79-yard score, to offset relatively meager numbers by Barkley and wide receiver Robert Woods.

Barkley was 18 of 28 for 174 yards and a touchdown, while Woods managed just two receptions for five yards.

"I think it is proof that it's not just us that is our offense," Barkley said.

"We're all just playing as a unit. We have that sense of unity, that sense of team."


USCFootball.com Top Stories