Trojans drop 2nd straight at the Coliseum

17-point underdog Washington embarrasses USC 17-12 and puts the Huskies former head coach, Steve Sarkisian, on the hottest of hot seats in just his second year at Troy.

Inexplicable. Unacceptable.

"Positively Paul Hackett-esque," a USC official said invoking the name of "he who shall not be named" after USC's 17-12 loss to a young and not-all-that-talented Washington team Thursday night.

A Coliseum crowd of 63,623 came late and sleepwalked its way out of here early. Which was the one piece of good news. It cut way down on the booing.

But the USC fan base has clearly moved on after trying to digest the fact that this was first time a USC team had lost back-to-back games at the Coliseum since Pete Carroll's first season.

Pete got that ship turned around. But was there a single soul working his way home in cardinal and gold who thinks this coach and this staff can do anything similar?

There is not. They proved it here in front of a national TV audience and with the likes of Sports illutrated mocking USC for getting the short end of the Petersen-Sarkisian deal. And USA Today already naming USC's next coach -- Chip Kelly.

"Hard to argue" any of that, we just heard in the press box. Hard indeed.

With the baseball playoffs just getting going, we're looking at this in baseball terms. Salute to Troy was Strike one for Sark. Stanford was Strike Two. Washington is Strike Three.

Three strikes and you're out is how it's always worked. Even if it's just five games into Sark's Season 2.

You get the sense that it's not a matter of "if" any longer but "when."

And when the questions have no answers, when they answer themselves actually, what's the point of spending too much time analyzing this.

"You can't blame the offense," safety Chris Hawkins said, "they didn't blame the defense for the Stanford game."

But what you can do is blame the person responsible for both of them -- the offense and the defense and the two losses. Two Pac-12 home games to two Pac-12 North teams that make it pretty clear that Sark doesn't have the discipline, the decisiveness, that a program like USC requires.

Doesn't have the record either. Just the more than $3 million-a-year contract that makes you realize that for that kind of money, you don't get all that much any more.

Sure, second guess all you want. The only problem is where to start. Sure, Cody Kessler hadn't looked this lost since the Washington State game in 2013 when no one knew who the quarterback was. And we all know what happened to that head coach soon thereafter.

But against a limited UW team that recorded just 299 yards of offense, USC could get very little pressure on freshman quarterback Jake Browning.

But Washington's no-name defenders after losing three players to the NFL's first round last spring, could. No problem, you say. Just run the ball on the Huskies. USC gained 222 yards running the ball with Tre Madden averaging 8.1 yards a carry and Ronald Jones 7.1 on their combined 25 carries.

Which is where the "inexplicable" part of this comes in. USC got back in the game behind RJII's running at 17-12, got the ball back after the crowd finally got in the game, and then goes all-out throwing it with 9:58 -- plenty of time -- left.

Sure, RJII had gained 39 of the 69 yards on that scoring drive in three plays. And there was just one completion against three incompletions. But hope springs eternal. And so USC had Cody throw it three times -- once even completing it for four yards to Justin Davis. But all that got was a punt opportunity for Kris Albarado and a quieter Coliseum.

"I felt like we ran the ball really well," Viane Talamaivao said, even without center Max Tuerk, who sprained an ankle early and was replaced by Toa Lobendahn with Viane staying in at guard. "And then we go straight to the passing game. for whatever reason. I'm not the coach but . . . "

'i was hoping we'd run it," fullback Jahleel Pinner said, "but you can't second guess the coaches."

You maybe can't. But you're the only one right now. Sark and second guessing are synonomous right now. There was the field goal when USC had driven to the UW 25 with 4:00 left only to have Cody sacked for a loss of three on third down, his second pass in that final, fateful series.

Just enough of a loss to put Alex Wood on the far edge of his range at 46 yards. And to prove the point, he nailed the crossbar and it fell short.

Coupled with the two-point extra point a wide-open Madden dropped, those five points -- in a 17-12 game -- would have at least allowed USC to head to overtime.

Because down by five and unable to keep Browning from throwing for one first down conversion, USC, after squandering two of its timeouts on offensive screwups, had just one left.

"I felt good about the call," Sark said, "and hindsight's 20-20. We'd probably run it now that we got sacked on it . . . You can second guess lots of things about tonight."

Indeed you can. Like how was it possible that "they seemed to be everywhere," Kessler said of the Huskies pass defenders. "They did a great job covering. They took everything way from us. And they set the tone early."

As did USC. And then they finished up the same way. Washington with a freshman taking a knee in the victory formation. And USC not bringing any players to the interview room.

"This game starts with me," Sark said, all alone at the podium. When we don't perform as a team, the head coach has the responsibility to own up."

Not that it really matters after this game. There were plenty of people willing to own up for Sark.

Can he turn it around? Pete did. But as Sark has made clear, in his own words, he's not Pete. And as he's often said, Pete's advice to him has always been "to be his own man."

Thursday night he was.

CHECK THIS OUT TOO: For more tonight's game play-by-play, check out LIVE FROM THE PRESS BOX, IT'S USC-UW.

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