“Is college football not the greatest thing in the free world?”
Sam Darnold tossed for 287 yards and two touchdown passes while Clancy Pendergast's defense answered the bell once more — holding another potent offense below 300 total yards offense, including a vapid 17 yards on the ground.
USC (7-3) won their sixth straight game, beating Washington (9-1) in all three facets of the game.
“This was a team win,” Helton said. “Those players won this game. I’m very proud of them.”
After the teams traded field goals in the first quarter, USC took a 10-3 lead on a 13-yard touchdown pass to Darreus Rogers. While the offensive line stonewalled Napolean’s forces at Waterloo, Darnold checked his first, second and 56th option before finding Rogers crossing the back of the end zone.
The Huskies added a field goal on the subsequent drive, but the Trojans answered with a touchdown. Three 20+ yard passes in a four-play span, including two to tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe got USC to the 4-yard line and Ronald Jones II finished off the drive to put USC up 17-6 going into halftime. It presented the first time Washington had trailed at halftime this season and the first time the Huskies had faced a double-digit deficit.
Washington stole the momentum early in the third quarter. John Ross III juked Adoree' Jackson when Jackson had no safety help. Jake Browning tossed an easy pass out to Ross who caught it and ran it in for a 70-yard score that cut USC’s lead to 17-13. Ross finished with eight catches for 154 yards and the touchdown.
“I’m a DB, so I’ve got to have a short-term memory,” Jackson said in a post-game interview. “Pretty much [my teammates] came to me and rallied me together. I knew I made a mistake. My feet wasn’t right on that play. I slipped and fell and with guys like that, they are going to capitalize.”
The Huskies got a gift interception on USC’s next drive when Rogers fell down on a pass play and it seemed Washington was primed for a second half rally. But the defense stiffened, forcing a field goal attempt that would make it a one-point game. Rasheem Green chose otherwise. He broke through the line and swatted down Cameron Van Winkle's 38-yard field goal attempt.
USC built off the special teams play by driving 60 yards in nine plays to re-establish a two-score lead. First down passes to Deontay Burnett and Rogers moved USC into Washington territory. A big third down pickup by Jackson on a toss sweep outside helped set up an 8-yard touchdown pass to Imatorbhebhe to give USC a 24-13 lead.
“You always want to remember these moments cause they don’t come that often,” Darnold said in a post-game interview about the atmosphere. “When you do, you just want to take it all in, look around and enjoy the moment.”
Imatorbhebhe finished with a career-high six catches and a career-high 84 yards to lead the Trojans' passing attack.
Browning had a chance to create his own moment — a “Heisman moment” — when Washington got the ball back down 11 with 4:09 remaining. Instead, he got pressured on the first play of the drive and threw a pass that was caught by Jackson — his second interception of the game. USC couldn’t pick up a fourth-and-1 giving the Huskies a final desperation shot with 1:49 to go, but Browning was sacked for a 21-yard loss and then again for a safety to give USC’s its final margin of victory.
Michael Hutchings led the USC defense with nine tackles while Porter Gustin had doubled his season sack total with two sacks. Green added a sack to his blocked kick and the Trojans also had a pair of sacks on Washington's final drive that were not credited by the home scorekeeper.
USC returns to Los Angeles next week to take on rival UCLA at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Game time has yet to be determined.
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