SEATTLE -- Time for some quick takes wrapping up USC's dominating 26-13 win over previously unbeaten and obviously overmatched Washington Huskies.
*** We certainly know something the Seattle columnist said he didn’t know after watching the Huskies lose at home to a poised, talented, well-prepared USC team Saturday. What we don’t know, he wrote, was just how good these Huskies are. But USC fans do know how good this USC team, as it’s currently constituted, can be. And for this weekend, USC fans will take that and feel pretty good about it.
*** You really should have been here. Several thousand USC fans acquitted themselves quite well, amazingly making themselves heard in the din of the record new Husky Stadium crowd. And to emphasize the point, they stayed until way past the bitter end, when no one was left but USC fans, the Trojan Marching Band travel version and the USC players and their families. It is simply the best time to be a Trojan.
*** Also acquitting themselves exceptionally was the Pac-12 officiating crew of Referee Terry Leyden on a night when no way you would have known from the way the game was called which team was favored or playing at home or which team winning would mean millions to the Pac-12 coffers and much national prestige. They stepped up and made everybody who cares about college football proud. Nice job, guys. We take it all back. OK, maybe not all of it before Saturday night. But this game goes a long way to restoring the reputation of the league’s officials in our book.
*** Wish we could say the same for the folks who vote in the polls but despite elevating USC into the rankings this week at No. 15 in the AP Poll and No. 19 in the Coaches Poll. C’mon guys, stop embarrassing yourselves. We do see the Football Writers brought USC into their Top 16 poll at No. 14 and the Scout College Football Insiders ranking all 128 teams has USC No. 12, same as ESPN in its Power Rankings. But that effort by this USC team with this quarterback, these diverse weapons, this shut-down defense and this maturing coaching staff is clearly Top 10-worthy. Even at 7-3.
*** Did Sam Darnold's 2017 Heisman Trophy campaign start last night? Almost certainly it did thanks to the juxtaposition of Sam and Washington sophomore Jake Browning, in this season’s Heisman discussion, who clearly was pressing thanks to a USC run-stopping defense that allowed the pass-rushers to lay their ears back, as the cliché goes, and get in Jake’s face. But it couldn’t have helped him that he also had to watch Sam play with all the bravado, poise and that quickness in decision-making, arm and feet, that shout out that this guy can’t be a freshman – redshirt or not. Was there one thing Jake could do better than Sam? Not blowing smoke here but there was not. But the best thing Sam does can’t exactly be quantified the way he comes back from plays where his receiver, Darreus Rogers, trips and falls and he throws an interception. Or Sam mentally trips and falls and throws into triple coverage. Move on to the next play and get it done is the way Sam handles this stuff. Even more impressive than all his physical gifts. Although the inability of teams to get to him, to get in his face, to distract him, clearly has a wearing-down effect on opposing defenses when that realization sets in. He’s going to be able to throw it, or run it, and probably get it to where he wants it to go and there’s very little we can do about it, is not the thought you want your defensive guys thinking. And yet there it is.
*** And while we have no idea where USC will finish out this season, in Santa Clara again for a Pac-12 Championship Game we’ll all look forward to going to this time around, or a bowl that will be someplace other than San Diego, just finishing out against UCLA and Notre Dame is the key now. Scratch that. Make that just UCLA and a 7-2 Pac-12 finish after opening 0-2. USC will look back at those two, of course, and say “if only.” But once you were there, winning the next seven was the only way to go. But now USC serves itself up as the season-saver for the Bruins in what promises to be a dark and ugly Rose Bowl venue by 7:30 kickoff Saturday. Thanks ESPN.
*** And a game that presents unique challenges for this team and its coaching staff as they try to remind these guys that last week has come and gone. And a loss this week, no matter how great their friends and family tell them they are, is clearly in the realm of possibility if they show up still celebrating the way they were behind the bench mugging for the camera and posing for pictures with the fans before the end of the game. How good is this team? Only as good as it plays this Saturday – not last Saturday.
BY THE NUMBERS
*** 9-6-3: Imagine this, a Pac-12 game with just nine penalties -- by both teams. USC had six of those, down from 13 each of the last two weeks, Washington just three. We'll take it.
*** 48.3/13: After averaging 48.3 points a game for its first eight games, the Huskies were held to 35 points under their average in this one. USC will take that.
*** 27/17/0.6: If you thought limiting an Oregon team leading the Pac-12 in rushing last week to 85 yards on 30 carries for a 2.8 average was impressive, you’re probably really impressed with the way USC limited this week’s Pac-12 rushing leader – Washington with 205 yards a game on the ground – to 17 yards on 27 carries for an 0.6 average. Not sure we’ve ever seen that before. “Nice,” we called it last week. “Very, very nice” we’ll say for this week. Or maybe just use Helton’s word: “Unbelievable.” Yeah, that works.
*** 72,364: The record crowd for a renovated Husky Stadium with its steeply-banked, under-roofed stands that keeps the sound rolling down to the field didn’t seem to bother the Trojans much, seemed like something they almost welcomed and were looking forward to. That’s good coaching. Pete Carroll did that often, never better than that game in Pullman when it rained, sleeted, snowed and hailed the half-hour before kickoff to the delight of Washington State fans only to have the Trojans jumping for joy as the hail hit their helmets in a moment Pete had promised them they’d remember forever with great joy – if they won, that is. USC scored two touchdowns in the first minute of that game. And had an experience, just as these current Trojans will, that they’ll never forget -- as long as they beat UCLA.
*** 2 straight/12 straight: It’s not that big a deal in the big picture, we’d guess, but for Clay Helton, who didn’t pick up his first road win until a couple of weeks ago at Arizona, we’re guessing it’s a pretty big deal. Because it is. He’d beaten a No. 3 Utah team last year at the Coliseum but this was different. You’re really not supposed to win these games which is why for USC to end Washington's win streak at 12, the nation's second-longest is a pretty big deal.
*** 2.0/1.0: Rasheem Green with one sack and Porter Gustin with two combined to give Browning his three sacks and keep him under constantly increasing pressure..
*** 93-487: Ronald Jones' 93 yards may not have given the sophomore his third straight triple-digit game but he does have 487 yards in the last three games and on this night, against Pac-12 star Myles Gaskin,who was held to 51, he was the only running back near triple digits and gave USC the balance the Trojans needed.
*** 52-28-4: All-time record in this series including the NCAA-vacated USC win in 2005. We don't do NCAA-vacated wins here.
*** 23-33, 287, 2, 2, 1: Just another day at the office for Sam Darnold, whose 23 for 33 passing for 287 yards with two TDs, two INTs [one not his fault] and one sack is just pretty much expected.
*** 2: Stevie Tu’ikolavatu may have had just two assisted tackles but if they were charting the number of times USC’s nose tackle, playing on a sprained MCL, pushed the overmatched Washington center deep into the Husky backfield, they'd be talking some big numbers. What an effort by USC’s 25-year-old grad student.
THEY SAID IT
CLAY HELTON: On Adoree’ Jackson sitting next to him after the game: “This guy here is Superman . . . with two huge interceptions and a big run down at the end to keep our drive alive."
WASHINGTON COACH CHRIS PETERSEN: On his quarterback Jake Browning's problems: "Well, I thought he was under a lot of pressure. I think when we can't run the ball like we'd like to, the stats are a little misleading with the sacks in there but we still didn't get into that rhythm, that flow . . . in the second half, we didn't really get one play that was explosive. That is not really going to work for us. We have to do better than that."
USC OLB PORTER GUSTIN: On stepping up into the big-game spotlight: “It’s great. I love this moment. I love the [USC] fans. I love the big stage.”
USC TACKLE ZACH BANNER: On who deserves the credit for the Washington win – both Clay and Sam: On Clay: “He calmed us down . . . the best coach I’ve ever played for.” And on Sam: “Sam not only makes himself look good, he makes us look good.”
PETERSEN AGAIN: On what happened to Washington's run game: "They [USC] were defeating blocks. They are physical guys. We kind of knew that going in. It is a big, physical defense."
USC TE DANIEL IMATORBHEBHE: On his motivation to become a Trojan: “I watched those old videos of guys singing ‘Fight On” in the locker room and always wanted to be one of them."
Much shorter report than last week when a half-dozen were listed here. Not a single mention from the coaches but the one player we did see limping later was D-lineman Josh Fatu, who had a boot on his left foot for what appeared to be an ankle injury. Everybody else seemed to survive well. Iman Marshall was riding the bike late to keep his hamstring loose but that seemed to be it.
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