"We can go into any setting and play well"

Last Saturday in Corvallis, the <!--Default NodeId For Washington is 737,2003--><A HREF=http://washington.TheInsiders.com>Washington</A> mantra was "60 (players) for 60 (minutes)" – and to have fun doing it. As freshly as the drying print on their T-shirts, the message was delivered, for the Huskies were flying to the ball like vultures for the first time since their three-week Northwest run a year ago.

#5 Southern California (2-1, 6-1) at Washington (2-1, 4-3)
Saturday, October 25 - 12:35 PM (PDT) - ABC TV
Husky Stadium - Seattle, WA
Series All-time: USC leads, 43-26-4
Last Meeting: October 19, 2002 - USC 41, Washington 21
Line: USC by 10

Winners in 14 of their previous 15 games, the fifth-ranked Southern California Trojans swagger into Husky Stadium riding an impressive three-win streak - outscoring ASU, Stanford and Notre Dame by a combined 126-52 after a surprise three-OT loss at Cal. The "conquests" of the Sun Devils and Fighting Irish were both accomplished on the road, prompting USC head coach Pete Carroll to surmise...

"We can go into any setting and play well"

Keith Gilbertson
"That's what I keep telling them," drills Husky coach Keith Gilbertson. "You've got to have fun playing this game. You have to enjoy what you are doing or you need to go find something else to do."

"We did the things we were supposed to do (against Oregon State) to make that happen and now our goal this week is to continue that."

Having fun hasn't been a problem lately for USC, who more resembles last year's juggernaut than the team that fell to the Bears a month ago. "It sickens me because our football team is so capable of being undefeated at this time," said Carroll on Tuesday, "but we played poorly that one time. The last three games have been terrific football games for us.

"And I don't care about where we are in the polls; I just want to keep winning."

Carroll was pleased with the preparation and disposition of his team heading into South Bend, and expects no less from his Trojans on Saturday. "We put it behind us, and it's on to another road challenge," says Carroll, who is 23-9 overall in his third season at the helm. "I'm not concerned about us getting fired up, because of the Notre Dame game. Our attention is on Washington now, and we have to get jacked up and ready to go.

"Washington looked so good against Oregon State - they looked dangerous. This is a championship match-up for us, and we're looking forward to it."

Husky fans need little reminder of the last time Washington defeated a top-five team - the 2002 Apple Cup in Pullman. Coincidently perhaps, the Huskies had just come off of a stellar road performance in the state of Oregon prior to that victory – a 42-14 bullying of the Ducks in Eugene.

Pete Carroll
(Getty Images)
"So coach Carroll could be correct in his "championship match-up" assertion – there are three PAC-10 teams with one league loss, and two of them face off Saturday in Seattle before an ABC-TV regional audience. The victor gets another match-up next week; the loser can start targeting for another bowl.

"It's really an exciting time for us," says Carroll. "It's no fluke – we're a pretty good football team. We can go into any setting and play well."

And so, perhaps implicitly, the gauntlet has been dropped on the 72,000 voices expected to permeate Husky Stadium. There should be little doubt that they will accept the challenge.F

The question is which Washington team will answer the call?

TEAM STATS:  39.4 points (1st PAC-10),
             426.9 yards (3rd PAC-10, 152.9 rush, 274.0 pass)
             28-32 in Red Zone offense (1st PAC-10) 

RUSHING:     LenDale White 77-393-7 TD (5.1), long 25 
             Hershel Dennis 84-367-3 TD (4.4), long 23
             Reggie Bush 40-239-3 TD (6.0), long 58
PASSING:     Matt Leinart 129-208-7 (.620), 1824 yards, 17 TD 
RECEIVING:   Mike Williams 48-743-8 TD (15.5), long 40
             Keary Colbert 37-558-5 TD (15.1), long 57
             Dominique Byrd 14-268-1 TD (19.1), long 55

QB Matt Leinert
(Getty Images)
After wreaking havoc with a senior-laden group in 2002, USC now features youth at the skill positions, and haven't missed a beat. Last week in South Bend it was a scrimmage for the Trojan offense, tallying on five 80-yard drives and piling up 551 yards in a 45-14 drubbing of Notre Dame. "Nobody has stopped them," said Gilby, wowing at the USC/ND game film. "They are going to get their points because that's how talented they are."

It was thought that the loss of Carson Palmer would – at least early – slow down the Santa Ana express. But sophomore Matt Leinart is having a terrific first year at the helm, and the PAC-10's leading passer enjoyed his finest hour last Saturday, riddling the Irish for 351 yards and four touchdowns. The lefty has a deft touch, with nine scoring tosses and just one interception in the last three games. "Matt's played his best football the past three weeks," understates Carroll. And waiting in the wings is the wunderkind - true freshman John David Booty, believed to be the first player ever to leave prep school a year early to enroll at a Division 1-A school. Booty threw for over 8,400 yards in a little more than two full seasons at Evangel Christian in Shreveport, Louisiana.

WR Mike Williams
Of course, Leinart has the big two receivers to lean on – sophomore Mike Williams and senior co-captain Keary Colbert. The two combined for 17 catches for 232 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Notre Dame rout - and the same two torched Washington for four scores, 16 receptions and 305 yards in the L.A. Coliseum a year ago. The 6-5 Williams has 22 career touchdowns in 20 games, and like his Washington all-American counterpart Reggie, is at his most dangerous in the open field. Colbert - now #3 all-time on the USC receptions list - had the 61-yard scoring strike against the Huskies that opened the floodgates in 2002. Junior Gregg Guenther has filled nicely at tight end for Dominique Byrd, who had a knack for the big play but is out for the season with a knee injury.

Again it's a three-headed tailback for the Trojans – this time featuring two true freshmen and a sophomore. Combined, the trio has totaled 999 yards and 13 touchdowns. LenDale White burst on the scene against Hawaii with a pair of rushing touchdowns, and the 225-pounder from Denver has averaged 107 yards per game over his last three. Hershel Dennis usually gets the starting nod, and he led the way in wins over Auburn and BYU, plus he scored twice at South Bend. Helix High standout Reggie Bush – who averaged 12 yards per carry in high school - had his best game as a Trojan last week with six carries for 89 yards, including a 58-yard scoring burst. Sophomore blocking back Brandon Hancock has yet to take a handoff, but is a dangerous third-down threat for Leinart, with eight catches and one touchdown.

USC is vastly experienced and deep in the offensive line. They've given up a conference-least 11 sacks, and they don't beat themselves – the Trojans are a plus-eight in turnovers and only average 53 yards in penalties. On the left side, seniors Jacob Rogers and Lenny Vandermade are both of all-Conference ilk – Rogers could be a game-time decision with a knee sprain - and senior center Norm Katnik is a two-year mainstay. Sophomore tackle Winston Justice made freshman all-American, and both John Drake and Eric Torres have starting experience, though redshirt-freshman Fred Matua will likely start at guard.

GAME OUTLOOK: "We really can do whatever we want formation-wise now," says Carroll, "and adjust as needed." The USC running game is different than Oregon State - not so inclined to pure power, but to sweep, slash and counter with different looks for different backs. The Terry Johnson move to DE worked so soundly against OSU, but we'll see how offensive coordinator Norm Chow compensates. The Husky DBs had no chance last year against Williams and Colbert, and so they must try and reach Leinart somehow and hurry things. It's another tall order.

TEAM STATS:     19.4 points (2nd PAC-10),
                334.4 yards (3rd PAC-10, 79.0 rush, 255.4 pass)
                16-20 in Red Zone defense (9th PAC-10)  

TACKLES/TFL:    Lofa Tatupu 47/9.0
                Will Poole 42/2.5
                Jason Leach 41/1.0    

PASSES DEF/INT: Will Poole 12/3
                Lofa Tatupu 6/1 
                Jason Leach 4/2
                Marcell Allmond 4/1 
SACKS:          Kenechi Udeze 7.5
                Mike Patterson 5.0
                Shaun Cody 4.0

OLB Melvin Simmons
You might get an argument from Washington State, but the USC front four is the best in the PAC-10 – if not all of the country. All four could be considered for post-season honors of some sort, and they call themselves "The Wild Bunch II", honoring the 1969 Trojan line that included three all-Americans. They are especially stingy against the run, and have only allowed four rushing touchdowns.

Junior nose tackle Mike Patterson leads the interior, with 34 tackles, five sacks and two fumble recoveries. For a fourth straight week, Washington comes up against a bulldozer off the end - junior DE Kenechi Udeze is second in the PAC-10 in sacks with 7.5, with five of them (plus three forced fumbles) coming in the past two games. Senior Omar Nazel will most likely play with a cast on his dislocated thumb - he has three career interceptions and two fumble recoveries from the opposite end. Junior Shaun Cody is back at full strength with four sacks after tearing a knee a year ago. Both Patterson (vs. Auburn) and Udeze (vs. Stanford) are previous PAC-10 players-of-the-week.

Sophomore Lofa Tatupu and junior Matt Grootgoed – who is questionable at press-time with a high ankle sprain - provide a stellar run-stopping presence at linebacker. Tatupu – son of former USC fullback Mosi – had 23 tackles in the first two games, while Grootgoed – who snared his first-ever pass theft against the Huskies last year - had nine-tackle days against ASU and BYU. Senior co-captain Melvin Simmons had 13 stops a week ago in South Bend.

SS Darnell Bing
Senior corner Marcell Allmond is USC's most experienced DB and kick returner. Allmond has only two career INTs, but the Trojans are 12-1 when he starts. Will Poole, a senior originally from Boston College, is having a fine run at the other corner, stepping up for the injured Kevin Arbet. Poole leads the conference in passes defended with 12. Junior free safety Jason Leach suffered a deep gash at practice on Monday, but should be good to go. Leach had career-best 11 stops at Cal. Freshman strong safety Darnell Bing, who originally signed at Southern California in 2002 but was ineligible until this year, had his best game at Notre Dame, credited with 11 tackles plus a pass break-up.

GAME OUTLOOK: The status of Rich Alexis will be telling here – the ground yards have been difficult enough to come by against the USC interior. If the Husky line can at least slow down the Wild Bunch onslaught, the Trojans have been more giving against the pass. The emergence of Charles Frederick gives Washington a 1-2 similar to Colbert/Williams – as good a match-up as you can get.

PLACEKICKING:  Ryan Killeen 12-14 FG (long 45), 34-34 XP
PUNTING:       Tom Malone 28-48.9 (long 70), .286 inside the 20
KICK RETURNS:  Marcell Allmond 6-22.7 (long 33), 0 TD
               Reggie Bush 5-22.2 (long 30), 0 TD
PUNT RETURNS:  Grieg Carlson 11-10.1 (long 20), 0 TD

PK Ryan Killeen
Junior place-kicker Ryan Killeen has been much more consistent than a year ago, missing only two three-point tries all year while owning a current streak of 64-consecutive successful PATs. He was the PAC-10 special-teams player-of-the week for his 13-point performance against Arizona State. Sophomore punter Tom Malone earned similar honors for his BYU performance, and leads the conference, nation, and most third-world countries with a 48.9-yard average – with 64 percent of his boots traveling 50-plus yards.

P Tom Malone
(Getty Images)
USC has a pair of fleet returners in Marcell Allmond and Reggie Bush, but they've also allowed over 20 yards per return – ninth best in the conference. The Trojans have blocked three kicks, and have had two blocked themselves.

GAME OUTLOOK: Washington has moved from 10th to 9th to 8th over three weeks in kick returns – but it's more that others have simply done worse. Bush is a former 100-meter champ that's a definite threat, while Frederick finally has that look (swagger?) of breaking one at any time. The Huskies have had four kicks blocked in the last two weeks (and five on the season) – not a good sign against a USC team that knows the discipline. Washington is still looking for its first block of the season.

How do we match-up against the USC Trojans ?
Category USC Trojans UW HuskiesNational LeaderPac-10 Leader
152.86 58 2 124.86 85 6 NAVY 321.29 OSU 169.71
274 24 5 279.29 22 4 TEXTECH 524.43 WSU 293.57
426.86 26 3 404.14 42 6 TEXTECH 627.43 OSU 461.29
39.43 9 1 27.29 54 5 TEXTECH 47.14 USC 39.43
79 9 2 107.71 26 6 LSU 53.14 WSU 75.71
Pass Eff.
113.02 36 6 112.86 35 5 NEB 80.22 OSU 93.73
334.43 35 4 328.86 30 3 GEOR 249.86 WSU 305.57
19.43 30 2 23.29 57 5 LSU 9.86 WSU 15
43.93 1 1 37.82 30 4 CAL 43.93 USC 43.93
7.65 86 7 12.96 23 2 TOL 21.58 CAL 13.52
20.53 64 7 19.17 84 8 TAMU 27.96 STAN 25.2
1.14 12 2 -0.57 90 8 NEB 2 WSU 2
255.43 96 7 221.14 65 2 PENNST 121 OSU 220
148.35 12 1 123.97 69 6 OKLA 174.5 USC 148.35
Source: NCAA.org

KIBBLES AND BITS: The last time USC came into Seattle as a top-5 team, it was the famous Todd Marinovich "All I saw was Purple" 1990 game, won by Washington 31-0. In fact, the last two top-5 teams to visit Husky Stadium both lost (#4 Miami lost 34-29 in September of 2000) ... Reggie Williams has the longest consecutive-game reception streak going in the PAC-10, now at 32 straight games ... The Trojans are 14-10-1 in it's last 25 games on artificial surfaces ... With only Notre Dame at Stanford remaining, the PAC-10 has a 2003 non-conference game record of 25-14 (.641) ... Steven Jackson's 926 rushing yards would place him fifth on the PAC-10 TEAM rushing list – just ahead of Washington and just behind Washington State ... The last time USC started a season 6-1 (1995), they ended up in the Rose Bowl ... Home Field Advantage? In 15 PAC-10 conference games to date, the home side has only won eight times ... Cody Pickett will soon pass John Elway for sixth all-time in PAC-10 passing annals. He only needs 259 yards ... The Trojans have defeated their biggest two rivals – Notre Dame and UCLA – by a combined 168-48 over their last four meetings ... Neither USC or Washington has missed an extra-point the entire season ... Washington State has yet to convert a fourth-down all year (in four tries) ... The PAC-10 conference is not much of a punt-return conference. Charles Frederick's 86-yard bolt propelled him to the conference lead – but is only ranked 23rd in the nation...

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