Washington visits USC in LA

Washington, arguably the most pleasant surprise in the Pac-10 to date, flies down to Southern California this weekend to take on the USC Trojans in the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Huskies have won three in a row, and while USC looked rather ordinary on the road the past two games, they are still, well, USC. Here is a preview of Saturday's clash from the views of the insiders on this network.

LAST WEEK: The Trojans went on the road to Pullman last week and came away with a hard-fought 28-22 victory over the Washington State Cougars. The game went down to the final play before Taylor Mays intercepted an Alex Brink pass near the goal line to secure the victory. The Trojans were led by a terrific performance from wide receiver Steve Smith who caught 11 balls for 186 yards and a pair of scores as he was later named Pac-10 Player of the Week for his efforts. Special mention also needs to go to quarterback John David Booty for the calm and efficient way he led the team on a pair of long touchdown drives in the second half. LAST WEEK: Washington went into the desert in Tucson and in a span of six minutes, scored 21 points in the second quarter and never looked back as the Dawgs took down Arizona 21-10. The Huskies are 4-1, 2-0 in the Pac 10 and feeling about as good as they have in three seasons. They have strung together three wins in a row, over Fresno State and UCLA in Husky Stadium, and now this not-pretty but effective takedown of the Wildcats on the road. Washington's rushing attack was anemic but they hit on some long pass plays to hurt Arizona. WR Sonny Shackelford had yet another big day and is providing the big plays for the Husky offense. QB Isaiah Stanback didn't make any crucial errors, and when he plays error free, the Huskies can be awfully tough this year. The defense gave up over 300 yards through the air, but only 10 points, and held the 'cats to MINUS 9 yards rushing.
KEY INJURIES: FB Brandon Hancock (knee, out), FB Ryan Powdrell (ankle, out), FB Stanley Havili (fibula, out), WR Dwayne Jarrett (shoulder, questionable), RG Chilo Rachal (knee, questionable), DT Sedrick Ellis (knee, questionable), DB Josh Pinkard (knee, out), OL Jeff Byers (back, out), WR Chris McFoy (shoulder, out) KEY INJURIES: Anthony Russo (concussion, will play), Isaiah Stanback (bruised leg, will play), Robert Lewis (out).
WHEN USC IS ON OFFENSE: Look for the Trojans to continue to establish the running game behind the combination of Chauncey Washington and Emmanuel Moody. Washington is the veteran power runner who is steadily coming back from a hamstring injury while Moody has been dazzling at times as a freshman with a nice change of direction style. John David Booty has been very solid so far through four games with 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions. The passing game was helped last week by Steve Smith in the absence of Jarrett but it would certainly be nice if Jarrett is able to play in the game on Saturday. If he doesn't go, look for Smith to continue to step up as well as tight end Fred Davis or newcomers Vidal Hazelton and Travon Patterson. The Trojans will also be without their best blocking receiver in Chris McFoy who is out with a shoulder injury. WHEN WASHINGTON IS ON OFFENSE: Quarterback Isaiah Stanback has been the catalyst for the Husky offense. Stanback has 4.4 speed and a cannon for an arm, but the wrap against him is that you can pressure him into turning the ball over. However when he is hot, he is dangerous with both his throwing and his ability to get downfield quickly. He connects on just 56% of his passes, but has just three interceptions to go with his 8 touchdowns. He averages just over 190 yards per game and adds 61 per game on the ground, making him second in the conference in total yards per game. Sonny Shackelford has been the man in the passing game, hauling in 21 receptions for 315 yards and 5 touchdowns. His last two games have been huge. Anothony Russo is the other wideout and has 16 grabs for 237 yards. TE Johnie Kirton has 8 catches, two for touchdowns. The rushing attack is a two-headed approach. stanback leads all rushers with 355 yards but Louis Rankin has added 346 and Kenny James has 208. The offensive line is not deep, as all five starters will play the entire game assuming no injuries. WT Ben Ossai is just a RS freshman. All three inside guys are seniors - OG Stanley Daniels, OG Clay Walker, and C Juan Garcia. The ST is junior chad Macklin. They have done a nice job of protecting Stanback over the last two games.
WHEN WASHINGTON HAS THE BALL: Pete Carroll has long said that the athletic quarterbacks who can run, such as Isaiah Stanback, are the ones who give his team the most problems so it will be interesting to see what kind of plan they will come up with. The Trojans were unable to get much of a pass rush on Alex Brink last week but Stanback isn't a pocket passer who will sit back and fire all day long. The USC pass rush should benefit from the return of Sedrick Ellis, at least in a limited role. The key for the defense will be the speedy and athletic linebacker group, guys like Rey Maualuga and Keith Rivers will need to contain Stanback from making the big play. Look for Seattle native Taylor Mays to be fired up playing his hometown team as a true freshman starter in the Trojan secondary. WHEN USC HAS THE BALL: Washington's defense has been notably more aggressive in the past two weeks. It starts on the edge with DE Grayson Gunheim (4.5 tfl, 2 sacks) and DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim (2.5 tfl, 18 solo). They are fast and athletic. Senior Brandon Ala rotates in with them (2.5 tfl, 2 sacks) and is having his best year as a Husky. Inside them are Wilson Afoa (12 tackles, 1.5 tfl), Donny Mateaki (10 tackles), and Jordan Reffett spells them (5 tackles). The linebackers have been very aggressive, led by senior Scott White (41 tackles, 6 tfl, 3 sacks) who was named defensive player of the week. Daniel Howell (4 tfl, 1 sack, 1 int for TD) and Tahj Bomar (3 tfl, 1 sack) are the other starters. OLB Chris Stevens (5 tfl, 2 sacks) also rotates in a great deal and is perhaps the best pass rusher on the team. The secondary has been maligned at times but are benefitting from the more aggressive pass rush in recent weeks. Safety CJ Wallace (48 tackes, 2.5 tfl, 1 forced fumble) leads the team in stops. The corners are Matt Fountaine (31 tackles) and Roy Lewis (30 tackles, 1 tfl, 1 sack), and the other safety is Jason Wells, who the Trojans may try to pick on.
SPECIAL TEAMS: So far the USC special teams have been a pleasant surprise. The kicking game, led by Mario Danelo, is basically automatic as Danelo is one of the more consistent placekickers you will find. Troy Van Blarcom has done a terrific job putting kickoffs into or out of the end zone and punter Greg Woidneck has been steady. USC has not seen much production out of their return games although a switch last week on kickoff return to freshman C.J. Gable featured a 55 yard return. Desmond Reed continues to return punts. SPECIAL TEAMS: Last week Husky place kicker Michael Braunstein missed on two field goals inside of 30 yards. He is 2-4 on the season, has not missed a PAT, and handles all kickoff duties. Punter Sean Douglas is on his way to an all-American season. He averages 46.9 yards per boot and has had 10 downed inside the 20, including two over 80-yarders. The punt returner is Marlon Wood, a speedy receiver that is showing signs of breaking a long one. The main kick returner is Roy Lewis who has had a long of 31. Oklahoma and UCLA both nearly returned punts for touchdowns against the Huskies.
USC CAN WIN IF: The Trojans continue to find their offensive identity. If Chauncey Washington can continue to improve and provide the tough yards and if Moody can get free for a few plays, that will really help set up the passing game and Booty has definitely shown the ability to use his strong arm on an accurate basis. The Trojans will also need to contain Stanback, I'm sure that's the goal of every team facing the Huskies and that's a sign of respect for how good this young man is. Trojan analyst John Jackson says Stanback has gone from being a good athlete who plays quarterback to a quarterback who happens to be a good athlete. WASHINGTON CAN WIN IF: Isaiah Stanback does not turn the ball over, and USC loses focus. The Husky defense has proven to be outstanding inside the red zone and the Husky offense has shown the ability to put up points when they need them. This would be a great week to reestablish the rushing attack, but expect USC to make Stanback try to beat them with his arm. Shackelford will need another 100+ yard receiving game and Kirton will need to add an inside dimension in order for the Huskies to have any shot. Douglas' punting will pin the Trojans deep, so the defense must create a big turnover for the offense. If all of these things fall into line, Washington has enough fire power to win this game. Perhaps more importantly, the Huskies BELIEVE that they can win this game, and that is something new.
USC WILL LOSE IF: They are unable to put any pressure on Stanback. The USC d-line struggled last week and they will need to come out with a better performance in this game in order for the linebackers and secondary to do their jobs properly. You can be sure the Coliseum crowd will be fired up to welcome their team back home and chances are the Trojan defense will feed off that energy and come out with a dominant performance. WASHINGTON WILL LOSE IF: USC gets on a roll offensively. Washington needs to disrupt the Trojans and not let them get rolling for too long. WSU did a nice job of shutting them down after their first score, and the Huskies must do the same. USC is too good, they are going to score points. When they do, the Huskies had better not blink or this game will get away quickly. And if the Trojan defense or special teams force the Huskies into turnovers or mistakes, the talent gap is too great to overcome for Washington to have any chance.
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Garry Paskwietz is the Publisher of WeAreSC.com and WeAreSC magazine, he has been covering Trojan football since 1996. David Samek is the Publisher of Dawgman.com and the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Washington Magazine. He has been covering UW athletics and recruiting since 1996.

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