You know it is a tough game when the first good is about the punter. Sophomore Derek McLaughlin had seven punts for an average of 41.3 yards, with a long of 53 yards. He has not had many chances to perfect his boots up until today, and every punt went off without a hitch.
The Huskies' run defense was outstanding again today. They limited Tailback U. to just 74 yards on 34 rushes, and allowed only one rushing first down. The always dangerous Sultan McCullough was bottled up all afternoon and was held to a 1.7 average per carry. The only blemish was a 13-yard touchdown run by Justin Fargas in garbage time.
There were also some individual performances worth mentioning. DL Josh Miller was active inside, got great penetration, and continues to improve each week. Safety Jimmy Newell led the team with six tackles and had several passes defended. Playmaker Reggie Williams kept several drives alive by making some tough catches on third down, and finished with 134 yards on seven catches. And it seems every game now, Charles Frederick is continuing to impress, especially on punt returns. He helped give the Huskies some desperately needed field position, with punt returns of 45 and 17 yards.
The Huskies threw the ball 65 times (okay, that's not so good), but they did have 38 completions. That is the most ever by any team in a Pac-10 conference game. Pickett's 350 yards today gives him 2,601 yards on the season, which is a new single season record for passing yards, and there is still five games remaining on the schedule.
Not to beat a dead Traveler, I mean horse, the defense has to stop giving up the big plays. Once again, the Huskies allowed two receivers to have monstrous games, both receivers actually broke the century mark by the end of the third quarter. True freshman Mike Williams tore the Husky secondary up. He had nine catches for 159 yards, and three touchdowns. Keary Colbert caught the ball seven times for 146 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown. That was Colbert's longest reception of his career and Carson Palmer's longest pass completion of the season. The only thing that prevented a second TD was that he was so shocked to be so open in the end zone that he dropped a sure score. (For the equine-impaired, the official definition of ‘Traveler' is "the noble white horse that appears at all USC home football games with a regal Trojan warrior astride.")
Plain and simple, this offense, as pretty as it may be at times, is ineffective without the ability to run the ball. Braxton Cleman played the first two series, and had -5 yards on 5 carries. Enter Sophomore Chris Singleton, who played the third and fourth series. On two of his first three carries, the Trojan defense met him at the hand-off and he had -2 yards after his first two series. So, obviously, the Dawgs never found their spark in the running game, and Rich Alexis surprisingly stayed on the sidelines for the entire game.
Here are the rushing statistics broken down by quarter, and it ain't pretty folks. End of first quarter, 7 carries for -2 yards; at the half, 12 carries for 5 yards; end of third quarter, 18 carries, for -7 yards; and to end the game, 19 carries for -5 yards. With statistics like those, expect Pickett to break even more passing records as the season progresses.
Just in case you missed it, Washington managed to pick up three first downs via the run. At the 6:00 mark in the second quarter, Cleman picked up 12 yards following a great block by Elliot Zajac. Just to prove it wasn't a fluke, at 8:12 left in the third quarter, Pickett picked up one yard on a keeper. And with 11:14 left in the game, Cleman picked up a first down on a two-yard run. Not exactly traditional Husky football here.
The third quarter was a nightmare for the Huskies. The most glaring statistic is that USC's average field position for the quarter was on the Husky 35-yard line. The Huskies were outscored 17-0 and Pickett threw two interceptions in the quarter, giving the Trojans 10 points off of turnovers.
How far have we fallen? In the fourth quarter, the ASU/Oregon score was put on the video screen. A strange buzz, even cheers, came emanating from one corner of the LA Coliseum. Sure enough, it was coming from the few thousand Husky fans in attendance. Every week, we are amazed at the Husky fans' reaction to whenever the Oregon score is posted on the scoreboard. And it didn't fail again this week. To sum up the sentiment in Husky land these days that everything is A-Okay just as long as the Ducks lose, a woman dressed in purple commented that "all is not lost today" after finding out the Sun Devils did in fact upset the Ducks. Time to start worrying more about the home front…
To Live and Die in L.A.: On the way to the game, heading east on the "10", a police car was about 20 yards ahead and started weaving back and forth across 5 lanes. At first, we thought the policeman maybe had a little too much to drink. But after a run-in with the guard rail did not happen, we then swore we were in the middle of some sort of man hunt. Yep, we weren't heading to the best part of L.A. After trailing the weaving car at 30 mph for a few miles trying to decide our fate, we came to a halt, and discovered a huge pile in the middle of the roadway. Oh, it must be a body bag. We started to feel a little sheltered just being from Seattle as all it turned out to be was a big pile of trash. A tough police woman got out of her car and innocently cleared trash off of the roadway and all was calm again. Until we actually got to the game, of course.
Don "Dawgfather" James was seen sporting around Beverly Hills in a red corvette, just his style. He managed to make it to the game and we caught up with him down on the field standing in right at the USC tunnel. We asked him about his favorite memory of playing in the Coliseum and he fondly recalled Washington's victory over UCLA in 1975, which was James' first year at Washington. James earned a rare road victory over Dick Vermeil's Bruins, who ended up in the Rose Bowl that year. We also asked him why it was so tough to play in this venue considering the crowd is never a factor, and he said, simply, "It's not the place, it's who you are lining up against." He also noted that you don't really worry about getting up for this type of game because it is against USC. He said you worry about the games against Washington State and Idaho because they never look like they do on film because they are taking on the Huskies.
The night before the game, the big Husky bash took place in a bar in Beverly Hills. Party attendees ranged from the likes of UW alum Richard Karn (Al Borland, on Home Improvement) to former fullback Darius Turner. Karn, a closet dawgman.com fan, was proud of his Husky heritage and was quick to talk about other famous Dawgs, including Kyle McLaughlin (Sex and the City) and Jean Smart (The Inlaws and Designing Women). Darius Turner is living in the LA area and is actually getting married in a week. He was so gracious when I actually remember his number and Dawgman inquired about the towel he used to wear the said, "Follow Me." He is amazed by the way Husky fans still appreciate the former players. He happened to spot Don James, and laughed about how much that man still scared him. Stay tuned for a full feature on Turner in an upcoming edition of Sports Washington magazine.
Well after the game and after post-game interviews, a solemn Keith Gilbertson sat alone in a Cushman golf cart at the end of the USC tunnel, staring back out at the field where the carnage had taken place. He looked like a man searching for answers, and reflected as much in his post-game quotes.