After falling To No. 2, USC Seeking An Oregon State-Type Wakeup

The Trojans paid for Saturday's mistakes in The Associated Press poll

Sept. 30, 2007

SEATTLE (AP) - Southern California's narrow escape at Washington provided the Trojans a sobering dose of reality.

"We can't play like that the rest of the season, or else we'll lose like a normal team," USC coach Pete Carroll said after the sloppy 27-24 victory over the Huskies on Saturday night.

USC (4-0, 2-0 Pac-10) outgained (460-190) Washington in front of a loud and packed house at Husky Stadium, but three turnovers, a blocked punt and 16 penalties for 161 yards let the home team hang around.

The Trojans paid for the mistakes in The Associated Press poll, which they'll surely take over a loss. LSU moved past the Trojans in the AP Top 25, though USC is still ranked first in the coaches and Harris polls.

Carroll said USC's latest victory reminded him of the Trojans' loss at Oregon State last season.

"It felt like Groundhog Day," Carroll said.

"We were just giving them opportunities to keep this a close game, similar to how Oregon State was," said quarterback John David Booty, who threw two interceptions against Washington and had a third overturned by replay review.

The Trojans recovered from that Oregon State stunner to win eight of their next nine games.

"I think this is a character builder," defensive end Lawrence Jackson said.

That character construction could get a boost by going home to play Stanford. USC has won five consecutive games over the Cardinal by an average of 26 points, including last season by 42-0.

What made USC's night in Seattle puzzling for Carroll was that he said last week he thought Booty - who completed 20 of 37 passes for 236 yards Saturday - and his offense were "really ready to roll." That was following a balanced, 47-14 thrashing of Washington State and a 49-31 romp at Nebraska.

Instead, it lurched backward a bit.

"The difference between last week's game and this week's game is extraordinary, with all the problems we had," Carroll said.


 

 

There were five false starts. Two holding calls. Even a personal foul on the center, Kristofer O'Dowd, on the return of Booty's first interception.

"I think it's fixable, " Booty said of the offense's penalties, dropped passes and fumbled snaps.

There were also injuries.

O'Dowd (dislocated knee) and right guard Chilo Rachal (sprained knee) were lost on the same play in the first quarter. Carroll didn't immediately know how long either would be out.

Stafon Johnson gained 122 yards on 14 carries but had his left foot stomped on twice, including during his final carry. He was wearing a walking boot outside the locker room afterward but said "it's cool, nothing big."

Shareece Wright, who was starting his first game while Cary Harris was back home injured, left with a hamstring injury.

Matt Spanos, expected to be the starting center to begin the season until he tore his biceps, replaced O'Dowd. He had to take off his arm brace after it got caught on his knee brace and caused a fumbled snap in the second quarter.

USC's defense, missing injured linebacker Brian Cushing, did its job, holding Washington to 190 yards and dynamic quarterback Jake Locker to 50 yards on 18 carries - 40 below his rushing average coming in.

The Huskies' three touchdowns came on drives of 13 yards (after USC's botched snap) and 27 yards (after a blocked punt in the final minute). Mesphin Forrester returned an interception 54 yards for Washington's other score to tie it at 14 late in the first half.

But the Trojans also allowed three Huskies to roam free in or near the end zone for what could've been touchdowns if Locker's passes hadn't been wild.

"We're at fault totally. And we have to clean it up," Carroll said. "Explanation? No, I don't have that."

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