Washington Wide Receiver hauls in a pass in the Huskies victory over USC.
USC’s defense could not stop running back Chris Polk or Washington’s offense when it mattered the most. Photos by Jeff Lewis
Despite a career night for USC tailback Bradford, Trojans lose when defense fails to make crucial stops and kicking falters.
By Michael Brown
Sentinel Sports Writer
It was deja vu all over again at the Coliseum in a game between Washington and USC, as the Huskies pulled out another nail-biter in the final seconds for the second season in a row to stun the Trojans.
Despite the venue being different and USC having a new coaching staff, Washington’s returning heroes from last year, quarterback Jake Locker and kicker Erik Folk, re-enacted the dramatics on the final drive by going 61 yards in 10 plays with under 2 minutes, 50 seconds left.
Folk, who was clearly not bothered by USC Coach Lane Kiffin’s attempts to “freeze” him by calling back-to-back timeouts, kicked the game winner through the uprights as time expired for a 32-31 victory last night, handing The Trojans its first loss again for the second year in a row.
“It felt good to watch that ball go through the posts,” Folk said. “It was more euphoric last season because everybody in our stadium rushed the field afterward. This was sweet too because I got to do it in front of friends and family,” continued Folk, a Sherman Oaks Notre Dame HS product.
Folk nailed the game-winning field goal last year in Washington, resulting in a Huskies 16-13 upset of the then third-ranked Trojans. Folk being granted an opportunity to win the game resulted from a drive that almost mirrored the drive that ended last season’s game.
Starting at its own 24-yard line, the Huskies offense lived dangerously, flirting with third and longs throughout the drive and a fourth-down before they converted them all. After Locker failed to complete a throw to wide out Jermaine Kearse, the Huskies were faced with fourth-and eleven, but on the next play, Locker alluded USC’s pressure and connected with receiver D’Andre Goodwin for 18 yards.
On the next play, Huskies running back Chris Polk gashed the Trojans for a 26-yard run and followed with a 6-yarder. On a third-and-five play at the USC 28, Locker scrambled for 8 yards, giving Washington the first-down and putting it in field goal position.
At that point, the Locker-Folk combo had clearly upended USC again, but not without help. Washington coach Steve Sarkisian credited several of his players.
“A lot of our guys just showed up tonight and made plays,” Sarkisian said. “I loved the emotions of this game, it wasn’t too big for us. We got key stops on defense, though we gave up a bunch of yards on the ground. We didn’t get frazzled despite how tight the game was. We just played ball.”
Prior to the dramatic finish, the game was a seesaw battle as the Trojans and Huskies traded the lead back-and-forth seven times, and played relatively turnover and penalty-free football throughout.
USC had a chance to put some distance between it and Washington. Ahead, 31-29, with 2 minutes, 34 seconds left, struggling kicker Joe Houston, bounced a 40-yard field goal attempt off the right upright, giving the Huskies new life and the ball. Kiffin said the non-score was pivotal.
“Unfortunately for us, we had so many opportunities to finish the game out,” Kiffin said. “If you’re going to be a championship team, you have to finish people off when you have the ball. You can’t go and kick field goals.”
The loss squandered a career night for tailback Allen Bradford. Topping his previous high of 147 yards rushing, Bradford went wild carrying the ball 21 times for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Marc Tyler chipped in with 14 carries for 61 yards and two scores.
However, the Huskies countered USC with a 1-2 punch of Locker and Polk, who gained 116 and 93 yards respectively on the ground. They were helped by porous tackling by Trojan defenders throughout the game who failed to stop ball carriers on first-contact.
Locker also kept the Trojans secondary off balance by finishing 24 for 40 for 310 yards and a touchdown. Locker’s performance was a vast improvement over two weeks ago when Nebraska forced him into the worst performance of his career.
USC got on the board first to start the game when quarterback Matt Barkley hit wide receiver Ronald Johnson for 22 yards, followed by three runs by Tyler for 6, 3 and 9 yards. Bradford struck soon afterward as he darted for a 37-yard touchdown.
With the Trojans ahead 7-3, the Huskies answered back with a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive, capped by a Polk 1-yard touchdown run, making it 10-7. After Washington went up 17-7, the Trojans scored on its next two drives and re-took the lead, 21-17. On an 11-play, 80-yard drive.
But, despite the offenses’ potency, the Trojans defense failed to put much pressure on Locker and blew opportunities to force him out of his comfort zone.
For instance, with 2 minutes, 27 seconds left, the Huskies were looking at third-and-six, but Locker threw a pass to Kearse for 12 yards.
Washington, later on, regained the lead, 23-21, due to field goals by Folk. USC went ahead again on a drive almost exclusively carried by Bradford.
With just more than seven minutes remaining, Bradford began the drive with two 8-yard runs. Barkley then completed a 20-yard pass to Johnson putting the ball at the USC 46. Bradford followed with an 18-yard run, then scored on a 16-yarder, giving USC a 28-23 lead.
Washington went ahead 29-28 in the fourth quarter, when Locker was hurt on a keeper, after he converted a third-and-one play at USC’s 1-yard line. Although Locker left briefly, his backup, Keith Smith (St. John Bosco HS) came in and completed a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chris Izbicki.
After an ordinary performance by Barkley’s standards, 14 for 20 for 186 yards and no touchdowns, he said the Trojans have to put the loss behind them.
“It was a bummer tonight, with the way we lost that game,” Barkley said. “We can’t let it affect our confidence as a team. We have tomove forward in the right direction because Stanford’s next up.”