Saturday, October 25, 2014
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By Michael Brown,

Sentinel Sports Writer

After winning its first four games against overmatched opponents, USC’s mettle is about to be put to the test as it begins a run against a gauntlet of opponents all vying for either Pac-10 bragging rights, or a shot at the Rose Bowl.

First up, this Saturday, the Trojans will host the 1-2 Washington Huskies at the Coliseum in a game that will pit former USC offensive assistants against each other. USC Head Coach Lane Kiffin and the Huskies’ Steve Sarkisian both began their careers with Pete Carroll’s staff after he was hired by USC in 2001.

The two parted ways in 2007 when Kiffin accepted the head coaching job with the Oakland Raiders after Sarkisian turned down the team’s offer.

Although Kiffin coached the Tennessee Volunteers last year and Sarkisian was in his first season as Washington’s coach, Kiffin said in a Monday press conference that “revenge” will come into play as the Trojans try to avenge last year’s 16-13 upset loss in Seattle.

“Their coaching staff knows ours pretty well due to all of the hours we’ve spent together while we were here (USC),” Kiffin said. “We’re motivated by last year’s loss.”

USC quarterback Matt Barkley missed last year’s game due to a shoulder injury and the Trojans were plagued by turnovers behind the play of Aaron Corp at quarterback. Washington capitalized on a USC miscue and went on a game-winning fourth quarter drive led by quarterback Jake Locker.

Despite Washington being trounced at home two weeks ago by Nebraska, Kiffin said they’re a team that plays well in all three phases of the game and competes hard. He went on to call Locker the “most talented player” USC will have faced so far this season.

Kiffin added that Locker, regardless of inconsistent play, is still worthy of talk as next spring’s No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Sarkisian heaped praise as well on Barkley. He said, “It’s going to be one of our keys and challenges to not let him be so comfortable in the pocket, because when he’s comfortable, he’s deadly.”

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After last week’s 50-16 victory at Washington State, Kiffin said it was his team’s most complete performance this season. But, he cited Barkley’s two interceptions for the second consecutive week as a problem.

“Matt leads the nation in touchdown passes (12) right now, but he’s got to take care of the ball better or it doesn’t matter,” Kiffin said.

With the signature win against USC last season, Sarkisian didn’t waste time parlaying the upset on the recruiting trail. Southern California has always been a crucial base for the Huskies. This year is no different as it features nearly 30 players from California on its roster.

Many of Sarkisian’s Los Angeles recruits are redshirting, but local high school fans may recognize several of the names and faces on the field this weekend or standing on the sideline.

They include Nick Montana (Oaks Christian), Anthony Boyles (Gardena Serra), Sean Parker (Narbonne), Gregory Ducre (Crenshaw) and Princeton Fuimaono (LB Jordan) among others.

Washington State recap

USC had no problems in its first Pac-10 contest of the season as it dominated the lowly Washington State Cougars in Pullman, 50-16, finally reversing a trend where the Trojans won games, but dropped in the Associated Press Poll the prior two weeks.

After falling behind 7-0, the Trojans didn’t waste much time tying the score when fullback Stanley Havili on the first play of USC’s next possession, scored on a 59-yard run.

Two plays later, USC freshman cornerback Nikell Robey intercepted quarterback Jeff Tuel for a 25-yard pick-six. Robey redeemed himself after being burned by Cougars receiver Jared Karstetter for a 29-yard score on Washington State’s first drive.

Havili got back into the act a short time later by catching a short pass from Barkley and turning it into a 58-yard gain. Tailback Allen Bradford’s 7-yard run set up Barkley’s eventual 11-yard touchdown pass to Robert Woods (Gardena Serra), putting USC ahead 21-7.

Afterward, the Trojans had several chances to put the game away early, but Barkley’s two first-half interceptions allowed the Cougars to narrow the lead to 21-13. But, with eight minutes left in the half, Barkley engineered a six-minute drive which featured a heavy dose of freshman running back Dillon Baxter, and was finished with a two-yard touchdown run by tailback Marc Tyler.

The Trojans effectively ended the game on its first two second-half drives, capped by 7-yard touchdown passes to receivers Brice Butler and Ronald Johnson, making the score 43-13.

Havili, who has been spared a lot of touches so far this season, due to being the team’s only scholarship fullback, was most impressive. He rushed four times for 80 yards and caught five passes for 107 yards and finished with two touchdowns.

USC established its running game early on by feeding a multitude of tailbacks the rock. Baxter led the team with 14 carries for 75 yards, Tyler, Allen Bradford and CJ Gable each had seven carries in a balanced attack. The Trojans rushed for a combined 285 yards, helping the team post its highest number of total yards this year, 613.

In a move to counteract USC’s defense, Washington State employed a four-receiver set throughout the game. Karstetter was the only wide receiver who saw success. He finished with eight catches for 87 yards and two touchdowns.

The Trojans’ secondary too advantage of the increased passing. Robey added another interception later in the game and safety T.J. McDonald had an interception and six tackles for the Trojans.

USC, 4-0, rose in the AP from No. 20 to 18 this week.

 

 

Category: Football


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