McGrath: UW's greatest upset
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• College scores: Saturday roundup
In so many ways, this game was intensely personal for the Washington Huskies.
The feeling wasn’t necessarily salty, or brooding or malicious. There’s just something about facing the long-reigning kings of the Pacific-10 Conference, the third-ranked team in the country, in your stadium, in front of your fans, that tends to get the juices flowing.
The outcome showed it – an improbable 16-13 Huskies victory over the vaunted Southern California Trojans, capped by Erik Folk’s 22-yard field goal with three seconds remaining.
Consider what happened on UW’s final drive in front of 61,889 Saturday at Husky Stadium – a 10-play, 63-yard march that was as much the product of resolve as design.
• Take hard-nosed running back Chris Polk, who once committed to the Trojans, then changed his mind, and was ridiculed for it. He carried the ball 25 times for 71 yards, including a key 7-yard run on the final drive. He was also the last man to carry the ball before the game-winning kick.
“There was a little something extra,” Polk said. “I wanted to go there ... and show them.”
• Take touted freshman receiver James Johnson (game-high seven receptions for 72 yards), who grew up in Inglewood, Calif., and a stone’s throw from the USC campus. He bobbled but ultimately hauled in a 9-yard pass from Jake Locker to help sustain the decisive drive.
• Take Danny Morovick, who for a long-snapper saw more action and got into more verbal sparring with Trojans players on the field than a normal part-time player would. His father, Dan, played on a USC national championship team. He wanted to help sidetrack the Trojans’ bid for another title, and he did with a perfect snap on Folk’s field goal.
• And, of course, there’s coach Steve Sarkisian, who outwitted his mentor, USC coach Pete Carroll, at crucial junctures Saturday. The 35-year-old Sarkisian directed Washington’s “four-minute” offense with the same precision he did in his seven seasons as a Trojans assistant.
The result triggered bedlam – in the stadium, around the city and throughout the Pacific-10 Conference.
“It’s a great moment for our program,” Sarkisian said. “Hopefully it sends a message about where we’re headed and what we’re trying to do.”
There were others, too, who contributed mightily as UW – after spotting the Trojans a 10-0 lead in the first quarter – found itself locked in a 13-13 tie when it took the field one last time with 4:01 remaining. The two biggest plays came from the Locker-to-Jermaine Kearse connection.
The Huskies faced a third-and-15 with less than three minutes to go from their own 28-yard line.
“Coach (Sarkisian) told me to run either a seam route or a post route, and if USC played cover-2, to run a post,” Kearse said. “I saw the cover-2, had a man on me and the safety (Drew McAllister) on top. I saw them stack, and ran the post.”
Locker threaded a bullet pass out of the reach of four converging USC defenders and into Kearse’s hands for a first down.
“I wasn’t a play we had in the game plan,” Locker said. “Coach just called it up for that situation.”
Locker converted a third-and-2 with a 4-yard run, and got the Huskies to the USC 35 with his 9-yard pass to Johnson with 41 seconds to go.
Under heavy pressure, he then made something out of nothing with one more strike to Kearse, the Lakes High graduate.
“It was kind of a broken play. I couldn’t see my first read, got lost behind the (offensive) line ... so I kind of escaped,” Locker said. “Once again, Jermaine did a great job of working back to the sideline and finding an open area.”
Avoiding trouble and rolling right, Locker heaved a pass along the right sideline to Kearse that went for 19 yards, but traveled 35 across the field.
“It was kind of weird, I had eye contact with him, even though I can’t see that far,” Kearse said. “I saw him look at me, and I had a feeling he wasn’t running.”
That play brought UW to the 16, and after a roughing-the-passer penalty, all the Huskies had to do was set up for Folk’s kick, which he drilled through the uprights to make him 5-for-6 on field goals this season.
USC, nearly a three-touchdown favorite, dominated in rushing yards (250, to UW’s 56) and had every opportunity to pull this game out, even with backup quarterback Aaron Corp making his first collegiate start.
However, three Trojans drives inside the Huskies 30 ended in turnovers, and a fourth was wasted when Jordan Congdon didnt get a 49-yard field goal off before time ran out and the horn sounded to end the first half.
“If you look back at the games when we have lost over time, it’s always turnovers, and usually there’s penalties,” Carroll said. “We’re not real good right now. We weren’t real good last week either (18-15 win at Ohio State), to tell you the truth.
“I think the difference was Jake (Locker),” the coach added. “I thought we kept him under wraps for a long time, but when he had to have it, he made it. That is what a great player does.”