No. 3 USC 26, Washington 20
LOS ANGELES (AP)—Those underdogs from the Northwest gave the USC Trojans all they could handle the past two weeks.
John David Booty threw for 243 yards and a touchdown and No. 3 Southern California held off resurgent Washington’s late threat in a 26-20 victory Saturday.
The Huskies drove to the USC 15 but couldn’t get off a play before the final two seconds ticked off the clock. Last week, the Trojans needed an interception near the end zone on the last play of the game to win 28-22 at Washington State.
“That was a hard-earned win, just like last week,” USC coach Pete Carroll said.
“They (the Huskies) did a good job and are going to win a lot of games in this conference. I’m impressed with the job Tyrone has done. They’ve had a quick turnaround,” Carroll said of second-year Washington coach Tyrone Willingham.
The Trojans’ last loss at the Coliseum was to Stanford in 2001, when Willingham was the Cardinal coach. USC has won 29 at home since then.
“This is the best game we’ve played this year,” said Willingham, who seems on the way to rebuilding a once-formidable program that won only three games the past two seasons.
“Our team is improving. The last drive, we just needed a few more seconds and we would have gotten the job done.”
The Trojans extended their conference-record victory string to 26. Overall, USC has won 50 of its last 52.
Mario Danelo kicked four field goals for USC (5-0, 3-0 Pac-10), including a 21-yarder with 1:34 remaining for a six-point pad.
Reserve quarterback Michael McDonald’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith on a fake field goal on the Trojans’ first possession put them ahead to stay.
But never by a comfortable margin.
Booty, who went 23-of-40 with an interception, said, “When it comes down to the last play, like it did last week, it’s a little tough to take. Our `D’ stepped up when we needed it.”
The Trojans’ defense aside, it was the clock that ended the final threat by the Huskies (4-2, 2-1).
After throwing a pair of 6-yard touchdown passes, the last pulling the Huskies within 23-20 with 10:06 remaining, Isaiah Stanback marched them down the field again in a drive that started at the Washington 20 with 1:34 remaining.
Stanback’s 19-yard completion moved the ball to the USC 15, but the Huskies had no timeouts remaining. The clock stopped while the chains were moved, then the officials spotted the ball, but huddled for several moments before starting the clock with two seconds remaining.
The Huskies couldn’t get a play off in time.
Stanback, asked if he thought the officials handled it correctly, said, “I’m not going to speak to it. I don’t want to say anything wrong.”
Willingham didn’t complain about the way the officials handled the clock, but Carroll did.
“The last play was a mess,” Carroll said. “It was almost like a timeout for them. The clock was mishandled. They should move the sticks and immediately start the clock.”
Referee Brian O’Cain said, “I wanted to make sure the officials had seen the clock when the play became dead and were comfortable with the time remaining on the clock, which was confirmed to be two seconds.”
Despite the narrow victories, USC could move up in the polls—No. 2 Auburn was upset 27-10 by Arkansas earlier Saturday. USC routed the Razorbacks 50-14 in Arkansas in the season opener.
Patrick Turner had 12 catches for 116 yards for USC against the Huskies, including a 17-yard touchdown pass from Booty in the second quarter.
Stanback completed 17-of-38 for 212 yards. Sonny Shackelford had nine receptions for 125 yards.
The Trojans went up 7-0 with a 96-yard drive the first time they had the ball, culminating with McDonald’s pass to Smith.
The fake field goal caught Washington completely off guard. When the Trojans’ opening drive stalled with a fourth-and-9 at the Washington 20, the USC field goal unit trotted onto the field. McDonald, a redshirt junior who is the Trojans’ holder, took the snap, whirled and threw to Smith, who was all alone on the right sideline.
McDonald had passed only once in his college career—for a touchdown during mop-up time in a lopsided win last season.
The Huskies tried a twist of their own to begin the second half, recovering an onside kick at their 48-yard line. Marlon Wood then ran 46 yards on a reverse, down to the USC 6-yard line. But the Huskies couldn’t get into the end zone and settled for Michael Braunstein’s 25-yard field that drew them within 17-13.