The Trojans’ offense couldn’t get much started, but the USC football team left CenturyLink field in Seattle with a hard-fought win over the Washington Huskies, thanks to solid play from the young defense.
The USC defense helped the Trojans jump out to a 10-0 lead early in the first quarter. The Trojans kicked a field goal on their first offensive possession, and sophomore linebacker Dion Bailey immediately got the ball back for USC with his fourth interception of the season. Quarterback Matt Barkley connected with junior receiver Robert Woods for 19 yards to set up another rushing touchdown for Penn State transfer Silas Redd.
Washington quarterback Keith Price did his best to get the Huskies back in the game, breaking tackles left and right and keeping plays alive. He was under duress much of the game and was officially sacked five times, but his athleticism kept that total from climbing even higher.
In the first quarter, Price flipped the ball to junior running back Bishop Sankey as he was hit, and Sankey took it fifteen yards to set up a touchdown pass to Kasen Williams.
Barkley responded with his best offensive drive of the night, another 19-yard pass to Woods, a 24-yard completion to Marqise Lee, and finally a touchdown pass to tight end Xavier Grimble.
The Trojans extended the lead even further before halftime thanks to stellar special teams play by cornerback Anthony Brown. After Price failed to get a first down despite eluding several tacklers, Brown blocked Travis Coons’ punt, recovered it and ran it in for a touchdown, putting USC up, 24-7.
Washington pulled closer after halftime, scoring on a 29-yard touchdown pass to Austin Sefarian-Jenkins midway through the third quarter.
The USC offense couldn’t get into a rhythm and add to their lead, but the defense stepped up with two big turnovers in the fourth quarter to hold onto the Trojans’ lead.
On their first drive of the fourth quarter, the Huskies made it to the 3-yard line, but when Price took off towards the end zone on 2nd-and-3, USC safety Jawanza Starling stripped the football to save a touchdown and give the Trojans the football.
The USC offense wasn’t able to do anything with it. Barkley connected with Woods for 37 yards on the drive, but a costly sack on 4th-and-5 gave the Huskies new life.
Once again, the Trojans’ defense saved the day. Defensive end Wes Horton sacked Price for the fifth time, and with Washington going for it on 4th-and-8, USC’s Josh Shaw, playing at cornerback for the first time this season, intercepted Price.
The fourth-down interception was essentially a punt, but a completion could have been costly. The Trojans again got the ball back but, again, couldn’t get anything going. USC went three-and-out and punted on 4th-and-7, but Bailey and the defense got to Price for another big turnover.
With 3rd-and-8, Price took off running and would’ve had a first down, but a big hit from Bailey dislodged the ball and ended the Huskies’ hopes of another score.
The Trojans’ running game was key for USC, taking time off the clock when they had the lead and giving the defense a much-needed breather. Redd had 26 carries for 155 yards and a touchdown, and senior Curtis McNeal, who missed almost all of last week’s game with a concussion, had 58 yards on 11 carries.
After being outplayed by Lee in the early part of the season, Woods was the team’s leading receiver, with five catches for 88 yards. The Trojans targeted Lee more in the second half, but he and Barkley weren’t on the same page. Lee finished with two catches for 32 yards, and Barkley, who was 7 of 10 in the first half, finished just 10 of 20 for 167 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
Price outpassed Barkley, finishing 20 of 28 for 198 yards and two touchdowns, but his two interceptions and two lost fumbles threw the game to USC.
With the win, the Trojans move to 5-1 on the season, and 3-1 in Pac-12 play. They host Colorado (1-5) next Saturday.