Fast start allows USC to cruise over Washington State
The outcome was never in doubt. Washington State is a football program in shambles that lags far behind other members of the conference. USC is the perennial powerhouse, driven by the anger and embarrassment of last week’s loss to Washington. The Trojans were 8-0 under Pete Carroll in games following a defeat, and they pushed that number to 9 with a 27-6 victory over the Cougars on Saturday night.
The 12th ranked Trojans opened the game like a team having something to prove. They gave a look we had yet to see this season, unleashing the passing game and letting the ball fly.
With Matt Barkley back in command of the offense, it took USC just three plays in a little over a minute to put the first points on the board. The drive was capped by a 3-yard run by Joe McKnight. By the time the opening quarter came to an end, the scoreboard showed 20, the largest first quarter output of the 2009 season.
As the teams exchanged ends to begin the second quarter, the USC offense also underwent a transformation. They returned to the slow, methodical, and conservative pace we have quickly become accustomed to since the beginning of this campaign. Running the ball with determination, they moved up and down the field, but failed to add to their point total until late in the fourth quarter.
Joe McKnight contributed 49 yards in a limited role, carrying the ball only 6 times, only twice in the opening period. But where the Cougars defense failed to be a formidable foe, penalties were. The Trojans were penalized 13 times for 115 yards, which wiped out big gains and stalled drives. And a team that fumbled away a victory in Seattle last week, added two more turnovers to their season total.
Matt Barkley went 13 0f 22 for 247 yards and 2 touchdowns in his return. The freshman made some amazing throws early on, until the coaching staff opted to put his arm back in a sling, and lead a seemingly uninspired unit with hand offs for the remainder of his time.
Aaron Corp entered the game in the fourth quarter. Easily the scapegoat of the Washington loss, from a fan perspective, Corp was allowed an opportunity to redeem himself. Redemption failed, as Corp fumbled during his first and only series and the Cougars recovered.
WEIGHING THE ANCHOR
The 2009 Trojans were supposed to be anchored by their offense, with its talented offensive line and stable of running backs. That hasn’t been the case. Defense is still the anchor of the program, despite all the losses from a year ago.
Though the USC offense chose to stop playing after the first quarter, the defense played all four, limiting Washington State to 229 total yards and just a single touchdown. The Trojans have only allowed opponents to score just three touchdowns combined in the four games played. The Cougars late score, with under thirty seconds to play, snapped a personal scoring drought against USC that dated back to September of 2007. Washington State was defeated 69-0 in Pullman a year ago.