The set-up: After losing to Washington on a field goal with three seconds left last year, USC was out for revenge in its home stadium.
The story: Washington kicker Eric Folk finished the Trojans with a 32-yard field goal as time expired, sending the Huskies into a dance party on the Coliseum floor.
“It’s a terrible, sick feeling in our stomach,” USC senior fullback Stanley Havili said.
Folk got that opportunity because the Trojans didn’t capitalize on their own, failing to put the Huskies away even though they had multiple chances.
Down 29-28 early in the fourth quarter, USC had two drives deep into Washington territory only to see sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley miss two passes — one that went off the hands of senior receiver David Ausberry in the end zone and one that was too high to senior tight end Jordan Cameron. The Trojans only got three points out of those two drives.
“Unfortunately for us, we had so many opportunities to finish the game out,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said. “If you’re going be a championship team, you have to finish people off when you have the ball. You can’t go and kick field goals. Two times in a row we go down and [attempt] field goals instead of getting 14 points. We get three points out of two possessions combined.”
The Trojans had a chance to get six points, but senior kicker Joe Houston’s 40-yard field goal attempt hit the right upright and gave Washington the ball with 2:34 left. Houston is now two for six on field goals this year.
“I fully accept responsibility and I feel terrible,” Houston said. “It’s times like this that will check your character. I never thought this day would happen but it did.”
Barkley backed up his kicker.
“Don’t bug Joe because, when it comes down to it, it’s offense that’s supposed to put points on the board,” Barkley said.
Even with the miss, USC had the lead and two chances to stop Washington on its final drive. First, sophomore defensive end Nick Perry forced a fumble on a sack that Washington recovered. Then on fourth-and-11 on the Huskies own 23-yard line, Washington quarterback Jake Locker completed an 18-yard pass for a clutch first down, setting up the game-winning field goal.
“On that fourth down, you make the play and it’s all over and you have a different feeling,” Kiffin said.
Bradford’s big day: If USC had won the game, the story would’ve been the play of senior running back Allen Bradford.
Despite not getting the start, or any of the carries on USC’s Wildcat plays, Bradford rushed for a career-high 223 yards on 21 carries for two touchdowns.
Bradford made his presence felt on his first carry, when he burst through a hole up the middle for a 37-yard touchdown in the first quarter that put USC up 7-0.
“It’s mostly because of the offensive line and Stanley [Havili] who created some huge holes,” Bradford said. “I knew where the open spots in their defense was, and I was hitting them full speed.”
The Trojans were almost able to run at will, totaling 298 rushing yards to just 186 passing yards.
“Our running game was on fire,” Barkley said. “We were running wherever we wanted to.”
Wildcat: For the first time this season, USC broke out the Wildcat formation, but it wasn’t with the person many people expected to be running it.
Freshman phenom running back Dillon Baxter, who played quarterback in high school, was expected to get most of the reps, but those went to junior running back Marc Tyler.
The Trojans ran the Wildcat close to a dozen times in the first half but only once in the second half. Tyler scored one touchdown out of the formation.
“It seemed to be working,” Barkley said. “If it’s working, I’m all for it.”
Baxter said that nothing was planned in terms of who was going to be running the Wildcat and how many times it was going to be run. Baxter didn’t ask the coaches why he wasn’t running it, he said.
Safety troubles: Locker gave USC’s secondary trouble all night with his dual-threat abilities. The safeties and cornerbacks couldn’t get comfortable because no matter what they did, it seemed like Locker would beat them.
“It’s tough because if we come up he throws it, and if we stay back he’s going to run it,” freshman cornerback Nickell Robey said.
However Washington got its yards, the USC defense seemed like it was back in Hawaii, as it missed tackles and poor coverage all over the field.
But senior cornerback Shareece Wright, who caused a key fumble in the second quarter when he chased down Locker and punched the ball out for a fumble through the end zone, said the Trojans can’t tackle in practice.
“We can’t. We’ll be too banged up,” Wright said.
Horton still hurt: Redshirt sophomore defensive end Wes Horton sat out this game with a back injury.
Horton, who didn’t practice all week, hurt his back when Perry accidentally kicked him last week during the Washington State game. Horton said he learned he wouldn’t play Thursday afternoon and said he’s still in some pain but his range of motion is good.