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September 29, 2007

No. 1 USC survives battle with Washington

Box score

SEATTLE — For three-plus quarters, Southern California was teetering toward becoming the sixth and mightiest top-10 team to fall this weekend.

Ultimately, the top-ranked Trojans survived.

Stafon Johnson ran for 122 yards and a touchdown and Chauncey Washington added 106 yards and a score as USC overcame its own numerous mistakes and Washington in a 27-24 victory Saturday night.

The Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-10) committed three turnovers and 16 penalties - their most in more than two seasons - for 161 yards and had a missed a field goal and blocked punt. Yet they won for the 60th time in 64 games.

"We were very fortunate," USC coach Pete Carroll said, with a sigh. "We just couldn't get out of our own way. Washington, it was there to take it ... I'm so grateful to have this win."

Redshirt freshman Jake Locker continued his erratic passing by missing three open receivers in or near the end zone for Washington (2-3, 0-3), which lost its third consecutive game and is now 1-9-1 against No. 1 teams - including 0-7 when USC is top ranked.

Locker finished 12-for-27 with 83 yards passing and one interception, plus another 50 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns.

"I need to be a lot better," Locker said.

Added offensive coordinator Tim Lappano, noticeably frustrated by Locker's wildness in what the Huskies feel were winnable defeats to Ohio State, UCLA and now USC: "We got to settle him down."

Locker's final TD came after a blocked punt and with 34 seconds left.

USC then recovered the onside kick and could finally relax. Sort of.

"Oh, it was a terrible night. Horrible night," Carroll said, already looking ahead to next weekend's home game against Stanford. "It's how we respond now."

The Huskies were wearing the dark and gold jerseys and plain, gold helmets of the 1960 team which beat No. 1 Minnesota in the Rose Bowl, the only time Washington has beaten a top-ranked opponent.

The previous magic was rubbing off - until the fourth quarter.

It took until 4:53 remained in the third quarter before USC got comfortable. John David Booty's 32-yard pass to Fred Davis set up Washington's 2-yard touchdown run that gave the Trojans a 24-14 lead.

Yet the Huskies trailed just 24-17 after a 37-yard field goal by Ryan Perkins with 12:44 left - after Locker threw wide and high of open receivers on successive throws to the end zone.

After an errant pass by Booty with 7:15 left forced USC to punt, Washington coach Tyrone Willingham stomped up the sidelines, looked at his offense with a smile and yelled "Let's Go!" But then the Trojans' Terrell Thomas ripped the ball from Anthony Russo's arms on a punt return and recovered the fumble at the Huskies 43.

Officials initially ruled Booty had thrown his third interception, to Byron Davenport in the end zone with 3:06 left. But a replay review revealed Davenport juggled the ball off the turf as he fell onto his back. Washington defensive coordinator Kent Baer threw his play card into the turf as the referee announced the reversal to an incomplete pass.

On the next play, David Buehler kicked a 33-yard field goal amid rousing boos to give USC a 27-17 lead.

Just as the Trojans seemed to be taking control late in the first half, Booty threw a third-down pass behind fullback Stanley Havili. The ball smacked off Havili's shoulder and into the arms of Mesphin Forrester, who cut across the field and ran 54 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 14 as Booty stood watching, his hands on his hips.

His second interception of the half was as many as he had in three games entering Saturday.

On the first play of the next drive, Washington cut back past nine overrunning Huskies and raced 53 yards to the 4. Buehler turned that into a 17-14 lead with a 22-yard field goal 18 seconds before halftime.

USC had taken a 14-7 lead late in the first half, despite two turnovers and eight penalties.

Locker's first TD run gave Washington a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, but Johnson ran through Dan Howell's grasp on an 8-yard touchdown run to tie the game 7-7 for USC.

Booty and Patrick Turner connected on a 23-yard TD on third-and-1 against Washington's safety blitz 7 with 10 minutes left in the half.

For more coverage of USC, visit USCFootball.com; for more on Washington, visit HuskyDigest.com.

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