Washington gets best of ex-coach Sark, upsets No. 17 USC
LOS ANGELES — Nearly every Washington upperclassman insisted they took no personal pleasure in beating the coach who left them for Southern California two years ago.
A gritty defensive victory over a ranked team on the Coliseum’s national stage was more than enough reason for these Huskies to celebrate.
Myles Gaskin ran for 134 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown, and Washington shut down No. 17 USC’s high-powered offense throughout a 17-12 victory Thursday night.
Receiver Marvin Hall threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Joshua Perkins early in the second half as the Huskies (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12) beat Steve Sarkisian and the coaches who recruited many of them to Seattle. The Huskies all celebrated with their strong cheering section after running out the clock on Washington’s first win at the Coliseum since 2010.
"A win like this really puts us on the right step as a program," said senior linebacker Travis Feeney, who had 2 1-2 sacks. "We’re only going up from here. It’s definitely a stepping stone for our confidence, for any young guys who doubted themselves. It’s something we can take pride in and gain confidence from."
Washington beat a ranked team for the first time under second-year coach Chris Petersen, who appeared to pull a trick play out of his Boise State cache. The Huskies weren’t looking for vindication against Sarkisian, but a win in Los Angeles still was particularly sweet for the numerous Washington players from the area.
"It’s like playing in my backyard," said linebacker Keishawn Bierria, from nearby Carson. "It’s just playing at home for me, for a lot of us. That’s the way we look at it: There’s nothing special about this park."
Cody Kessler had two interceptions while passing for just 156 yards on a disastrous night for the Trojans (3-2, 1-2), the popular preseason pick to win the conference and a healthy double-digit favorite against Washington. Instead, USC couldn’t score a touchdown until Ronald Jones II’s short run with 12:02 to play.
Washington’s defense then came up with two late stops, and the Trojans missed a field goal with 3:44 left. Jaydon Mickens caught a key third-down pass from Washington freshman Jake Browning with 2:10 to play, allowing the Huskies to run out the clock against the frustrated USC defense, which was solid after giving up 41 points to Stanford last month.
"It’s never fun to lose a game, so yeah, it’s a little shocking," USC linebacker Cameron Smith said. "But give them credit. They played well. Their defense played awesome."
Sarkisian faced the Huskies for the first time since he left Washington to take over the Trojans last season, taking five Huskies assistant coaches with him. Sarkisian spent five years in Seattle, restoring a moribund program to competence, but never breaking through to the Pac-12’s elite.
Instead, the Huskies took a major step toward the future at the expense of Sarkisian, who could be on a hot seat before reaching the midway point of his second season.
"Not at all," Sarkisian said when asked if he is coaching for his job now.
Tre Madden rushed for 120 yards for the Trojans, who lost their second straight game at the Coliseum following last month’s visit from Stanford.
Kessler went 16 for 29 during just the second multi-interception game of the touted senior’s college career, but the entire offense struggled against Washington’s defense, which entered the Coliseum as the Pac-12’s best. The Trojans went 1 for 13 on third downs, and they made three turnovers after committing just two in the first four games.
"This is going to test the character of a lot of guys," Kessler said. "This one hurts. It hurts. I’m not going to lie."
Kessler threw the 14th interception of his career on USC’s opening drive, just the Trojans’ third turnover all season. USC led 6-3 at halftime after the teams traded field goals.
The Huskies recovered a fumble by JuJu Smith-Schuster deep in USC territory early in the third quarter, and Hall hit a wide-open Perkins for the game’s first touchdown on the next play.
Why did the coaches pick Hall, a Los Angeles native, for the big throw?
"Because I have a cannon," Hall said with a laugh.
Gaskin scored early in the fourth, but USC’s offense finally awoke on the ensuing drive after Washington linebacker Azeem Victor was ejected for targeting Kessler with 13 minutes to play, erasing a third-down stop by the Huskies’ defense.
Jones made three consecutive big runs capped by his 1-yard TD lunge, but Madden dropped a pass on the 2-point conversion attempt.