Friday, November 18, 2011

Trojans embarrass Huskies 40-17 in Sarkisian's return to old stomping grounds

By Kshell

The USC Trojans(8-2,5-2) made sure there was no last second game winning field goals by Erik Folk as the Trojans destroyed the Washington Huskies(6-4,4-3) 40-17. Steve Sarkisian who had previously been 2-0 against the team he coached for many years had one of his worst losses as a head coach with all things considered. The Trojans dominated this game as they rushed for 252 yards while the Huskies offense which features Chris Polk was held to just 42 yards rushing as a team. For the third straight week Keith Price has struggled and was injured during the game which leaves him out for the following week. This was yet another bad blowout loss for Sarkisian's Huskies who have been outscored 74-34 the last two weeks after starting off the season 6-2.

The Huskies began the game with two three and outs while the Trojans on the second possession took advantage. Starting from their own 20 yard line on second down Matt Barkley hit Brice Butler for an incredible diving 36 yard catch on the Huskies 34 yard line as the Huskies had a penalty the prior play. After a Barkley eight yard pass that set up third and one from the 25 yard line. That is when running back Marc Tyler busted a 24 yard run down to the Huskeis one yard line. Barkley then finished off the drive with a one yard touchdown keeper to give the Trojans a 7-0 lead. The Huskies offense once again went three and out. After stopping the Trojans the Huskies offense finally had a drive going. Price hit Austin Seferian-Jenkins for gains of 22 yards, 11 yards and then 12 yards. The Huskies offense stalled as Folk ended the drive with a 46 yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-3. On the following series is when the Trojans would change momentum back to their side.

The Trojans once again began on their own 20 yard line but Barkley completed back to back passes to their own 38. After a loss of nine yards the Trojans were facing a 3rd and 19. The Huskies were called for a suspect pass interference call which was on an uncatchable pass. The Trojans were facing a second and 20 saw Barkley complete an 11 yard pass to set up third and nine. The Huskies defense recorded the stop which appeared the Trojans on their own 45 yard line would punt. Instead Lane Kiffin called a fake punt which saw punter Kyle Negrete rush up the middle for a 35 yard run which 33 yards he went untouched. Kiffin found a weakness in Sarkisian's special teams and took advantage. Curtis McNeal then ran for 15 yards on the next two carries plus a Huskies penalty gave the Trojans the ball on the two yard line. After the Huskies had back to back stops on McNeal the Trojans turned to Tyler who ran it in from one yard out to give the Trojans a 14-3 lead over the Huskies.

The game changed after the fake punt as the Huskies self destructed. After a short kickoff return and a penalty the Huskies found themselves starting on their own eight yard line. After a short run by Polk it had appeared that Keith Price hit Seferian-Jenkins over the middle for a gain of 25 yards. Despite the call on the field being a catch and there was no conclusive evidence the catch was overturned. Facing a third and nine from the 10 Price was sacked in the endzone for a safety giving the Trojans a 16-3 lead while also gaining possession. Starting from their own 49 yard line the Trojans went to work as McNeal busted a 19 yard run then a five yard run to the Huskies 27 yard line. On third and three Tyler ran for four yards to the 21 yard line. McNeal then ran for 12 more yards to the Huskies nine yard line. That is when Barkley finished the drive with a nine yard touchdown pass to Marqise Lee to give the Trojans a commanding 23-3 lead at halftime over the Huskies.

The second half began with the Trojans receiving the ball first. As if there was any doubt in the game Lee made sure there wasn't as he took the kickoff 88 yards to the House to give the Trojans a 30-3 lead over the Huskies. The Huskies offense would actually respond to that as Kevin Smith ran back to the kick 40 yards to their own 43 yard line. Bishop Sankey began the drive with a gain of three yards. Then Price hit Smith on a crossing route which Smith using his speed busted 53 yards as he was tackled at the one yard line. That is when the Huskies rewarded Polk for the one yard touchdown run. That was Polk's 10th rushing touchdown of the season which was a career high for Polk who bested his mark of last season of nine rushing touchdowns.

With the score cutdown to 30-10 the Trojans made sure this game was still going to be a blowout. Starting from their own 20 yard line after a one yard run by McNeal is when the game went back to being ugly. McNeal busted it 79 yards untouched for the touchdown to give the Trojans back their commanding lead of 37-10. The Huskies offense would go three and out the next three drives while two drives later the Trojans went on a 15 play, 61 yard drive which took up over seven and a half minutes resulting in a field goal to go up 40-10 over the Huskies. This game turned ugly when many including myself expected a good close game. The Huskies as if things couldn't get any worse lost starting quarterback Keith Price during the game due to injury while the Trojans made damn well sure this game wasn't going to be a repeat of the last two years. The Trojans took care of business over the Huskies with big plays and I'm sure Nick Holt was re-thinking his statement on whether he would rather face them than Oregon. The Trojans put the hurting on the Huskies and the only left in this game was to see how Nick Montana the son of Joe Montana would handle the quarterback position in mop up duty.

The last drive of the game meant nothing far as the game goes but meant everything towards this week. The Huskies began on their own 31 yard line. Sankey had a rush of four yards then Montana hit Michael Hartvigson for a gain of 10 yards. Sankey followed that up with a 17 yard run to the Trojans 38 yard line. Montana then hit Jermaine Kearse for a gain of six yards setting up a third and four. Montana hit Hartvigson again for a gain of six yards to pick up the first down. Montana completed a pass to Sankey for a gain of six yards to the 20 yard line. Facing a fourth and four Montana threw the ball up for grabs as he saw Kasen Williams had one on one coverage and for the second straight week Williams came down with the pass and the touchdown. For the third straight week Williams has been more productive than either senior wide receiver. The Huskies would go on to lose this game 40-17 as they lost their quarterback.

The Trojans blew out the Huskies 40-17 led by their rushing attack. Curtis McNeal had 148 yards rushing on 18 carries(8.2 YPC) including a touchdown. Marc Tyler had 50 yards on seven carries(7.1 YPC) with a touchdown as well. Matt Barkley played a solid game when the game was still in doubt. Barkley was 18-28(64.3%) for 174 yards(6.2 YPA) with a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown. Marqise Lee had nine receptions for 74 yards with a touchdown while also having an 88 yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

For the Huskies they have had better days no doubt. Keith Price finished 12-16(75.0%) for 125 yards(7.8 YPA) while being sacked four times. His backup Nick Montana had mixed results as Montana was 9-15(60.0%) for 73 yards(4.9 YPA) with his first career touchdown pass. The rushing game was nowhere to be seen as Chris Polk was held to season lows in carries with nine and yards with 36(4.0 YPC) while rushing for a touchdown. Bishop Sankey ran for 22 yards on four carries(5.5 YPC) and Kevin Smith ran once for six yards. The receiving game was featured by the youngsters led by Smith who had one catch for 53 yards. Then Seferian-Jenkins broke out of his slump with four receptions for 48 yards. Kasen Williams added five receptions for 44 yards with a touchdown. Sankey also had four receptions on the game as well. This was a horrible loss for the Huskies program hoping their days of returning to glory would start now.

All in all, these type of losses need to end for Sarkisian like ASAP. The Huskies have had a horrible habit of getting blown out quite a bit despite being a decent team. I'm aware there are growing pains but these type of losses need to stop. The high powered offense has looked beyond average the last two weeks which might have some to do with their opponent. Despite the sanctions the Trojans are a good team which features two top three picks in the NFL draft next year plus many other NFL players. The Huskies for the second straight week found out they are a long ways away from competing for Rose Bowls.


- When the team is winning the quarterback receives too much credit. Likewise when the team is losing the quarterback receives too much blame. Take this game for an example Price didn't turn the ball over, completed 75% of his passes and his yards per attempt was close to eight. Yet all over facebook and twitter fans were bashing on Price.

Price has had a bad habit the last two weeks of constantly checking the ball down which is the smart play. By checking the ball down all the time though the Huskies are scoring points which ultimately as the quarterback is your job. For the year though Price is having a great season as he is completing 67.2% of his passes for 2,258 yards(7.9 YPA) with 25 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. He has been sacked 25 times including 10 in the last two games alone. Due to all those sacks Price will have to miss this next game and hopefully he'll be able to return for the apple cup.

- Chris Polk had just nine carries for 36 yards with a touchdown while catching just one pass for zero yards. Why Sarkisian neglected to use his best weapon on the road has been the mystery. Polk is a speed back who has proven to get better as the game goes on. With Price getting hit on practically every play why not pound Polk more to ease the pressure off of Price?

Polk for the year is still having one of the great seasons for a Huskies running back and judging by the poor rush defenses he faces the next two weeks he should be adding quite a bit to his totals. For the year Polk has ran for 1,132 yards(5.2 YPC) with 10 touchdowns. He has also caught 25 passes for 280 yards with three touchdowns.  Sarkisian needs to feature his best weapon or the Huskies are going to have a disappointing end to a once promising season.

- The play of Kasen Williams lately has been nice to see. Williams the last three weeks has stepped his game up and appears to have figured out the playbook. That also could be due to Montana playing more as well as those two seemed to have good chemistry. Williams the last three weeks has caught 13 passes for 183 yards with two touchdowns. For the season Williams now has 25 receptions for 280 yards with four touchdowns. So as you can see he has improved quite a bit as the season has worn on.

The other true freshman on the team are doing pretty well too. I'll start with Austin Seferian-Jenkins who broke out of his slump with four receptions fo 48 yards. On the year Seferian-Jenkins has 26 receptions for 383 yards with four touchdowns. The other true freshman who is having a nice year on offense is Bishop Sankey who appears to have passed up Jesse Callier as the number two back and always seems to bust one long run a game. For the year Sankey has ran for 175 yards(6.7 YPC) with a touchdown. The last five weeks Sankey has ran for 154 yards(7.7 YPC) with a touchdown. Sankey for the year has also caught five passes.

-  Nick Montana as everyone probably knows is the son of four-time super bowl winning quarterback Joe Montana. Montana[Nick] will be starting this next saturday against the Oregon State Beavers. Montana showed to be a bit rusty in his debut turning the ball over twice in his first two games. Now Montana appears comfortable as he came in the Oregon game with a beautiful 53 yard pass to Williams then this week threw a nice 20 yard touchdown pass to Williams.

For the year Montana is 13-20(65.0%) for 147 yards(7.4 YPA) with a touchdown and an interception. Montana has shown the last two weeks where he went 10-16 for 126 yards with a touchdown that he is more than capable of filling in for the injured Keith Price. Montana is only a redshirt freshman and while fans expect him to be like his dad that is completely unfair. Let's allow Montana to play his whole career before passing judgement.

- Last year Sarkisian after beating USC called it the greatest day of his life besides when his kids were born. What a contrast a year makes as the Huskies were embarassed once again against a ranked opponent. For the year against ranked opponents the Huskies are 0-4 having been outscored 190-93 which is an average score of 47.5-23.2 which is completely unaccetapable.

Sarkisian needs to avoid these blowouts if he really is going to be the guy for this program for decades to come. Any coach can coach this team for the short term which Willingham proved. It takes a great coach to last for a decade plus with one school. I believe Sarkisian is more than capable of being that guy but he needs to stop letting his team get blown out so often.

In conclusion, this is your classic game where you throw the game tape away as the Huskies simply gave up once again. The offense looks to be struggling while the defense continues to be overmatched in year three of this coaching staff's regime. Unless things change Sarkisian will be faced with some tough decisions on his coaching staff but I'll get into that later in the year. Sarkisian still can salvage the season as the Huskies will be heavy favorites the next two games. Since Don James retired at the end of the 1992 season the Huskies have won only won eight games in the regular season just twice and eight games three times overall. The Huskies can still do that with wins the next two weeks which any fan including myself would take. The Huskies failed the big test once again so to make up for it they have to ace the quizzes the next two weeks.

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