More than anything, USC losing to Washington 17-12 at home despite being double-digit favorites before the game makes it quite clear that Steve Sarkisian is now coaching for his job, as the Huskies defense pulled quite a number on him and Cody Kessler, combined with some inspiring creativity to take the lead in the third quarter.
USC are now 3-2 following two home losses, the first one to Stanford. Sarkisian didn’t rock the world during his first season in Southern California (9-4), and while it’s rare to see a head coach being let go after just two seasons at the job, things don’t seem to be picking up for a program not known for its patience. There were warning signs before this season began, but having another high preseason ranking turn into mediocrity and playing for some insignificant bowl game isn’t what the expectations are at USC.
For one half, this game was all about defense and offensive ineptitude. The two teams combined to score just nine points in the first half without any touchdowns. Things got a bit more wild and open in the second half when Washington took the 10-6 lead following a two-pass touchdown that ended in Joshua Perkins hands. Myles Gaskin, having a great night, added another touchdown early in the fourth to put Washington up by 11 points. Ronald Jones scored a touchdown for USC on the next possession, but then came the big stops from the Huskies.
USC missed a field goal with 3:44 left in the game and Washington had two big stops in the fourth quarter, resulting in running out the clock for Washington’s first win on the road against USC since 2010. Gaskin ran for 134 yards, 110 of them before anyone even touched him. USC seemed quite proud of their defense and its ability to bounce back from losing to Stanford and giving up 41 points. It wasn’t bad against Washington, but it wasn’t the best unit on the field.
Cody Kessler was probably the most disappointing player out there, throwing two interceptions in a night that reminded a lot of fans of his first year as the starter for the Trojans. USC couldn’t’ convert on third down, finishing with just 1-of-13 in that situation. Kessler himself was only 3-of-8 on third down with two interceptions. He finished overall with 16-of-29 and just 156 yards. USC did get some nice running from Tra Madden, going for 120 yards on 17 carries.
The Pac-12 is filled with road wins this season, and no clear dominant team now that Oregon is ordinary again. The South seems especially difficult to figure out right now with Utah the only team without a loss, but only one conference game played. What is clear however is that USC is once again falling out of the race to play any part in the identity of the conference champions quite early, and it’s been quite a while since they’ve been relevant, something that’s not easy to swallow for a proud and successful program like this.