SEATTLE -- The Washington defense had a daunting task Saturday evening with a talented USC offense visiting Seattle.
That job got no easier when the Huskies went into the half down 17 and with an offense struggling to muster any resemblance to a coherent unit. The defense responded to the challenge, but the Huskies fell short in an upset bid over the No. 11 Trojans, 24-14, in front of 66,202 at CenturyLink Field.
The Trojans managed just 138 yards in the second half, failed to get a first down on three of their four third-quarter possessions and were stopped on a fourth down in UW territory late in the game, but they received a solid effort from their defense.
USC had 10 tackles for loss, including five sacks, and forced four turnovers. The Trojans held the Huskies to 87 first-half yards.
"The story of the day would be the defense number one, and then special teams and then the run game. Those are the three things if you're going to win on the road that you usually need to pack," USC coach Lane Kiffin said. "Phenomenal job by our defense, especially in the fourth quarter. That's been our issue: fourth-quarter defense. I thought our guys really played well, closed the game out, flew to the ball."
The UW offense had opportunities to cut into the deficit, though. With USC leading 24-14, Travis Coons missed a 45-yard field-goal attempt wide left late in the third quarter.
More painfully for the Huskies, they saw a nine-play, 51-yard drive end on the Trojans' 4-yard line with 11 minutes remaining, as UW quarterback Keith Price was stripped of the ball. Safety Jawanza Starling caused and recovered the fumble.
The final blow came when Price fumbled the ball on the tail end of first-down scramble with two minutes remaining in the game.
The Trojans took control of the game early, capitalizing on two big plays. The first came after UW was forced to punt after a three-and-out to open the game. USC's first play from scrimmage was a handoff to Silas Redd. The running back ran into a wall off the left side, traversed the field and broke down the right sideline for 57 yards. The UW defense held in the red zone, though, and forced a field goal.
"It was designed to the left, kinda got plugged and it was an opening to the right, I took it and tried to race down the sideline," Redd said.
It didn't take long for the Trojans to punch one into the end zone, though. Linebacker Dion Bailey stepped in front of Price's first pass on the next possession, setting up USC at the Huskies' 34-yard line. Three plays later, Redd crossed the goal line for an 11-yard touchdown run.
The Huskies were able to get back into the game by grinding out an eight-play, 58-yard drive that was capped by a 17-yard touchdown pass from Price to sophomore Kasen Williams that brought UW within 10-7.
That was as close as the Huskies got in the first half, as the Trojans broke the game open prior to intermission. Matt Barkley found tight end Xavier Grimble with an 18-yard dart for the Trojans' second touchdown, and Anthony Brown blocked a punt and returned it from inside the 10-yard line to put USC up 24-7.
"Frustrating loss to say the least," UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. "That's two consecutive weeks now that we took the field and we didn't respond good in the first half of the game. When you've got good teams and you go in the locker room down, it's hard, and it makes it hard to win."
That was about the extent of the passing offense for the Trojans,
though. Barkley threw just 10 times for 66 yards after halftime as
Kiffin went to a grind-it-out style.
Despite struggling to put the game away, the Trojans head back to Los Angeles with a win and a plan for next week.
"If we play undisciplined football like that, we're not gonna have a blowout game, it's gonna be close," Barkley said of the Trojans, who committed 10 penalties for 70 yards. "Those are the things we need to fix, just in terms of stalling drives and putting ourselves in long situations. I think if we correct those things, we'll be fine."
NOTES: USC set a school record with its 187th consecutive game without being shut out. The last time the Trojans were blanked came in 1997 at Washington. ... USC wide receiver Robert Woods took over sole possession of second place on the school's all-time receptions list at 208 with his first reception of the game. He finished with five catches to give him 212. Dwayne Jarrett holds the record with 216. ... Cody Bruns started the game as the punt returner for the Huskies. Marvin Hall and Jaydon Mickens are listed as starters at that position.