USC has Devil of a time... but still wins

Team Infidel

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LOS ANGELES — Nearly scorched again, this time against an Arizona State squad embarrassed by Cal and Oregon, USC team got at least one breakthrough performance Saturday night.
Chauncey Washington rushed for 108 yards, 64 on the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, as the No. 3-ranked Trojans blew a 21-point lead before winning their third straight game by the margin of a single touchdown, 28-21, against the Sun Devils on Saturday night before 91,126 at the Coliseum.

Washington, showing no ill effects of the hamstring injury that has limited him since training camp, carried 10 times on the drive that started on the USC 26-yard line with 11:27 left and concluded with his 2-yard touchdown run with 4:29 to play.

"We talked about getting the ball and going down there and finishing the game," said Washington. "(The coaches) saw me get in the groove, so they just kept feeding me the ball."
Arizona State (3-3, 0-3 Pacific-10), 0-11 in the state of California under Dirk Koetter and coming off losses to Cal and Oregon by a combined 73-point margin, managed to threaten USC's home and Pac-10 winning streaks of 29 and 26 games, respectively.
Which leaves a major question mark next to USC's credentials to succeed Florida, a loser to No. 11 Auburn earlier Saturday, as the No. 2 team in the nation. USC (6-0, 4-0) is unbeaten entering a bye week.
"This was an interesting night's work," said USC coach Pete Carroll. "It seemed like two different games out there tonight."
USC, looking dominant for the first time since the season-opening blowout at Arkansas, needed less than three minutes of the second quarter to take a 21-0 lead.
But the Trojans threw away that advantage as ASU scored three touchdowns during a stretch that straddled halftime.
"It got kind of nasty," said Carroll. "We just got out of rhythm."
Until the coaches took the game out of his hands, quarterback John David Booty struggled again, completing just 12 of 25 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns.
USC had four takeaways in its last four games. Arizona State had 11 giveaways in its previous three games, yet Booty turned the ball over twice in the third quarter to allow ASU to tie the game.
"This is a different year and a different team and it's quite clear our challenges are different," said Carroll. "There are some young elements to this. Matt (Leinart) is not here and Reggie (Bush) is not here. That's just the facts."
The USC defense also struggled to make the big play, managing just two sacks. Its only takeaway came on special teams.
"Right now, it's not happening like we're used to," said Carroll. "I think we're fortunate to be 6-0, but we've deserved to win every game."
Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter, a Newbury Park and Westlake High product, completed 12 of 21 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed eight times for 49 yards.
"They're the No. 3 team in the country," said Carpenter. "It's a big win for us if (we could have got it). It would have put us back into the map."
Carpenter was wrapped up on a quarterback draw by former St. Bonaventure linebacker Rey Maualuga, pushed out of bounds on a 38-yard scramble by former Rio Mesa High cornerback Kevin Thomas and, before being sacked by safety Kevin Ellison, ducked under the leap of former Agoura linebacker Clay Matthews.
"He was much more like himself (tonight)," said ASU coach Dirk Koetter of Carpenter. "He had that fire in his eyes and make some plays with his legs."
Carpenter's former Westlake High teammate, Jimmy Miller, is a USC reserve tight end.
"It's a weird deal," said Miller, "considering he's on the opposite sideline and what goes along with that."
Thomas later broke his right foot, an injury that will require surgery and keep him out of action for 6-8 weeks.
USC took less than 18 minutes to score 20 points for an NCAA-record 58th straight game, building an early 21-0 lead.
The Trojans drove 75 yards in nine plays on their first possession.
Freshman Allen Bradford, who has spent the first three months of his USC career being ferried between safety and fullback, according to need, was called upon out of the backfield to catch a 17-yard touchdown pass from Booty.
The Trojans' punting formation was the biggest weapon of their second scoring drive.
A roughing-the-punter penalty and an Arizona State fumble accounted for USC gains of 15 and 48 yards. Another flag, of the pass-interference variety — ASU entered play ranked 92nd nationally in penalty yards per game — set up C.J. Gable's 2-yard touchdown run.
Dwayne Jarrett set the Pac-10 record for touchdown passes on the next USC possession, reeling a 14-yard toss from Booty on a slant route for his 33rd scoring strike.
The 21-point deficit prompted some life from the Sun Devils.
They converted a pair of third downs, including Carpenter's 37-yard swing pass to tailback Ryan Tourain on third-and-21, before the Tourain 6-yard touchdown run that made it 21-7 at the half.
"(Koetter) said (at halftime) that we took their best shot," said Carpenter. "They threw their haymaker and we were going to throw ours."
Arizona State had a chance to get back into the game when Booty stumbled dropping back and fumbled the ball away on the first play from scrimmage of the second half.
Carpenter capitalized with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Zach Miller that, with the point after by Thousand Oaks high product Jesse Ainsworth, pulled Arizona State within 21-14.
Keno Walter-White completed the comeback with less than four minutes left in the third quarter when the cornerback stepped in front of a Booty pass and returned the interception 38 yards for the Sun Devils' third straight touchdown.
It would get worse. When USC was flagged for illegal participation and tripping on the next possession, the Trojans were faced with a second-and-37 situation and, after Booty overthrew Jarrett's pattern on the next snap, the strange sound of boos cascading down the rows at the Coliseum.
"We couldn't have punted for a first down there," said Carroll. Washington finally gave the crowd something to get behind, running with power and purpose on the game-winning drive.