Oct. 2, 2010
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Erik Folk did it again. So did these resurgent, resilient Washington Huskies.
They took down USC.
Folk endured two consecutive Trojans attempts to psych him out with time outs to nail a 32-yard field goal with no time remaining, and Dawggone it if Washington didn't stun the Trojans again at the end 32-31 on a wild Saturday night at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Washington's players mobbed Folk - and each other - in a whiteout of bedlam in the center of the field following Folk's second game-winning kick in two seasons against USC.
It was a celebration three years in the making. Washington's last road win was in November 2007.
After coach Steve Sarkisian hugged gutty senior quarterback Jake Locker in the middle of the field, the Huskies (2-2, 1-0 Pac-10) joyously sprinted to the opposite end of the field. There they saluted the roaring throng from Seattle, who had just started a purple party in the corner of the otherwise silent, old stadium.
"I love that stuff, man," Sarkisian, the former top Trojans assistant, said of the drama, after beating his former team again.
This one came in front of 40 of his friends and family watching inside the coach's hometown Coliseum.
"I'm just so proud of the guys. They showed the character I knew they had," Sarkisian said of players who had lost their previous game at home to Nebraska 56-21.
Asked if the thriller was the best thing to ever happen to him, the second-year head man and former Rose Bowl-winning coordinator with USC smiled and said, "Other than my three kids being born, it's probably right there."
Some of the Trojans (4-1, 1-1) dropped to the turf, crumpled in disbelief that the clutch Folk came through yet again.
"Honestly, this was the same thing as last year," safety and senior co-captain Nate Williams said. "I didn't even watch, because I did the same thing last year. I thought if I did the same thing as last year, it might happen again."
How pumped were the Huskies after this one? The team bus with special-teams players on it -- including Folk -- was rocking from side to side as music blared on the way to the airport for the joyous flight home.
Locker rebounded from his worst career start two weeks ago against Nebraska, then endured a goal-line hit that left him woozy early in the fourth quarter, to complete 24 of 40 passes for 310 yards and a touchdown throw of 44 yards to Devin Aguilar. Unlike in the frustrating 23-17 opening loss at Brigham Young, which ended in BYU territory with a fourth-down incompletion, Locker's final drive was a signature winning one this time.
So much for the detractors who said Locker was fizzling out in his final season at UW.
"Of course you hear rumblings," the quiet star said outside Washington's joyous locker room. "But I can promise you no one was more disappointed (in the Nebraska game) than me."
Locker also ran for 110 yards on 12 carries, including for 8 yards to convert a key third-down on the final drive.
That was after Locker found D'Andre Goodwin on an 18-yard strike on fourth and 10 from the UW 23 to begin the final, victorious drive. Folk said he was "kind of praying" on the sideline before that play.
"Yeah, he was knocked woozy. He came back. He has a heart of a champion," linebacker Cort Dennison said of Locker. "He came back for his senior season for this reason."
It was Washington's first win at USC since Nov. 2, 1996.
Locker was knocked woozy on a hit at the bottom of the pile near the USC goal line early in the fourth quarter. His knees buckled as teammates helped him to his feet, and after taking a knee he slowly walked off the field with trainers. As Locker was getting a balance test from the UW medical staff, redshirt freshman Keith Price got his first career touchdown on his second career pass - 1 yard to Chris Izbicki. Price's two-point conversion pass failed, and Washington led 29-28.
Yet Locker said "I knew I was coming back into the game."
USC answered with a 27-yard field goal by Joe Houston that made it 31-29 Trojans with 10 minutes left.
But after Locker threw incomplete on fourth down from the USC 38, Houston's 40-yard field goal try banged off the right upright with 2:34 left. That kept USC ahead by just 32-31.
So Washington needed only about 50 yards for a winning field goal. And it had already rolled USC's shaky defense for 476 at that point.
The drive began at the UW 24. On fourth and 11 from the 23, Locker connected for those 18 crucial yards to Goodwin. Then Chris Polk, who had 92 yards on 13, bullish runs, romped to the USC 33. Locker converted on the third-down run for 8 yards to the USC 20 before a final run by Polk got Washington to the 15. Sarkisian then called time out with 3 seconds left.
Folk then trotted onto the field and endured USC coach Lane Kiffin's double attempts to ice him. Sarkisian had told him to expect that. Then Folk calmly drilled a dagger into the Trojans' hearts. Again.
And get this: He wasn't completely satisfied.
"I could have hit it better," the steely junior said, with a straight face. "But it was good enough for the win."
After Washington began the second half with an 11-play drive that ended with a 35-yard field goal by Folk that put the Huskies ahead 23-21, the Dawgs failed to turn a fumble recovery by do-it-all linebacker Mason Foster at the USC 41 into points. The Trojans responded by retaking the lead on Allen Bradford's second touchdown run of the night, from 16 yards, to make it 28-23 after three quarters.
Locker converted a fourth and 1 run for 16 yards early in the second quarter. That set Polk up for a 1-yard touchdown surge through the middle of USC's defense and put the Huskies up for the first time, 10-7.
Then, immediately after Huskies safety Nate Fellner broke up what would have been a 47-yard pass completion for USC on third and 17 to force a 32-yard punt, Locker found Devin Aguilar alone past two Trojans in the end zone. Aguilar waited on the floating pass before scoring on the 44-yard strike and Washington led 17-7.
The Coliseum crowd was silent - except for a swath of roaring fans in purple in the corner of the end zone and the incessant, seemingly pointless playing by the USC band.
But the Trojans answered with a 55-yard kickoff return by Robert Woods to the Washington 38, continuing Washington's season-long problems on special teams. That set up a short drive that ended with Marc Tyler scoring the first of his two touchdowns in the second quarter, and USC was within 17-14.
Locker then took a direct snap and ran 50 yards to the USC 5, but Trojans cornerback Shareece Wright poked the ball out of the quarterback's arm from behind at the end of the play. The ball appeared to cross the goal-line pylon and the sideline almost simultaneously. Washington coach Steve Sarkisian challenged the ruling of a fumble out of the end zone for a USC touchback, but an official review upheld that call.
Sarkisian also believed Locker was grabbed from the top of his shoulder pads below the neck for what should have been a horse-collar penalty on USC, but that grab did not bring Locker down. The flag an official threw was picked up for what referee Jack Wood explained was a weird illegal-forward-pass call, as if Locker had thrown the ball forward voluntarily.
Instead of a 24-14 lead for the Huskies, USC marched 80 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Tyler's 6-yard run on a direct snap made it 21-17 Trojans with 2:35 left in the wild opening half.
Washington ended the half with Folk's second field goal, from 41 yards, to make it 21-20. The Huskies gained 319 yards in the half - but allowed USC 305.
Locker was 14 for 20 for 200 yards, plus had five carries for 77 yards, after two quarters.
He had what he called the biggest win of his college career afterwards.
"Yeah, coming on the road, the road record being what it was the last couple of years, to win in this fashion -- against this football team, in this stadium -- is exciting," Locker said.
"It feels awesome."