Oct. 22, 2005
SEATTLE (AP) - One week after willing itself through an epic, last-play win at Notre Dame, top-ranked Southern California got back to normal Saturday.
That meant Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Matt Leinart returning to passing off three-step drops and finding seven different receivers - en route to 20 completions in 26 attempts, 201 yards and four touchdowns.
That meant super sophomore receiver Dwayne Jarrett catching three of those Leinart scoring passes for the second time this season - one week after those two connected for 61 yards on the revitalizing, fourth-down pass that led to victory over the Irish.
That also meant Reggie Bush's spinning, electric, 84-yard punt return for another touchdown and ultimately the Trojans' 29th straight win, 51-24 over Washington.
And normal ultimately meant the Trojans hopping up and down, pounding walls and joyously bellowing the words to their "Fight On" fight song in their locker room beneath Husky Stadium afterward.
"Yeah, it was finally good to feel good about ourselves again," Leinart said of a team no one will ever be caught feeling sorry for, despite three comeback wins in the previous four weeks.
USC (7-0, 4-0 Pac-10) won its school-record 14th straight road game and record-tying 19th consecutive conference game.
Sophomore linebacker Thomas Williams said of the narrow Notre Dame escape: "It was kinda like a blessing, to see we could actually lose. That we are not unbeatable, that we're not invincible."
Tell that to Washington.
The Huskies (1-6, 0-4) actually led the nation's behemoths, 10-7, late into the first quarter, despite coming in as 30-point underdogs. Marlon Wood returned the opening kickoff 92 yards to the USC 8 to set up a field goal. Then came a 12-play, 80-yard drive that ended with sophomore Chris Chambers, with USC's Justin Wyatt nearly chest-to-chest with him, leaping to grab a 9-yard, Isaiah Stanback pass in the end zone with 1:28 left in the opening quarter.
"It had nothing to do with wake-up calls," Trojans coach Pete Carroll said, noting his team had run only 12 plays at that point. "I didn't feel any concern at all. I saw once the game got (going) we could do whatever we need to on offense."
Indeed, the Trojans scored four successive touchdowns, on nine offensive plays. Washington aided USC with two turnovers - two more than the undermanned Huskies could afford.
"We were able to move the ball, but you can't have those turnovers we had," Washington right tackle Joe Toledo said. "Those killed us. (That) spot them 21 points."
The first touchdown came courtesy of USC's mammoth, NFL-like offensive line - average size: 6-foot-4 1/2, 312 pounds. It gave Leinart enough time to wait for Jarrett to make a double move into the middle of the field past two Huskies for a 24-yard score.
Then Bush took over. The nation's leader in all-purpose yards bowled through Washington safety Dashon Goldson for a 6-yard touchdown run and a 20-10 Trojans lead 1:14 into the second quarter.
Just over two minutes later, Bush spun out of a pack of six Huskies and stepped over another. He outran the rest for an 84-yard punt return score, his first such TD this season, and a 27-10 USC lead.
"I need to see that again," Carroll said, gushing. "He was buried under a mass of bodies. He's a tremendous football player."
A relieved one, too.
"I think I'm overdue for a punt return," said a smiling Bush, who ran back two punts for scores during his All-America season of 2004. "We wanted to really focus on putting fear back in people's hearts of kicking deep to us."
Leinart and Jarrett completed the decimation with a perfectly placed, seven-yard pass that plopped into Jarrett's hands for a 34-10 lead with 9:08 still left in the first half.
Leinart completed 14 of 17 throws in the opening half for 145 yards. One of those incompletions was a throw away. The other was a disputed incompletion originally ruled a touchdown that Jarrett seemingly plucked for a touchdown just before it hit the turf.
Three of USC's first-half scoring drives lasted 31 seconds or less.
Where Leinart and Jarrett's first two scores were almost effortless pitches-and-catches, the third was astounding.
Nine minutes into the third quarter, Jarrett, who had seven catches for 95 yards, leaped over Washington cornerback Roy Lewis in the back corner of the end zone. Then, he snared Leinart's lofted pass with his right hand, cradled the ball inside his elbow and simultaneously tapped his right toe tips just inside the back boundary line.
"I do it all the time in practice," said an unimpressed Jarett, who now has 25 touchdown receptions in 20 collegiate games.
"This just shows how great we can be, when we're really focused."