You are USC, and this is how you let another national championship slip through your fingers. You're coming off a huge, emotional victory on the road in prime time. Up next: a road trip to a hostile stadium in the Pacific Northwest, against a team that went 0-12 in 2008. You have more talent on your scout team than the Washington Huskies have on their starting units.
But the Huskies are led by
Corp works with the first team offense all week, yet you refuse to name him your starter until just before the game. Coach
You have found your feature back, after three years of searching. But
Your second-best tailback,
Your defense holds, but you are flagged for an illegal block in the back on the ensuing punt return, burying your first-time starter in a deep hole. Corp looks lost, and you punt. You watch Locker convert a 3rd-and-17 on UW's next series, wasting a terrific sack by freshman defensive end
You are flagged for holding on the ensuing kickoff return, putting Corp in a deep hole. Again. Huskies force a three-and-out. Again.
You get the ball back with a minute and change left in the half, and Corp finally looks alive. But on third-and-one, you call a curious play -- a slow developing handoff to fullback
After bolting to a 10-0 lead, you are tied at halftime with the team that finished last season ranked 110th in scoring defense.
You come out of the locker room and finally look like USC, driving the ball down the field like Trojan juggernauts of old. Deep in the red zone on the tenth play of the drive, Havili uses second and third efforts to keep a play alive, only to be stripped of the ball.
Your surprisingly stout defense, featuring exactly one starter from last season, holds again, but Corp gives the ball back with a brutal interception.
Having let the Huskies hang around all afternoon, you look on as
Corp looks confused and disoriented enroute to another three-and-out. Carroll can't be blamed for thinking: Now do you see why I hesitated naming him the starter?
You are heartened as equilibrium appears to restore itself in the college football cosmos. A big punt return by
You cheer as Perry, the sensational freshman, casts Locker into a deep hole with a 12-yard sack. You groan as Locker escapes from it. On third-and-15, the junior quarterback finds sophomore wideout
You watch the students from another overmatched Pac-10 opponent storm the field. You are forced to mouth the now-familiar refrains: "We can still win the Pac-10," and "One loss doesn't necessarily doom our national championship hopes." Even as you hear yourself saying that, you reflect on the fact that, last year, that's precisely what happened.
You are stunned to realize that, excluding a gimme TD set up by
You've got two weeks to find some offense before you head north to Berkeley, where you will face the Cal Bears, who've scored 146 points in their first three games.
You look on the bright side: against Cal, it looks like you'll be the underdog.