Chris Petersen earned his signature win and Steve Sarkisian absorbed a loss he probably will never live down as Washington, an 18-point underdog, held on to stun No. 17 USC, a preseason national championship contender, 17-12 Thursday night in the Los Angeles Coliseum (box). In collecting one of the great road wins in recent school history, the Huskies scored their first triumph over a ranked opponent since the opening game of the 2013 season (Boise State) and their first away from home since 2010 (also against USC) when they were coached by Sarkisian.
Unless USC (3-2, 1-2) runs the table, Washington probably ended the Trojans’ national title hopes as well as QB Cody Kessler’s Heisman Trophy campaign.
With 2:10 to play, Washington faced a 3rd-and-5 at their own 32. QB Jake Browning had been struggling with accuracy, but the freshman threw a slant to WR Jaydon Mickens over the middle for a first down that allowed the Huskies to run out the clock. In shutting down the Trojans, who entered the game averaging 46.8 points, for the third time in 23 games, the Huskies improved to 3-2, 1-1.
Browning completed 16 of 32 passes for 137 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. But the big pass play for the Huskies, other than the first down to Mickens, came early in the third quarter on a double pass, first Browning to WR Marvin Hall behind the line of scrimmage near the sideline. Hall tossed a 27-yard touchdown to wide-open TE Joshua Perkins to give the Huskies a 10-6 lead.
Freshman RB Myles Gaskin’s one-yard run early in the fourth quarter boosted Washington’s lead to 17-6, which the Huskies almost squandered with two major defensive gaffes — 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalties on linebackers Azeem Victor and Cory Littleton. Victor’s penalty, for which he was ejected, set up a USC touchdown, and Littleton’s set up a Trojan field goal attempt, which was missed.
Gaskin finished with 134 yards rushing and was the key operative in a third-quarter drive that staked Washington to the 17-6 lead. He busted runs of 31 and 11 yards on a 50-yard march, which ended with his TD run.
The Huskies would have won by a far larger margin if Browning, playing in his fifth collegiate game, had been able to do anything with his downfield throws. He missed consistently, especially deep when he overthrew open receivers. He also threw wide of an open Mickens in the end zone in the second quarter.
The Huskies, who set the tone with a sack of Kessler on the first scrimmage play and an interception on the second, pressured him into an uncharacteristic 16-for-29 effort that resulted in a season-low 156 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Washington had five sacks and a dozen tackles for loss in holding Kessler 161 yards under his per-game average.
Washington yielded 346 yards, but USC entered the game averaging 495, first in the Pac-12.
The Huskies were especially effective on third down, holding the Trojans to 1-for-13.
Travis Feeney, the Husky who most interests NFL scouts, finished with 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss.
Sarkisian, who left Washington following the 2013 season and took five assistants with him, faced the Huskies for the first time . . . DB Budda Baker returned to the Huskies after missing two games with a left ankle injury . . . Washington had been 0-11 vs. ranked opponents on the road since its last Coliseum win over USC in 2010 . . . USC leads the series 51-29-4.
The Huskies return home to face Oregon at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17, on either ESPN or ESPN2. Washington has not defeated the Ducks since 2003, a span that includes 11 consecutive losses.