|USC Legends News|
Yet for all of their glamorous tradition, there is one phase of the game that the Trojans have mastered since the arrival of coach Pete Carroll: They force opponents into turnovers that crush their hopes and snuff their chances.
The Washington Huskies know they must avoid that trap today when they meet the third-ranked Trojans at Memorial Coliseum.
“(Winning the turnover battle) usually takes away a couple of possessions, probably, and most likely has provided you with field position,” UW coach Tyrone Willingham said. “I think somewhere in my career there was a statistic that said if you score off a turnover, that probably about 90 percent of the time you win the game. So, that’s pretty huge.”
It has been for the Trojans, who rank first in the Pacific-10 Conference and 10th nationally in turnover margin with an advantage of plus-1.25 per game.
And while that statistic can be influenced by the odd bounce of an oblong ball, Carroll says the Trojans success in that area is no accident.
“I think clearly it’s an emphasis in philosophy,” he said. “It’s the root of our entire football philosophy to take care of the ball, and it always has been. I think it’s a product that if you believe in something really strongly … you go after it.”
This season, the Trojans have intercepted five passes and recovered four fumbles while losing two interceptions and two fumbles. That puts USC at plus-five turnovers through four games.
Washington, meanwhile, is on the negative side, snagging five interceptions and one fumble recovery, while losing it to three interceptions and six fumbles.
If the Huskies can’t reverse those numbers today, their chances of an upset are that much smaller.
“We’ve got to take care of the football,” offensive coordinator Tim Lappano said. “(USC does) a great job of stripping the football. And they’re very physical, so when they hit you they’re going to jar you. This team tackles better than any team we’ve faced this year.”
Because this is such an area of emphasis for the Trojans, it also became an area of emphasis for the Huskies, who practiced this week against scout team players ordered to constantly go for the ball.
Of course, fumbles are only half of the turnover equation.
“The other thing that we have to try to do is make good decisions at quarterback and throw the ball into the open seams and don’t try to force anything,” Lappano said. “That’s really the only thing that we can do to try to prevent ourselves from turning the football over.”
Some coaches believe that warning players not to fumble or throw interceptions sometimes has the opposite effect: They concentrate so intently on avoiding mistakes that they make them.
Willingham isn’t one of those coaches.
“The question is, can you try too hard? I don’t believe you can try to hard,” he said. “I believe you can have your focus in the wrong place. If your mind is on the wrong subjects at the wrong time, that’s not good.”
The Huskies say that their minds are in the right place.
“My mindset is to get a victory because we want to go to the Rose Bowl, obviously, and this is another stop,” senior receiver Sonny Shackelford said. “Everybody sees us as underdogs. We don’t see it that way.”
Tight end Robert Lewis traveled with UW for the first time since suffering a broken hand in the season opener. He is expected to play. … Defensive back Dashon Goldson said his high-ankle sprain is almost completely healed. He is expected to see time at cornerback and safety. … USC receiver Dwayne Jarrett and defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis are expected to be a game-time decisions. … The Los Angeles forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with a high of 68 degrees.
WASHINGTON (4-1, 2-0 Pac-10) AT NO. 3 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (4-0, 2-0)
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m., Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
TV: FSN. Radio: 950-AM.
The series: USC leads, 46-26-4 overall and 27-10 in the Coliseum. The Huskies have lost four straight meetings, including 38-0 in their last visit to LA in 2004, and 51-24 last season in Seattle.
What to watch: This will be the Huskies’ first chance to measure themselves against a national-class opponent since Oklahoma. … The availability of USC All-American receiver Dwayne Jarrett (shoulder) will be a game-time decision. … Traditionally a quick-strike team, the Trojans lead the Pacific-10 Conference in time of possession. … The Huskies can’t afford to give up possessions to USC, the league leader in turnover margin. The Trojans also lead the Pac-10 in scoring defense, third-down conversions and kickoff coverage.
What’s at stake: A share of first place in the Pac-10 race. The Huskies would like to show the nation they are back, while keeping pace with their best start since the 2001 Holiday Bowl team. At stake for the Trojans are a variety of conference-record winning streaks, including 28 straight home wins, 25 Pac-10 wins, 19 conference home wins and 16 straight wins in October.
TNT pick: USC, 35-10. Washington hasn’t had to deal with a passing attack this skilled. But if the UW defenders back off the line, the USC tailback combination of Emmanuel Moody and Chauncey Washington could run wild. The Trojans defense is better than it looked last week against WSU.
No. Name (position) Height/weight Year
4 Isaiah Stanback (QB) 6-3/215 Senior
Teams daring him to beat them with pass – and he has.
4 Scott White (LB) 6-1/235 Senior
Pac-10 defensive player of week despite sore shoulder.
14 Michael Braunstein (PK) 5-8/185 Junior
Missed two short field goals last week at Arizona.
21 Sonny Shackelford (WR) 6-2/180 Senior
Becoming favorite target with 14 catches over past two games.
26 Jason Wells (FS) 6-2/235 Sophomore
Juco transfer crucial to limiting Trojans’ vertical passing game.
No. Name (position) Height/weight Year
2 Steve Smith (FL) 6-0/200 Senior
Stepped up last week with career-high 11 catches.
10 John David Booty (QB) 6-3/210 Junior
Waited his turn, now second in league in passing efficiency.
26 Emmanuel Moody (TB) 6-1/195 Freshman
Might be next in long line of great USC tailbacks.
29 Taylor Mays (FS) 6-4, 225 Freshman
Straight from O’Dea High in Seattle to Trojans’ secondary.
58 Rey Maualuga (LB) 6-5, 250 Sophomore
Starting after earning freshman All-America honors last season.
at News Tribune ]
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