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The good, the bad, & the unknown: USC

The good, the bad, and the unknown of Washington’s loss to USC.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Good

John Ross - This guy was a monster against a guy who might be the first cornerback taken in the first round. He put together a huge game, was the only bright spot on the entire offense, and could easily have put a 200-yard-plus, 2-3 touchdown game against Adoree’ Jackson had Jake Browning been able to hit him in stride.

Sidney Jones vs. JuJu Smith-Schuster - Smith-Schuster got some catches early, but then he simply disappeared. Jones continued to show that he is in the conversation for best cover corner in the nation.

USC’s performance - This isn’t a loss you can complain about too much. A typically-stacked USC team played damn near perfectly. Their offensive line gave Sam Darnold loads of time. Darnold was incredibly poised in a tough setting and bounced back from picks really well. Their unheralded pass catchers outside of Smith-Schuster all seemed to have career games. Oh, and their defense simply looked like they had 13 players on the field every play.

Run defense - The Huskies gave up more than 100 yards by land, but the run defense was pretty tight overall and forced USC to have to beat them through the air (which they did). They never gave up big chunk yards, didn’t seem to get worn down over the course of the game, and didn’t miss tackles.

Taylor Rapp interceptions - The true freshman made two really athletic interceptions, which could have been the difference in the game had the offense taken advantage of them. He is pushing playing time away from JoJo McIntosh, who was playing great in his own right.

The Bad

Jake Browning - This was easily Browning’s worst game of the year and one of the worst of his career. He looked rattled from the get-go, perhaps because he rarely got a clean pocket and was looking for receivers who were less often open than usual. He missed a lot of chances on deep home run balls which would have changed the game and he threw a couple of bad, desperation picks.

Near misses - I actually think the Husky offense had the right plays dialed up early that would have loosened up the USC defense and given them a chance to execute more comfortably, but USC made great plays to stop them.

Two examples stand out: that Ross reverse on the first drive was a touchdown if the one player who can make the tackle hadn’t made a great play. The other was the receiver pass which was ready, but the one player who could get out and disrupt Dante Pettis’s pass to prevent the touchdown was able to do it.

On defense, the Huskies also came close to delivering some sacks (or at least disruptive pressure) a number of times, but the USC running backs always picked up the defenders perfectly.

Azeem Victor injury - Victor going down opened up the middle of the Husky defense and really helped USC stretch out their lead, but Victor going down is a bigger problem than just this one game. The defense will now have to play without their leader and arguably best player. This was a sad one.

Offensive line - What seemed like maybe Washington’s best unit had their worst game in a long, long time. They never opened things up enough for the Huskies to commit to the run and seemed to let a Trojan defender through on every single passing play, even when USC didn’t blitz. The Huskies’ struggles all night started up front on offense.

Red zone offense - I think the Huskies were officially listed as 1-2 in the red zone, but it was basically 1-3 as I think they were very close to the red zone in another failure. Honestly, it was more like 0-3, though, as even the field goals don’t really cut it. What was a strength for the Huskies turned into a weakness as they struggled to do much of anything once they got across the 50.

Third down defense - The Huskies were brutalized on third downs, especially key third downs. This has seemed to be a big issue in the Huskies’ three closest games of the year (Arizona, Utah, USC) and they need a solution soon if they hope to win the Apple Cup. The Cougars are the best third down offense in the conference.

Non-Ross playmakers - It looked like 2014 out there as the the Huskies didn’t have a single offensive player make a play on his own all game other than John Ross. This was pretty scary considering Ross is likely gone after the season.

Middle defense - The middle of the defense collapsed once Victor went out. The Huskies are going to have to figure out a way to get this patched up without Victor before they head to Pullman or they might get shredded.

No pass rush - Watching Sam Darnold stand back in the pocket and just wait for a receiver to come open was brutal. The Huskies couldn’t find any kind of pass rush until they started rushing defensive backs, and they probably waited too long to do that. The Huskies are dying without Travis Feeney, Cory Littleton, and Joe Mathis.

Mobile quarterbacks - It just seems to me the Huskies would struggle more against a team with an even-slightly mobile quarterback than one with Tom Brady (not really, but frustrated fans should know what I mean). Darnold is not Brandon Dawkins, but it still seemed like he could run for 7-8 yards whenever he wanted to once he dropped back. I know mobile quarterbacks give most defensive coordinators fits, but it seems to be a particular point of trouble for the Huskies for years.

Not taking advantage of turnovers - The Huskies got three points off their two interceptions. The second one was especially painful as they got it well into USC territory with the momentum surging in their way, but then did absolutely nothing with it.

Blocked kick - Nothing else to say but that was garbage. One USC player almost tripped over another on their way to block that field goal.

Early missed personal foul - I was pretty disappointed with the officiating overall, but not enough to complain about it like a homer. One play still bothers me: on the last third down of the first drive, Browning rolled out, threw the ball downfield, Porter Gustin watched him do it, the play was clearly over, then Gustin drove Browning’s torso into the ground with his shoulders in a play that easily could have caused an injury. There was no flag. In an era where officials are willing to throw that flag they threw on Wooching against Utah, I have no idea how it wasn’t called and I think it started a chain of Browning getting hit and could have caused a serious injury.

The Unknown

State of mind? For those still upset about the game, remember this. The Huskies went a calendar year without losing a game. A calendar year! With that said, I am interested in seeing how this Husky team responds. Will they appreciate the pressure easing up and play loose the rest of the way, come out on fire after a frustrating loss? Or will we see a team affected negatively by experiencing their first loss in a long time and potentially losing their Playoff chance?

Browning? I am a little concerned about Browning’s state of mind. This is the second game in three games he hasn’t played as his usual self and has thrown at least one really bad interception and taken a lot of shots with defenders perpetually in his face. Will Browning be affected the struggles of the past few weeks?

USC? I have to concede that USC looked like the best team in the Pac-12 and one of the best teams in the nation Saturday. Are the Trojans on the verge of becoming a power again, or was this just another setup of them flashing their potential, only to slink back to inconsistency again when the games aren’t as prominent as this one?

Victorless? How will the Huskies respond without their defensive leader? And was that the last time we saw Victor as a Husky (I know he said he is coming back, but I won’t feel secure about it until the official deadline passes).

Can the Huskies finally beat Arizona State? Arizona State looks like a port-o-potty on fire right now, but the Huskies haven’t beaten them since the early 2000s and haven’t beaten them in Seattle since the 90s. There is no logical reason why they shouldn’t. So can the Huskies finally break the Arizona State losing streak?

Playoffs? The Huskies couldn’t have gotten much luckier nationally with Clemson, Michigan, Auburn, and Texas A&M all losing to much lesser teams than USC. If they Huskies win out, are they in the Playoffs?