Huskies Looking To Stun No. 11 USC
SEATTLE (AP) — Matt Barkley was just a freshman and knew there would be other chances later in his career to get even with Washington.
It didn’t make watching Huskies fans pour onto the field following Washington’s upset of the then-No. 3 Trojans three seasons ago any easier for Barkley to accept after sitting on the sidelines the entire game with a sore shoulder.
Barkley and his No. 11 Trojans make their first visit to Seattle since that 2009 upset when they face the Huskies on Saturday at CenturyLink Field. Even though he didn’t play the last time USC (4-1, 2-1 Pac-12) ventured north, Barkley doesn’t view this matchup with any more importance with the Trojans trying to rebuild a resume that took a hit less than a month ago with their upset loss at Stanford.
“It’s just another game on the schedule,” Barkley said. “It’s exciting, and they’re a great opponent, but I don’t look at it any other way.”
Barkley at least has an idea about the venue he’ll be playing in, the home of the Seattle Seahawks that is serving as Washington’s home for the 2012 season while Husky Stadium is being renovated. He’s attended Seahawks and Seattle Sounders games in the past and Saturday is a precursor for a pro career that will likely see Barkley play in Seattle at some point.
He’s well aware of how loud the stadium can get — but only if the Trojans let Washington hang around.
“You’ve got to be more disciplined in an atmosphere like that, and it starts from the little things,” Barkley said. “I’ve been there before. It gets loud, but we’ve played in loud environments before. I’ve been to that stadium before. It’s a great atmosphere, and they’ve got great fans.”
Washington (3-2, 1-1) is at the tail end of a brutal six-game stretch that included road games at then-No. 3 LSU, No. 2 Oregon and home games against Stanford and now USC. But a win Saturday and a third upset of the Trojans in the past four meetings would be a major coup for the Huskies considering how daunting the schedule looked before the season began.
“I don’t know if I’m looking forward for it to be over. I think there is something to be made about the psyche of a team and the mental makeup of a team and the mental toughness of a team to embrace these opportunities and I think we do. I think we go in with our fists up and our sleeves rolled up and ready to go to battle and compete,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. “And the next six are not going to be a whole lot easier. We’ve got some other guys down the pipe that are pretty good teams, too, so you can’t worry about who you just played, you can’t worry about who is coming, you just focus on the task at hand and we have USC this week.”
The tasks facing Washington’s defense the past few weeks have been diverse. On Sept. 27 against then-No. 8 Stanford, the goal was shutting down the Cardinal run game and trying to make young QB Josh Nunes beat them. Washington was successful, holding Stanford to 65 net yards rushing in the 17-13 upset.
Last weekend, it was trying to slow down Oregon’s spread offense, although Washington’s defense got no help from its offense with five turnovers in the Ducks’ 52-21 victory.
Now comes USC’s offense. Since losing at Stanford, the Trojans have gone back to focusing on the run with the improvement of Silas Redd and return of Curtis McNeal, but they also have Barkley and two of the most talented receivers in the country in Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, who have combined for 83 receptions already.
Washington is likely to put cornerback Desmond Trufant on one of the Trojans’ top receiving threats, but the other could have a big day with the Huskies mostly unproven at the other cornerback spot.
“I still think we need to attack the ball downfield,” Barkley said. “Robert knows that, Marqise knows that, and (coach Lane) Kiffin knows that. We’re trying to do it.”
Washington would like to see its offense finally show life. The Huskies have yet to score more than 21 points against an FBS opponent and quarterback Keith Price has not approached the dynamic numbers he posted a year ago. Price was candid this week, saying the loss of playmakers from a year ago and injuries to the offensive line have kept him in the mindset of trying to do everything.
Price has not thrown for more than 200 yards since the season opener against San Diego State and his completion percentage is more than seven points lower than a year ago, when he completed more than 66 percent of his throws.
“I think I am at my best when I am relaxed and not worried about everybody else around me, that’s when I’m at my best,” Price said. “When I am worried about ‘hey, is he going to do the right thing?’ and worried about my protection and then trying to worry about what the defense is doing to me, I just need to cancel out all of those components and just stick to what I see and stick to my preparations and just make those plays when I need to make those plays.”
AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.