SEATTLE — Emotionally drained, Keith Price spoke softly with his eyes red and his body battered.
Trying to carry Washington and making too many mistakes along the way left Price a wreck.
“Mentally it’s rough dealing with something like this, knowing that you had an opportunity to win the game and I mess it up, and on several occasions,” Price said. “I’ll grow from this. I’ve never really had to deal with stuff like this before and it’s good for me.”
Price committed three turnovers in the fourth quarter to short-circuit Washington’s attempts to rally from a 17-point deficit, and No. 11 USC held on for a 24-14 win over the Huskies on Saturday.
The final two turnovers charged to Price were a matter of situation, with a forced passed getting tipped for an interception and Price fumbling on a late scramble with 2 minutes remaining as he was hit from the side during a final frantic drive by the Huskies.
But it was his fumble inside the USC 5 with 11 minutes left that ended Washington’s best chance at making things uncomfortable for the Trojans after the Huskies trailed 24-7 at halftime.
Down by 10, Washington (3-3, 1-2 Pac-12) was on the cusp of making it a one possession game with a first-and-goal at the USC 6. The Huskies had run the ball on six straight plays and used a third-down completion to fullback Jonathan Amosa for 9 yards to get inside the Trojans 10. Bishop Sankey gained 3 yards on first down, and on second down, Price rolled from the pocket. As he pump-faked, Jawanza Starling reached in and stripped the ball free, then fell on it at the USC 4 after two teammates failed to corral the loose ball with 11:03 left.
“I just have to play better and I keep saying that week in and week out and it doesn’t feel like it’s working for me,” Price said.
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian and many of Price’s teammates were quick to say the responsibility isn’t all on their junior quarterback who was sacked five times and hit numerous others.
“People are going to make mistakes. That’s the nature of the game and Keith Price is the leader of our team and we’re going to stand behind him,” tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins said.
Price missed his first three passes then hit 15 straight throws at one point as he tried to rally the Huskies. He finished 20 of 28 for 198 yards, with TD tosses for 17 yards to Kasen Williams and 29 yards to Seferian-Jenkins. But after Washington committed five turnovers last week at Oregon, another four against the Trojans — plus the blocked punt — was not what the Huskies needed in the final game of a daunting opening stretch that featured LSU, Stanford and Oregon.
Williams was a complete non-factor after the first quarter. He caught a pair of passes on the Huskies first scoring drive after USC (5-1, 3-1) had jumped to a 10-0 lead then disappeared. Williams went without a catch the final 46 minutes of the game.
Travis Coons also badly missed a 45-yard attempt late in the third quarter that could have pulled the Huskies within one score.
“I don’t know if you want to say it’s taking the field lethargic or whatever it is, we took the field and didn’t respond great in the first half of the game,” Sarkisian said. “When you spot good teams leads and you go in the locker room 24-7, it’s hard. It makes it hard to win.”
Washington found itself in a hole at half thanks to the running of USC’s Silas Redd and a huge special teams play by Anthony Brown. After coming close twice previously, Brown blocked Coons’ punt, picked up the loose ball and returned it for a touchdown late in the first half. It was the first punt blocked returned for a score against the Huskies since 2009 against Oregon.
Brown’s block came after Redd rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown in the first half and Matt Barkley added an 18-yard TD pass to Xavier Grimble. Trojans continued rebuilding their resume following last month’s loss to Stanford that appeared to end their national championship hopes, even if their effort was bland at times. Barkley finished 10 of 20 for 167 yards, while Marqise Lee was held to just two catches for 32 yards, the first time in 10 games he’s been held to that few receptions.
Redd finished with 155 yards, his second-best total of the season.
“I continue to remind myself there is one goal and that is to win the game. Are the numbers what we’re use to? No. But we won,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said. “Remember two times ago we went on the road and we weren’t sitting here with a win. Yeah we played conservative once we got a lead like that. We’ve said it all along, this isn’t about anybody’s numbers or Heisman or any of that. This is about winning games.”
This was USC’s first trip north to Seattle since 2009, when the Trojans were upset by the Huskies across town at Husky Stadium in Sarkisian’s first year of rebuilding at Washington.
“You have four turnovers, you throw in a blocked punt, that’s really another turnover and that’s five again in consecutive weeks and against good teams, it’s hard to win,” Sarkisian said.
No. 11 SOUTHERN CAL 24, WASHINGTON 14
Southern Cal 10 14 0 0–24
Washington 7 0 7 0–14
USC–FG Heidari 23, 11:48.
USC–Redd 11 run (Heidari kick), 10:29.
Wash–Williams 17 pass from Price (Coons kick), 1:38.
USC–Grimble 18 pass from Barkley (Heidari kick), 12:22.
USC–Brown 21 blocked punt return (Heidari kick), 4:41.
Wash–Seferian-Jenkins 29 pass from Price (Coons kick), 6:02.
First downs 15 14
Rushes-yards 40-204 30-101
Passing 167 198
Comp-Att-Int 10-20-1 20-28-2
Return Yards 25 50
Punts-Avg. 6-39.7 6-31.2
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 2-2
Penalties-Yards 10-70 6-50
Time of Possession 32:03 27:57
RUSHING–Southern Cal, Redd 26-155, McNeal 11-58, Barkley 3-(minus 9). Washington, Sankey 14-54, Price 12-34, Taylor 3-11, Mickens 1-2.
PASSING–Southern Cal, Barkley 10-20-1-167. Washington, Price 20-28-2-198.
RECEIVING–Southern Cal, R.Woods 5-88, Grimble 2-42, Lee 2-32, Vainuku 1-5. Washington, Seferian-Jenkins 5-83, Mickens 4-11, Campbell 3-45, Sankey 3-25, Williams 2-22, Amosa 1-9, Hartvigson 1-4, Bruns 1-(minus 1).