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09/29/07 at Washington - Seattle , WA
USC vs. Washington
It wouldn't be a Washington victory if there wasn't a little late drama.
Pat Conniff had two short touchdown runs and Marques Tuiasosopo threw for a pair of scores as sixth-ranked Washington kept alive its Rose Bowl hopes with a 35-28 triumph over Pac-10 Conference rival USC.
Washington (9-1, 6-1 Pac-10) jumped out to a 14-0 lead just over 11 minutes into the contest, but USC led 21-14 at halftime. Coniff scored on runs of four and five yards less than five minutes apart early in the third quarter to put the Huskies ahead, 28-21.
Tuiasosopo found Todd Elstrom for a two-yard scoring toss with 3:27 left in the third quarter, but the Huskies had to sweat out a fourth quarter in which Cory Paus found Brian Poli-Dixon with a seven-yard TD pass.
The Bruins got back the ball in the final minute, but linebacker Anthony Kelley forced a fumble and recovered the ball to seal Washington's sixth straight win. All six of the victories were in doubt in the fourth quarter.
"It was a called play," Kelley said of his outstanding individual effort. "The coaches told me to push up the field and spin to the left. I thought I had lost him at first but I stuck my hand out and grabbed him and knocked the ball loose. I grabbed it and the next thing I knew, everyone is falling on me."
The win kept Washington within a game of Oregon in the conference standings. The Ducks handed the Huskies their only loss of the season, 23-16 on September 30.
"We're elated with the victory," Washington coach Rick Neuheisel. "It finishes off a perfect home season, which is just fabulous. We got it done quicker this time. ... I'm very proud of my team (being) 9-1 is remarkable given the balance in this league. We'll be fired up for the rest of the day, but we understand that we've got a huge challenge ahead of us."
USC (6-4, 3-4) had won the last three meetings between the schools.
"That was a classic football game between two teams that played hard for 60 minutes," USC coach Bob Toledo said. "We had Tuiasosopo corralled a few times and didn't tackle him or some of the running backs. We didn't sustain any drives except for our last one ... so, we didn't move the ball very well. That is a credit to Washington, they stopped us and we didn't execute very well."
Tuiasosopo completed 12-of-19 passes for 111 yards and ran for 69 yards. Rich Alexis paced the Huskies' ground attack with 127 yards on 21 carries.
"At this point in the season you just have to suck it up," Alexis said. "... At this point in the season you have to do whatever it takes, even if you are a little banged up."
Washington scored the first time it had the ball, moving 80 yards in 10 plays. Tuiasosopo capped the drive with a 13-yard scoring pass to tight end Jerramy Stevens. USC failed to move the ball on its next possession and the Huskies again capitalized, this time on a three-yard burst by Willie Hurst.
Paus got the Bruins going late in the opening quarter, finding Poli-Dixon for 48 yards before fullback Ed Ieremia-Stansbury caught a five-yard toss to halve the deficit.
DeShaun Foster, who finished with 93 yards on 20 carries, knotted the contest with a 12-yard run with 3 1/2 minutes left in the half. USC held the Huskies on their next possession and the Bruins were on top three plays later.
Paus found Poli-Dixon for 45 yards to the 4-yard line before Foster carried twice, the second attempt resulting in his 30th career touchdown, which ranks fourth in school history.
"We did Ok executing," Foster said. "But we should have done more. As a team, we followed the game plan really well. We used the run to set up the pass.
Washington wasted little time drawing even in the second half. Taking over at their 29, the Huskies got a 62-yard run up the middle by Hurst before Conniff bounced off left guard for the tying TD.
"All week long we have been told that we have to play physical and (the offensive line) did a good job up front," Tuiasosopo said. "They took the challenge of being physical and opened up big holes for our backs to make the most of those holes and they did. When you have guys like Willie Hurst, Braxton Cleman, Rich Alexis and Pat Conniff, they are going to get the job done."
"All wee we have been talking about a physical game," Hurst said. "The finesse game was not going to get it done today. USC has taken it to us the last few years and we knew hard-nosed, smash-mouth football was going to get it done today."
Washington's next drive started at its own 5. Tuiasosopo led a 10-play, 95-yard march that was capped by Conniff's second score.
USC went three-and-out on its next possession before Tuiasosopo and Elstrom hooked up on a two-yard scoring strike.
The Bruins had four possessions in the final quarter and scored on a seven-yard fade pass from Paus to Poli-Dixon with 1:57 to go. USC went for an onside kick and Kelley recovered at the Bruins' 45.
After holding Washington, the Bruins got back the ball at their own 36. But Kelley sacked Paus, forcing the fumble that he recovered at the 32.
Paus completed 22-of-38 passes for 298 yards and a pair of scores. Poli-Dixon had eight catches for 165 yards.
"We gave it all we had," Poli-Dixon said. "We made a lot of good plays. We were really close in this game. We had the potential to turn this game over to us and we didn't execute. We just kept trying to make big plays."
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