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Thursday, August 23, 2012
Film study: Washington

By Pedro Moura

Here’s the 10th post in our “film study” series.

Every other day, almost, we’re watching one of the games USC played last season and putting up a set of pertinent-to-this-year notes, going of course in chronological order from the Minnesota season opener to the UCLA season finale. At the end, we’ll have one last post with our overall takeaways from the re-watching. By then, it’ll be the week of this year’s opener.

We’ve already done USC’s 19-17 win over Minnesota23-14 win over Utah38-17 win over Syracuse44-23 loss to Arizona State48-41 win over Arizona30-9 win over Cal31-17 win over Notre Dame and 56-48 triple-overtime loss to Stanford and 42-17 win over Colorado. Here, now, are our five notes -- four big things and a bunch of little ones -- from the Trojans' 40-17 win over Washington on Nov. 12, 2011.

The fake punt

It was 7-3 Trojans in the second quarter and USC was about to to give the ball back to Washington after another penalty- and incompletion-filled drive.

Then Kyle Negrete entered the game to "punt" and took off running down the field. He ended up gaining 35 yards -- and several fans with the big hit he doled out at the end of it. In retrospect, it was clearly the biggest play of the game, with the Huskies really never figuring into the outcome after Negrete's fake punt led to a USC touchdown.

Seven minutes later, it was 23-3, Trojans.

It was a heck of a time to call the only fake punt of the season, too. If it failed, Washington would have had the ball just 30 or 40 yards away from a control-taking touchdown.

Lee's return

It's sometimes said that the mark of a good athlete is an ability to make not-so-easy things look easy.

If that's true, then Marqise Lee is a great athlete. It's hard to make a kickoff return for a touchdown look much easier than he made his at the start of the second half.

When no running room was available in the middle of the field, Lee simply turned around and headed for the sideline, where space was much more available. In seconds, he was across midfield, and he beat the only defender in position to tackle him with a simple hesitation move that required next-to-no effort -- or at least it looked as if it did.

George Farmer is probably USC's fastest receiver, but Lee's the most deceptively fast one, for sure.

Quarterback pressure

Once again, it was mostly Nick Perry providing the pressure against Washington and quarterback Keith Price, but at least it wasn't all Perry.

George Uko got a second-half sack that was bizarrely credited to both him and Perry, even though it was primarily Uko that brought Price down, with a little bit of help from J.R. Tavai. Devon Kennard forced the safety in the first half that really gave the Trojans all the momentum.

Again and again in the 2011 season, the biggest indicator of USC's defensive success has proven to be the pass rush. When someone other than Perry got to the quarterback, the Trojans were having a good game. When it was just him -- or nobody at all -- opposing offenses didn't have trouble moving the ball.

USC was credited with seven sacks against the Huskies. In the Trojans' 11 other games, they produced 23 total quarterback takedowns, an average of just over two. They didn't have more than four in any other contest.

Robey's day

Nickell Robey was a bundle of energy all week leading up to this game, and he played with that same bounding enthusiasm throughout, too.

The reason, you might recall, was his late mother. Maxine Robey's 46th birthday would've fallen on the day the Trojans took on Washington, so Nickell had family members flying in from Florida to be with him for the weekend and watch the game.

Robey's shoestring tackle of Bishop Sankey in the first quarter might have been the best open-field tackle USC had all 2011 season to date.

Coach Lane Kiffin has implied this week that Robey wasn't playing incredibly well at the start of the 2011 season, and you can see why here. The Robey that held Washington's Jermaine Kearse to two catches for 10 yards is not the same Robey that allowed Utah's DeVonte Christopher 11 catches for 136 yards in the second game of the season.

Final notes: Once again, Tony Burnett was whistled for a special-teams penalty -- this one a holding call -- in the first quarter. Burnett's picked up at least half of the Trojans' special-teams flags on his own. The best special-teamer, throughout the season, has been fullback/linebacker Ross Cumming, who's now back on the USC coaching staff as a graduate assistant. ... Matt Barkley oddly forgot to come out to hold the point-after attempt after Lee's touchdown return to begin the third quarter, forcing the Trojans to take a five-yard delay-of-game penalty. ... The most bizarre play of the game, though, was Matt Kalil standing and watching as Barkley was taken down by former USC recruit Josh Shirley in the first half. Shirley fell down as Kalil watched him, but when he got up the Trojans' left tackle did nothing and Shirley went ahead and brought down Barkley.