LOS ANGELES -- This isn't what Steve Sarkisian had in mind.
Nearly two years ago, when he bolted Washington to return to USC, part of his first public statement as the Trojans head coach included that he was excited "for the opportunity USC presents to win championships."
Whether he meant it this way or not, it was easy to interpret as a shot at Washington on his way out the door. As in, you can win championships at USC, but not at Washington.
Washington, though, was good enough Thursday night to beat No. 17 USC, which, for a couple weeks, has somehow clung to national-title hopes despite hard evidence it wasn't even the best team in its own state and possibly its own city.
USC's talent can't be questioned, but the way the game transpired gave further validity to the theory held by many Washington fans that when Sarkisian left Washington and was replaced by Chris Petersen, it was a significant upgrade in Seattle. Despite the talent discrepancy, Washington schemed its way into advantageous positions throughout its 17-12 win and silenced the late-arriving and, eventually, early-exiting crowd.
Washington missed on several chances, but the game's biggest play was so very Petersen -- a 27-yard touchdown pass from receiver Marvin Hall to Josh Perkins early in the third quarter. It proved decisive.
"One trick play a game and it works and now we're Trick Play University again," said Petersen, who gave credit to offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith for making the call.
USC simply had no answers for the Huskies' defensive pressure.
"I hate to admit to confusion, quite honestly," Sarksisian said.
He didn't need to. The proof was on the field.
The Trojans' offense, which had thoroughly impressed to begin the season, was stagnant. Quarterback Cody Kessler threw more interceptions in the first quarter (two) than he had in the previous four games (one). On third down, an area Sarkisian has repeatedly stressed the importance of, USC converted just once in 13 tries. The Trojans' first 10 drives didn't reach the end zone and their last one, when a touchdown was nearly essential for USC to win, ended with a baffling missed 46-yard field goal.
Five games into Year 2 following a respectable 9-4 debut seasons, Trojans fans are already growing impatient. Boos rained down throughout the second half at the Coliseum and reaction on social media was much, much harsher.
The Trojans uninspired play, coupled with Sarkisian's drunken, profanity-laced speech at a preseason booster event, led to him being asked, fairly, if he felt he was coaching for his job.
"Not at all," he said.
And the reality is, he's probably not. Not this soon. But if the Trojans, who have now lost consecutive home games for the first time since 2001, continue to drop games in the fashion they did Thursday, that could change in a hurry.