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USC avoids collapse, survives ASU to stay unbeaten

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- No. 3 Southern California barely resembles
the juggernaut the Trojans have been over the past four seasons --
with one exception.

USC is still undefeated.

At 6-0, and ranked No. 3 in the country, it's tough for any team to complain. But USC has barely scraped by the past two weeks, and its offensive numbers should give the Trojan coaching staff some cause for concern. Gone, seemingly, are the days when USC would regularly blow out mediocre opponents and, perhaps more alarmingly, the big-play potential that helped the Trojans out of so many jams in years past.

2005
2006

PPG

49

30

Pass yards

319

233

Rush yards

260

163

Total offense

579

395

TDs of 20+ yds

52

1*

* -- Came on a fake field goal

Chauncey Washington did nearly all the work on a 74-yard
fourth-quarter touchdown drive that lifted the Trojans to a 28-21
victory over Arizona State on Saturday night.

"This is a different year, and this is a different team,"
Trojans coach Pete Carroll said. "I think we're fortunate to be
6-0. It's really hard to win. How many teams have won all their
games? We're really, really young. I'm thrilled we're 6-0 and we
feel OK about ourselves."

Among those no longer unbeaten are Texas, Notre Dame, Auburn and
Florida -- all ranked No. 2 at the time they lost. There's a chance
USC will fill that spot when the new AP poll comes out Sunday.

"Just win, baby," Carroll said, stealing a line from Oakland
Raiders owner Al Davis. "I think we just need to keep getting
better."

Washington, a junior tailback, scored the winning touchdown on a
2-yard run with 4:29 remaining to cap the 14-play drive that ate up
nearly seven minutes. He gained 64 yards on 10 carries as the
Trojans went strictly with a power running game following an
ineffective performance by quarterback John David Booty.

ASU got only one first down after that, and the Trojans ran out
the clock after a punt.

Washington, academically ineligible the last two seasons and
slowed earlier this year by a pulled hamstring, made his first
career start a big one, finishing with a career-high 108 yards on
22 carries.

"They saw me getting in that groove, so they just kept feeding
me," Washington said. "Coach Carroll challenged me during the
week."

Booty completed 12 of 25 passes for 148 yards and two
touchdowns. He threw one interception and Keno Walter-White
returned it 37 yards for a touchdown with 3:18 left in the third
quarter to tie the game 21-all.

USC (4-0 Pac-10) was coming off six-point victories over
Washington State and Washington in games that came down to the
final play. It appeared the Trojans would have much easier time
against the Sun Devils when they took a 21-0 lead in the first 17½
minutes, but it wasn't to be.

"We gave them an opportunity to get back in the game, and they
did," Carroll said.

The win was the Trojans' 30th in a row at the Los Angeles
Coliseum and their 27th straight over a Pac-10 opponent. USC has
won 38 consecutive regular-season games and 51 of 53 overall dating
back to the 2002 season.

The Sun Devils (3-3, 0-3) routed by No. 10 California and No. 18
Oregon in their previous two games, were lethargic and
mistake-prone in the early going. But suddenly, the ASU defense
clamped down and turned in a pair of big plays, and the offense did
its share.

"We had a lot out there go against us early," ASU coach Dirk
Koetter said. "I'm pleased we were able to come back. This was the
hardest we have competed all year. Apparently, it took us six weeks
to find our personality. Tonight, we played like a team."

ASU's Rudy Carpenter completed 12 of 21 passes for 124 yards and
one touchdown, and rushed for 49 yards on eight carries. Ryan
Torain gained 57 yards on 20 carries for the Sun Devils.

"I'm just happy we stood toe-to-toe with USC," Carpenter said.
"If we could carry this over, we should be 9-3 at the end of the
season."

Booty threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to freshman Allen Bradford
on USC's first possession.

Then Arizona State returner Terry Richardson couldn't handle a
punt and Shareece Wright recovered at the ASU 11. The turnover set
up a 2-yard scoring run by freshman C.J. Gable.

USC went up three TDs on a 14-yard pass from Booty to Dwayne
Jarrett. It was the 33rd touchdown reception of Jarrett's career,
breaking the Pac-10 record he shared with Stanford's Ken Margerum.

USC wouldn't cross midfield again until its game-winning drive.

Torain scored on a 6-yard run with 1:34 left in the second
quarter to cap an 84-yard drive and make it 21-7.

With the help of two USC mistakes, the Sun Devils scored again
early in the third quarter on an 8-yard pass from Carpenter to Zach
Miller, making it 21-14. Booty fumbled when sacked by Kyle Caldwell
on the first play of the second half, and ASU's Gerald Munns
recovered at the Trojans' 30. An offside penalty against Brian
Cushing on a third-down play gave ASU a first-and-goal at the 5.

Then came the interception return by Walter-White. Booty's pass
for Jarrett was underthrown and right to Walter-White, who ran
untouched into the end zone.

"He misread it," Carroll said of Booty. "It's a thing you
have to read. It was just a horrendous mistake."