Jake Browning and the Washington Huskies finally met their match.
Sam Darnold, USC’s young quarterback, outperformed Washington’s Heisman Trophy candidate to carry the Trojans to a 26-13 upset Saturday night, spoiling the No. 4 Huskies’ perfect season.
The Huskies’ first loss of the season puts a serious damper on their national playoff chances with just two games left in the regular season. The Huskies (9-1, 6-1 Pac-12) still control their own Rose Bowl destiny.
Darnold, a redshirt freshman, was hardly fazed by the sellout crowd of 72,362 at Husky Stadium. He threw a perfect touch pass to tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe for an 8-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter to push the Trojans’ lead to 24-13.
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Washington trailing at halftime for the first time all season, got within 17-13 on Browning’s 70-yard touchdown pass to John Ross III midway through the third quarter.
Browning, the Huskies’ sophomore quarterback out of Folsom High School, was 17 of 36 for 259 yards. Ross finished with eight catches for 154 yards, but the USC defense shut down Myles Gaskin (15 carries, 51 yards). Coupled with their three sacks of Browning, the Trojans held the Huskies to 43 yards rushing on 25 carries, by far a season low for Washington.
“Here’s where we find out if we’re the front-runners that are only playing well when things are going well or are we going to respond and bounce back stronger?” Browning said. “That will be interesting to see what kind of team are we.”
Washington freshman safety Taylor Rapp then intercepted Darnold for the second time, giving the Huskies prime field position at the USC 33-yard line. But the Huskies couldn’t capitalize, as USC’s Jack Jones blocked a Cameron Van Winkle field-goal attempt late in the third quarter.
From the start, USC was the faster, more physical team. The Trojans (7-3, 6-2), No. 20 in the College Football Playoff rankings, have won six in a row.
Despite their 1-3 start to the season, the Trojans still have a chance to win the Pac-12 South, which could set up a potential rematch between Washington and USC if the Huskies win the Apple Cup at Washington State in two weeks.
Browning threw two interceptions for the first time this season – picked off both times by USC’s Adoree’ Jackson. The second one came with 4:09 left in the game at the Huskies’ 35-yard line, setting off a wild celebration for Jackson and the smattering of USC fans in the east end zone stands.
The Huskies’ offense, ranked second in the nation in scoring 48.3 points per game, managed just two Cameron Van Winkle field goals in the first half.
It was the first time the Huskies trailed at halftime since Nov. 7, 2015, against Utah.
The Huskies, fourth in the College Football Playoff rankings, missed out on a prime opportunity to improve their playoff position after No. 2 Clemson lost to Pitt earlier Saturday.
The Associated Press and The Sacramento Bee Sports staff contributed to this report.