The Huskies never could get going against the Trojans, who likely ended their bid for the College Football Playoff.

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One USC player did a backflip at midfield. Another ran in front of the first row, high-fiving dozens of USC fans stretching down to reach him. He then stopped and posed for a selfie with a fan wearing his jersey.

Yet another USC player ran toward Husky Stadium’s west end zone, waving goodbye to the Washington fans shuffling toward the exits — and goodbye to the Huskies’ perfect season.

USC was faster. USC was more physical. USC was better Saturday night, and it was USC celebrating all over Husky Stadium after handing No. 4 Washington a 26-13 defeat, ending the Huskies’ 12-game winning streak.

Forget, for now, the national playoff chase. No, the Huskies (9-1, 6-1 Pac-12) aren’t entirely out of that conversation — with No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Clemson and No. 4 UW all losing Saturday, the playoff puzzle is suddenly a Rubik’s Cube of possibilities. And, yes, the Huskies are still very much in the running for the Rose Bowl.

But none of that mattered much to the Huskies immediately after their first loss in 363 days.

“Here’s where we find out: Are we the front-runners that only play well when things are going well?” UW quarterback Jake Browning said. “(Or) are we going to respond, bounce back stronger? I’ll be interested to see: What kind of team are we?”

The Trojans (7-3, 6-2), ranked No. 20 in the College Football Playoff rankings, won their sixth straight game by shutting down Myles Gaskin and the Pac-12’s top rushing attack. The Huskies finished with a mere 17 yards rushing on 27 attempts (including three sacks of Browning), UW’s lowest rushing output since being held to minus-5 yards against Arizona State on Oct. 19, 2013.

The Huskies’ 13 points were their fewest since Browning’s collegiate debut against Boise State last year.

“It sucks, you know. One of the worst feelings ever,” UW safety Budda Baker said. “But we can’t be pouting. We’ve still got two more games left, and we’re going to go to work tomorrow.”

Browning was 17 for 36 for 259 yards with one touchdown and a season-high two interceptions. That the Huskies couldn’t run the ball made it easy for USC’s defense to send more pass-rushers at Browning, who was often scrambling and throwing on the run.

Trailing at halftime for the first time all season, the Huskies got within 17-13 on Browning’s 70-yard touchdown pass to John Ross III midway through the third quarter.

UW freshman safety Taylor Rapp then had his second interception of the game, this at the USC 33-yard line, and it felt as if the Huskies were ready to break the dam, as they’d done to just about everyone else this season. Not this time. The UW offense stalled in the red zone, and USC’s Jack Jones blocked a Cameron Van Winkle field-goal attempt late in the third quarter.

The Trojans then answered with a nine-play, 60-yard touchdown drive to take a 24-13 lead.

UW’s offense, so efficient, so explosive, so easy all season, staggered for most of the night.

“Something was a little bit off, for sure,” UW coach Chris Petersen said.

Worse, the Huskies took a serious hit when they lost star linebacker Azeem Victor early in the second quarter. Victor was carted off the field with his right leg in an air cast.

In front of a sold-out crowd of 72,876 — the largest at Husky Stadium in six years — USC’s offensive line had three false starts in the first half. But Sam Darnold, USC’s redshirt-freshman quarterback, hardly looked fazed, throwing for 287 yards with two touchdowns. He was intercepted twice, but he was sacked only once and the Huskies couldn’t get any consistent pressure on him.

“For Sam to play that game, at his age, in that environment? Unbelievable,” USC coach Clay Helton said.

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 UW and USC in the Pac-12 championship game — if the Huskies win the Apple Cup in Pullman in two weeks.

The Huskies have two regular-season games remaining, starting with Saturday’s home game against Arizona State. There isn’t much time to sulk.

“We’ll regroup,” Petersen said, “and we’ll be back.”

Lots of movement to come
Three of the top five teams in the College Football Playoff rankings lost on Saturday:
Team Result
1. Alabama (10-0) Beat Mississippi St., 51-3
2. Clemson (9-1) Lost to Pitt, 43-42
3. Michigan (9-1) Lost to Iowa, 14-13
4. Washington (9-1) Lost to USC, 26-13
5. Ohio State (9-1) Beat Maryland, 62-3