Cameron Williams had himself a day.
But, seriously, it’s hard to get much more specific. Was it a good day? A bad day?
It was all of the above.
Williams — a 6-foot, 191-pound freshman safety from Bakersfield, Calif. — snagged the second and third interceptions of his career in No. 17 Washington’s 28-14 win over No. 21 USC. In between, he took an awkward angle on a 60-yard run from USC tailback Stephen Carr, blew a third-down tackle in an eventual touchdown drive and bit on a play-fake on a 44-yard TD pass from quarterback Matt Fink to wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr.
He made big plays, and mistakes.
But, most importantly, he bounced back.
“What I was very proud of, he had the first big interception (in the first quarter),” said UW defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake. “Then we really gave them that play — the (USC touchdown to Pittman).
“He bounced back and got the game-sealing (fourth-quarter) interception, and that’s what we talked about on the sideline. ‘Hey, calm down here. Let’s reload. Let’s do what we’ve been doing all week in practice and what we’ve been doing up to this point. Let’s revisit that.’ And he responded. He was mentally tough, he responded and he made a big-time play.”
USC’s surprising QB keepers
USC entered the game with one available scholarship quarterback.
That player, redshirt junior Matt Fink, ran six times and scored a touchdown — with some of those being designed keepers.
So, was Lake surprised that the Trojans essentially put their most valuable asset in harm’s way?
“That was surprising, but it was actually a good call on their part,” Lake said. “We definitely weren’t looking for that. The thought of running your quarterback when your next quarterback (converted safety Brandon Perdue) wasn’t recruited to play quarterback there, that was definitely a surprise moment for us.
“They did it once, and I was like, ‘There’s no way they’re going to come back and do it again.’ But they did it again. But it’s a good play call, because we weren’t expecting it.”
The Huskies’ deadly tight-end tandem
UW tight ends Hunter Bryant and Cade Otton were hard to stop.
And, bless the Trojans, they really tried. On a 36-yard catch and run from junior quarterback Jacob Eason to the 6-5, 246-pound Otton, a USC DB was essentially dragged for 11 additional yards. Bryant and Otton combined for six impactful catches for 92 yards.
But, UW coach Chris Petersen said, that’s not their immediate priority.
“I think those guys, they’re doing a nice job,” he said. “First and foremost, you need to block in this offense, or we don’t have a chance. Both of them are doing that. Cade is pretty stout, and Hunter has picked up his blocking performance. Now both of them are starting to be weapons in the pass game. We know Hunter, that’s kind of his thing.
“But he’s upped his blocking, and Cade has upped his receiving. So that makes it nice when you can stay in that personnel and do a bunch of different formations and do different things.”
Bryant, by the way, entered the game tied for first nationally in tight end receiving yards (285).
So, yeah, the Trojans struggled. But in this case, they’re not alone.
UW may have to permanently remove one specific trick play from its offensive playbook.
The play in question, which looked like a dysfunctional double reverse, was blown up early in the fourth quarter and resulted in a lost fumble.
“They blitzed us,” Petersen explained. “We wanted to be aggressive in that situation. We might have been a little too aggressive. That’s on me. It really is. We just really felt like we wanted to go after them and score and move the chains.”
Fuller’s fair catch
The first half was a 30-minute field-position battle.
And, in that area, Aaron Fuller made a simple mistake.
The Huskies’ senior wide receiver — who notched the first punt-return touchdown of his career in last weekend’s win over Brigham Young — called for a fair catch at his own 5-yard line with 12:23 left in the second quarter, instead of letting the ball drop for a likely touchback. The Huskies promptly went 3-and-out and punted out of their end zone, and USC answered with a 12-play, 39-yard touchdown drive.
To be fair, Fuller also led UW with six catches for 68 yards. But that was a rare mental error.
“I think Aaron’s really, really good,” Petersen prefaced. “But I think, with the wind conditions, that’s one we’d like to let go.”
Uncharacteristic and unsportsmanlike
UW and USC each were penalized for a pair of unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties.
And, sure, Pac-12 play is likely to incite some extra physicality.
But, according to Petersen, that’s not an acceptable excuse.
“Well,” he said with a laugh and a sigh, “it’s obviously harder (to prevent those penalties) than you’d think it’d be. We’ll take a good look at that. That’s just taking the bait. That’s just hurting your team.
“It’s a game. Don’t take the bait. We’ve got to play right to the edge and not cross the line. That message never changes.”