Oct 25, 2003
By TIM KORTE
SEATTLE - Matt Leinart just keeps getting better.
Leinart threw for 351 yards and four touchdowns as No. 5 Southern California beat Washington 43-23 on Saturday for its first victory at Husky Stadium in 10 years.
It was another efficient day for Leinart, the steady sophomore who has kept the Trojans (7-1, 3-1 Pac-10) rolling since taking over for Carson Palmer, last season's Heisman Trophy winner.
"I'm not going to be perfect every week, but I feel like I'm getting more comfortable all the time," Leinart said.
Leinart completed 19 of 29 passes without an interception as the Trojans compiled 565 total yards. In his last four games, he's thrown for 1,251 yards and 13 TDs without being picked off.
"We're a potent offense," Leinart said.
Great numbers, no question, and even USC coach Pete Carroll marveled at his team's offensive statistics.
"Obviously, it takes a lot to get that done," he said. "The guy that gets all the credit is Matt Leinart, who just put back-to-back fantastic games together. A lot of guys contributed to that, and we are sure clear about that in our locker room."
Many of the 72,015 fans left early in the fourth quarter after Leinart's fourth TD pass, a 37-yarder to Reggie Bush, put USC ahead 43-17.
"He's such a huge weapon for our team," Leinart said. "He was the player of the game, I thought."
Earlier in the period, Leinart threw a 52-yard TD pass to fullback Brandon Hancock.
The Huskies (4-4, 2-2), coming off an inspiring 38-17 win last week at Oregon State, seemed overmatched. They hurt themselves with awful tackling, unable to contain USC's athletic tailbacks and receivers.
"They made good plays because we missed tackles," linebacker Tim Galloway said. "When we have guys there, we have to make the tackle. There's no excuse for that. Some of those big plays should have been maybe for a couple yards."
Hershel Dennis carried 14 times for 98 yards. And Bush, a heralded freshman running back, had a big day with five passes for 132 yards and two TDs. He also rushed 12 times for 81 yards.
"We have a great quarterback and we all clicked today," Bush said. "It was evident. Our confidence level was high."
Still, this was no easy test for the Trojans, on the road for the fourth time in five weeks. USC had lost seven of its last 10 visits to Washington.
"This was important to us," Carroll said. "I'm really pleased. You can't help but say our offense continues to do great things and move the football like they want to."
The matchup between standout receivers Mike Williams of USC and Reggie Williams of Washington favored the Husky. Mike Williams had six catches for 43 yards while Reggie Williams had nine receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown.
Yet while Washington's Williams had more yards, he was held without a reception in the second half and fumbled in the second quarter. Carroll credited cornerback Will Poole for his play.
"I thought Will Poole did a fantastic job," Carroll said. "He did a spectacular job covering the best guy they had. Time and again, he made great plays."
It was a solid day for the rest of the defense, too.
Washington quarterback Cody Pickett threw an interception off his back foot with USC's Kenechi Udeze in his face. Ronald Nunn picked it off and returned the ball 57 yards for a TD in the first period.
"USC is a good football team," said Pickett, who completed 22 of 44 throws for 274 yards with one TD. "They played well. We had some opportunities that we didn't convert. We definitely could play better, but they're a good team."
The Huskies missed receiver Charles Frederick, who sprained his left shoulder in the first quarter, and tailback Rich Alexis, who sat out after bruising his thigh last week at Oregon State.
The Trojans led 20-7 early in the second period after a 21-yard TD run by LenDale White, but missed a chance to extend it when Ryan Killeen's extra point attempt was blocked. He also missed two field goals in the half, including a 20-yarder.
"We didn't kick the ball as well as we had in the past," Carroll said. "There are some issues that we've got to get cleaned up."
The Huskies answered White's touchdown with an 80-yard scoring drive to keep things within reach, pulling to 20-14 when Pickett found Reggie Williams for a 10-yard TD only 32 seconds before halftime.
The Trojans regrouped at the break, though, and Leinart found Bush on a 60-yard pass play to make it 26-14. Bush caught the ball in stride at midfield and went untouched to the end zone.
"That's the threat he brings," Galloway said. "If they're matching him up against a linebacker, definitely the advantage goes to him."