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Cody Kessler struggles as Washington stuns USC

USC's hopes of a Pac-12 title and a possible berth in the College Football Playoff were all but dashed Thursday with an embarrassing home loss to Washington, 17-12.

Huskies running back Myles Gaskin rushed for a game-high 134 yards on 22 carries, and scored a fourth-quarter touchdown that proved to be the difference, putting UW ahead 17-6. But it was the Washington defense that keyed the upset, holding USC to 346 total yards, 181 below its season average.

Two early interceptions by USC star quarterback Cody Kessler signaled what kind of night it would be for the 17th-ranked Trojans. Kessler's Heisman Trophy candidacy absorbed at least as much of a blow as his team's championship aspirations, completing just 16 of 29 passes for 156 yards and no touchdowns. It was the senior's first ineffective game of the year, as he entered with a 15-1 TD-INT ratio.

"Kessler struggled mightily," said NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah, a former NFL scout who attended the game. "He locked onto receivers, and lacked accuracy and poise. Bad night."

Denver Broncos general manager John Elway and San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke were in attendance. Other NFL clubs scouting the game included the Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"We're going to make mistakes because we are so young, but if they play hard, our defense tackles, (USC) is really explosive," Washington coach Chris Petersen told ESPN. "Everybody knows they've got a great program. So I'm proud of how our guys tackled and limited their explosiveness. And I thought our O-line blocked well enough for us to hang onto the ball."

Washington's coverage units also bottled the Trojans' dynamic return specialist, Adoree' Jackson, on three punt returns (4.0-yard avg.) and three kickoff returns (22.0-yard avg.). The unranked Huskies improved to 3-2.

USC wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster led all receivers with six catches for 82 yards.

It was USC's second home loss of the season after losing to Stanford 41-31 in week three. The Trojans (3-2) will likely fall out of the AP Top 25 and face a 15th-ranked Notre Dame team next week that is significantly more talented than the Huskies.

*Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter **@ChaseGoodbread*

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