LOS ANGELES -- In the span of three games, USC has played more like a team from the Paul Hackett-era than one with Pete Carroll's trademark swagger.
And after the third straight nail-biter, an unconvincing 20-13 victory over Arizona at the Coliseum in front of an announced crowd of 84,671, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian issued a warning to the fans accustomed to blowouts.
"People have to learn this is the way it's going to be for a while," Sarkisian said. "This isn't Matt (Leinart), Reggie (Bush), LenDale (White) and Dwayne (Jarrett).
"None of them are going to be easy now. We have to play tight football games. Field position is a big deal now. We never talked about that before.
"We're going to be a in a dogfight. We're learning. We're a different football team. The punter matters now."
Now that everyone got the memo, it explains why No. 10-ranked USC (5-1, 3-1) nearly lost to a 2-5 Arizona team that was outscored 24-3 in the first quarter last week by Oregon State.
This is the Trojans' new world, as reserve quarterback Mark Sanchez struggled to lead the offense in his first career start, throwing two interceptions in the first half.
"It was ugly. A little bloody. It was a mess," Sanchez said. "Your first start and you start throwing a couple interceptions and you get down."
But Sanchez, known more for his emotional play than talent right now, settled down enough to make a big pass in the second half and basically survived his first start, completing 19 of 31 passes for a measly 130 yards but one touchdown.
That touchdown pass --a 26-yard completion to tight end Fred Davis that gave the Trojans a 17-13 lead with 10:47 left -- made up for many of the mistakes.
NO. 9 OREGON 53, WASHINGTON ST. 7, at Eugene, Ore. -- Dennis Dixon threw for 287 yards and three touchdowns, and the Ducks (5-1, 2-1 Pac-10) handed the Cougars (2-5, 0-4) their fourth loss in a row. Dixon also ran for a touchdown for Oregon, which had 551 total yards.
Oregon's victory came at a cost. Receiver Cameron Colvin was lost with a broken ankle early in the game, and running back Jeremiah Johnson went down with a right knee injury after scoring two touchdowns.
NO. 14 ARIZONA ST. 44, WASHINGTON 20, at Tempe, Ariz. -- Trailing the Huskies (2-4, 0-3 Pac-10) by four at halftime, the Sun Devils (7-0, 4-0) stormed back behind a 76-yard touchdown run by Keegan Herring and a 57-yard touchdown run by Dimitri Nance.
It's the fourth time in seven games ASU has overcome a double-digit deficit or trailed in the second half. The Sun Devils have outscored their opponents 136-29 in the second half.
FRESNO ST. 37, IDAHO 24, at Moscow, Idaho -- Running backs Lonyae Miller and Ryan Mathews each rushed for two touchdowns for the Bulldogs. Miller rushed for 113 yards, and Mathews, a true freshman, had 86 yards.
Turlock's Tom Brandstater completed 17 of 22 passes for 178 yards. His favorite target was tight end Bear Pascoe, who caught six passes for 69 yards.
Miller started the scoring for Fresno State (4-2, 3-0 WAC) with a 5-yard run late in the first quarter. Clint Stitser kicked a 44-yard field goal to give the Bulldogs a 10-0 lead early in the second.
AIR FORCE 45, COLORADO ST. 21, at Fort Collins, Colo. -- Not even lightning can stop the Air Force offense.
Chad Hall, a senior, ran for a school record 256 yards on 31 carries and scored four touchdowns. It was his third 100-yard rushing performance against the Rams, and his fifth overall.
The game was delayed 45 minutes because lightning knocked out power to some parts of the stadium.
UTAH 23, SAN DIEGO ST. 7, at Salt Lake City -- Darrell Mack kept pounding through the line with punishing runs and the Utah defense stopped the San Diego State offense with a season-high 10 tackles for losses.
CAL POLY 63, UC DAVIS 28, at Davis -- Jonathan Dally completed 10 passes for 264 yards and four touchdowns to lead Cal Poly.
Ramses Barden caught five passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns in the first half for the Mustangs. Cal Poly finished with a total of 704 yards on offense. UC Davis' offense gained 404 yards.
Beyer High grad Emmanuel Benjamin made all four point-after attempts for UC Davis.