PAC-12 After Dark Recap: USC-WSU

In College Sports by Jo Anne Mabika

Fight On Trojans!

That has long been the rallying cry for the University of Southern California (USC) athletics programs and boy, did the school’s football team embrace that battle cry last night. Many of us who tuned in to watch the Washington State University Cougars home game versus the Southern California Trojans were indeed anticipating an enthralling game. Both teams came in undefeated and so stakes were high on both ends of the field. It seemed as though SC was fighting from kickoff right up until the final minute of the final quarter.

Washington’s defense seemed stifling at some plays and they didn’t let much get past them. There was a bright spot for USC that came when running back Ronald Jones found a hole in the defense and took off down the field for an 86-yard run. We knew that it was a big play because over on the WSU sidelines, Mike Leach stood with a blank facial expression, arms crossed in front of him. Granted, his stoic facial expressions never changed, even when his team continued to look like the better team on the field. On the other sideline, one of the USC trainers was spotted wearing the Jordan “Flu Game” sneakers, which fits in with glitz and the glam that usually comes with Southern California.

During halftime, both coaches were asked to comment on their teams’ play  and both Mike Leach and Clay Helton reported juxtaposed approaches to the game. WSU’s coach said he loved his team’s strong start and that all they had to do was carry that momentum right up until the final minute. His boys seemed more alert, lively, and just generally more excited about the game. USC’s coach talked about how it was the way they chose to end the game that mattered, not the sluggish start they had. Helton’s team seemed drowsy, confused, and plagued with injuries out on the field.

ABC7 Eyetwitness News Reporter Marc Brown tweeted about fans possibly beginning a GoFundMe account to pay for USC kicker Chase McGrath’s education and that may not be a bad idea because he was the one consistent spark on offense. Since giving his team the win in double overtime when they topped the Texas Longhorns, the walk-on freshman has proved he deserved more than five minutes in the spotlight. Barring the last minute heroics towards the end of the fourth when he finally saw the endzone, USC Quarterback Sam Darnold had one of his worst nights thus far. When he got sacked on the final play under 2 minutes, Wazzu fans were besides themselves and could not wait to pour onto the field. The Cougars have not defeated USC since 2002 and the last time they had a win over a top five ranked team was 1992.

Overall, the game was an encouraging and triumphant win for Washington State, but a demoralizing and maybe concerning loss for Southern California. Every play in the first half of the game seemed to result in USC having to pull out an injured lineman and the wear and tear from a schedule of physical opponents was definitely showing. Darnold looked rattled and not at all like the Heisman contender he was projected to be. Both teams have a long and grueling schedule ahead of them and it will be interesting to see where their respective seasons go next week.