No. 16 WSU upsets No. 5 USC

Trojans head back to Southern California with their first loss in over a year


RYAN PUGH | The Daily Evergreen

WSU fans storm the field after the team's 30-27 win over USC on Friday at Martin Stadium.

DYLAN GREENE, Evergreen reporter

No. 16 WSU (5-0, 2-0) pulled off the upset victory over No. 5 University of Southern California (4-1, 2-1) in front of a sellout crowd at Martin Stadium on Friday night.

The 30-27 victory marks the Cougars’ first regular season defeat of a top-five team in 25 years. The 33,773 fans at the game screamed at the top of their lungs all night long. Junior safety Hunter Dale said the crowd was electric and the defense fed off their energy.

“When they get loud and they’re screaming for somebody to make a play, you wanna go make a play, you wanna get your name on the board,” Dale said.

Redshirt senior kicker Erik Powell booted the game winning 32-yard field goal through the uprights with one minute and 40 seconds remaining in the game.

“I had total confidence on that last drive that we were gonna get it done … and we did,” Redshirt senior quarterback Luke Falk said.

The Cougar defense sealed the deal when redshirt freshmen linebacker Jahad Woods forced a fumble with less than 90 seconds remaining in the game.

Two kneels later, the score became final and WSU ended the Trojans’ 13-game winning streak. Fans jumped the railing and stormed the field to celebrate the victory.

WSU Head Coach Mike Leach compared the field storming to Woodstock.

“All I saw out there was a mob of people,” Leach said. “It’s like Woodstock … except everybody’s got their clothes on.”

Falk said he won’t forget this win or the atmosphere.

“You can’t get moments like this,” Falk said. “This is what you work so hard for in the offseason.”

The quarterback had another record-breaking night. With his 34 completions, Falk surpassed former Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion as the Pac-12 record holder for pass completions.

Falk’s two touchdown passes also moved him into a tie with former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota for second-most touchdown passes in Pac-12 history.

Dale said Falk has become one of the unquestioned leaders on the team.

“He’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around,” Dale said. “I would trust him to the day I die. I trust him with my life.”

WSU’s defense held redshirt sophomore quarterback and Heisman-hopeful Sam Darnold to a season low 164 passing yards. Darnold had no passing touchdowns, one interception and two rushing touchdowns on the night.

In their first possession, the Cougs started the scoring with a 44-yard field goal. USC responded with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a touchdown.

WSU finished the first quarter with their longest completion of the season, a 61-yard pass to redshirt freshmen wide receiver Renard Bell. Three plays later, Tavares Martin Jr. caught a screen pass and took it 28 yards to the end zone, putting the Cougars ahead 10-7.

On the ensuing Trojans possession, junior defensive back Sean Harper Jr. jumped a route to secure his first career interception. However, the WSU offense went three-and-out, failing to capitalize on the turnover.

Trojans junior tailback Ronald Jones II punished the Cougs by sprinting 86 yards for a touchdown, giving USC its second lead of the game.

Falk was picked off one play later and USC took over at the WSU three-yard line. The Cougar defense didn’t budge, forcing the Trojans to kick a 20-yard field goal. USC went up by a touchdown.

Due to the stop, momentum seemed to shift toward WSU, but in Leach’s eyes, it did not.

“I don’t think the momentum ever changed,” Leach said. “I think the momentum changed when we recovered the fumble.”

With 4:45 remaining in the first half, the Cougs got the ball and took it 94 yards to the  end zone. Redshirt senior running back Jamal Morrow punched it in from a yard out with 13 seconds remaining, tying the game at 17 just before halftime.

The back and forth  game calmed down in the third quarter as the teams combined for only 128 total yards of offense and six first downs in the quarter.

Two field goals marked the only scoring in the frame, one by each team. After 45 minutes of play, the game was tied at 20.

At the 10:24 mark of the fourth quarter, Falk completed a pass to junior wide receiver Kyle Sweet, converting on a crucial fourth down. Falk then tossed a shuffle pass to Morrow.

Morrow did the rest, taking the ball 23 yards to pay dirt and giving the Cougars a 27-20 lead. He had 138 yards of total offense and was responsible for two of the three WSU touchdowns on the night.

Falk said Morrow stepped up when the Cougars needed him the most.

“He’s a clutch guy, he makes clutch plays,” Falk said. “Nothing new, that’s just Jamal.”

The Trojans answered with a touchdown and the Cougs with a field goal, prevailing in the end.

Falk said this victory over the fifth-ranked team in the nation is just a start to what the team hopes to accomplish this season.

“I think it’s just a stepping stone,” Falk said. “I mean we expect to win games like this.”