Cougs emerge confident after upset victory

By Chris Shaw, Evergreen Football reporter

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Confidence exudes from the Washington State Cougar football team after its first win of the season against USC, a ranked opponent. 

At Monday’s press conference, Head Coach Mike Leach and his players all expressed the need to focus on the upcoming game against Southern Utah. However, it seems the players have a boost going into this weekend’s game because of their Saturday performance against USC. 

“I felt like after we got our first win, we know what it feels like to win so we’ll get more,” said senior cornerback Damante Horton, who was named the Pac-12 Conference Defensive Player of the Week yesterday. 

That momentum is motivating the Cougars to look ahead to their next opponent so they do not slip up after their first win of the season. 

“USC is in the past, like that’s a game,” running back Marcus Mason said. “We can’t keep thinking about what happened last week. Even though we got a win, we still have a lot to improve on and if we don’t focus this week, then that could be hurtful because we need to win every single game.” 

Mason said Saturday’s game gave the players confidence that, despite mistakes, they can win every game if they remain focused. 

Leach said the team expected to play well and win the game against USC, despite the environment and the caliber of the Trojans. 

“It was really an intensely, tightly-fought game,” Leach said. “Everything was close and everything was by a fraction of an inch, so it was definitely a body-punch game where everybody’s battered up and trying to be the last man standing.” 

The defense played tough against USC, limiting the then-No. 25 ranked Trojans to less than 200 yards of total offense. Quarterbacks Cody Kessler and Max Wittek could not find their star receiver Marqise Lee, who managed only 27 receiving yards. 

“We’re very prideful right now, but we have a lot of humbleness too, to our defensive front,” nose tackle Ioane Gauta said. “We don’t want nobody knowing about us but it’s going to show.”

Gauta said the defense plays with a dog mentality. 

“The defense was great. It was great watching them and just knowing that any time we made a mistake, they would be there and we just needed the opportunity to go out and score some points to win the game,” Mason said. “That was probably one of the best performances I’ve ever seen our defense do.”

The team will look to build on the momentum in its home opener against Southern Utah on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Martin Stadium.