Cougars to face Trojans

Cougars look to get back in winning column after loss to No. 23 Oregon Ducks 43-29



WSU football heads to Los Angeles to take on No. 20 USC after their last two games against Stanford and No. 22 Washington were postponed.

CODY SCHOELER, Evergreen reporter

The WSU Cougars will play the No. 20 USC Trojans this weekend in the Cougars’ first game in 22 days. WSU’s last two games were canceled due to the team’s inability to meet the minimum roster requirement of 53 scholarship players.

In another pandemic-related development, the Cougars (1-1) and Trojans (3-0) will not play Dec. 4 as previously scheduled. The two teams will instead matchup at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the LA Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.

Playing football on a Sunday will be a new experience for most of the players. Redshirt senior wide receiver Renard Bell said he is looking forward to it and that it will feel a little like playing at the next level.

Redshirt senior offensive lineman Liam Ryan said he has never played on a Sunday, but he is not looking at the game any differently.

“Just tell me the date and time, and we’ll show up and we’ll compete,” Ryan said.

WSU last took the field on Nov. 14 in a 43-29 loss to the No. 23 Oregon Ducks. Freshman quarterback Jayden de Laura had his best performance of the season in that game, throwing for 321 yards and two touchdowns.

USC also has a very talented quarterback leading their offense. Sophomore Kedon Slovis has kept the Trojans undefeated with 970 passing yards and five touchdowns through three games.

WSU defensive coordinator Jake Dickert said Slovis has a great command of the offense and has shown his ability in a lot of different ways.

“He’s picking and choosing his spots, he’s finding his check down, he’s scrambling a little bit more, using his feet this year,” Dickert said.

The Trojans had their game against Colorado canceled last week, so they will be playing their first game in 15 days. Their last game came against Utah on Nov. 21, where they beat the Utes 33-17.

Rolovich said the long layoff has been beneficial for some of the WSU players. He said it has allowed some players to rest and recover from injuries.

One of those players is junior running back Max Borghi, who Rolovich confirmed has returned to practice but there is no official word on whether he will be able to suit up for the Cougars on Sunday.

If Borghi is not able to play this weekend, the rushing attack will still be in good hands thanks to redshirt senior running back Deon McIntosh.

“Don’t forget about Deon now, don’t forget about that guy,” Ryan said.

He has rushed for 239 yards in just two games, putting him sixth in the conference in that category.

The USC run defense has been in the middle of the pack in the conference. They have allowed an average of 175.7 yards on the ground per game, the sixth-best mark in the Pac-12. They have allowed a 100-yard rusher in two of their three games.

Where the Trojans’ defense will be able to challenge the Cougars’ offense is in the passing game. They are fourth in the conference in allowing passing yards, giving up an average 212 yards through the air a game.

The Trojans have very talented players in the secondary such as junior safety Talanoa Hufanga and junior cornerback Olaijah Griffin. Rolovich said the USC secondary can match up.

Rolovich said the offense will be challenged to consistently beat man coverage and make accurate throws.

“It seems to me they have more guys that can match up with our four receivers than maybe most teams we line up against,” Rolovich said.

The WSU wide receivers will be up to the task against the USC secondary.

Bell and redshirt junior Travell Harris are sixth and 11th, respectively, in the conference in receiving yards. They are also first and second in receiving yards per game. Bell has averaged 109 yards per game, and Harris has averaged 100.5 yards per game, making them the only two players in the conference to have a mark over 100.

USC also has a very talented group of receivers. The third and fourth receivers in yards per game are both Trojans: junior Amon-Ra St. Brown and sophomore Drake London.

They also have redshirt senior Tyler Vaughns and redshirt freshman Bru McCoy to round out what might be the best receiving group in the conference, if not the country.

Dickert said what separates the Trojans’ receivers is their length. Each one of those four receivers is over 6-foot-1. He also said that the group is explosive and can turn any play into a big play, which the defense will need to limit.

“To have the ability to kind of pick our spots, zone, man, pressure,” he said. “It’s going to be a chess match to try make sure we’re keeping the ball in front.”

USC runs the Air Raid offense under offensive coordinator Graham Harell, who played quarterback at Texas Tech under former WSU coach Mike Leach.

Dickert said the defense is familiar with the Air Raid, which they previously defended in practice. He said they know the ins and outs of how that system works.

Senior linebacker Jahad Woods said the biggest difference with USC’s version of the Air Raid is that they run the ball, but it is still similar to the system they are used to.

“Practicing against the Air Raid, myself in particular, for three, four years and seeing how that offense works and creating that muscle memory to know those concepts and seeing it on film. It’s different but it’s the same at the same time,” Woods said.

The WSU Cougars will play the No. 20 USC Trojans at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the LA Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. The game will broadcast on Fox Sports 1.