USC blemishes Washington State, 36-39

LOS ANGELES – USC’s dominance over Washington State almost appeared to be a leftover relic from another time. After all, the Cougs in back-to-back seasons had an opportunity to conquered the Men of Troy; this time, at Los Angeles.

Last time WSU traveled to Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the 10-7 upset would have put a cup of coffee to sleep. This Friday night affair could not have been more different.

Wazzu faced adversity early after surrendering a touchdown on USC’s opening drive. The Cougar defense appeared no more fit than a dozen of traffic pylons to stop the USC ground attack.

It took a strong defensive stand, highlighted by a Peyton Pelluer sack, to get the ball rolling in favor of the crimson and gray. Fittingly, the offense responded. After WSU got its footing, the night turned into a slugfest. Both squads exchanged blows accordingly as the matchup saw seven lead changes.

The Cougar defense held a talented and athletic Trojan offense to just 354 yards; however, USC has a knack for making the most of what they can get.

“We gave up explosives,” criticized Head Coach Mike Leach when asked of defensive breakdowns. “I thought we couldn’t affect the quarterback well.”

And while Dezmon Patmon recorded his first career college touchdown, Easop Winston Jr. ended the night as Gardner Minshew II’s target of choice. The redshirt junior picked up six receptions for 143 yards and two scores of his own. More impressively, he single handedly dominated an entire first half drive; to call him explosive would be an understatement.

Minshew II unsurprisingly continued to put on a laser show for his 2018 campaign; he connected with nine different receivers in the process. The Cougar quarterback completed 71 percent of his passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns. Moreover, he showed an incredible ability to extend plays and drives at will. As stated before, his mobility is a priceless asset.

You’d be hard-pressed to find the signal caller satisfied with anything less than perfect. Despite an outstanding effort, he embodied a somber tone when speaking to the media.

“I left too many plays out there,” said the transfer quarterback. “We just got to do better.”

And while the nights hottest controversies sided with WSU, it still wouldn’t be enough.

In the second quarter’s closing minute, a would-be Trojan touchdown was ruled out of bounds. Upon official review, the call stood. USC was forced to settle for a field goal as time expired in the first half.

Later in the fourth, Minshew II completed a crucial third-down conversion to halfback James Williams. The ball appeared to have made contact with the ground before Williams gained complete control, but the officials once again sided with Washington State.

Fittingly, the Cougars got their fair share of Pac-12 officiating too. A blatant targeting call went untouched when a Trojan defender buried his crown into the earhole of Minshew II.

And though Washington State found themselves on top in the fourth quarter, they just couldn’t hold onto it. However, they refused to go down without a fight.

“I thought our team played really hard,” Leach told one reporter. “I thought we had chances to win on all three sides of the ball.”

With just inside two minutes to play, Blake Mazza of WSU attempted a 38-yard field goal to knot up the contest at 39 a piece. USC defensive end Jay Tufele blocked the attempted kick thus sealing the Trojan victory.

Washington State moves to 3-1 overall and 0-1 in Pac-12 play. Next week, the Cougars host Utah (2-1, 0-1) in Martin Stadium for a 3 p.m. kickoff. Live coverage can found on the Pac-12 Network.

Scoring Drives

Q1 12:56 – WSU 0, USC 7
In just five rushing plays, USC took the opening drive 75 yards scoring on a three-yard rush by Vavae Malepeai. (Michael Brown PAT good).

Q1 7:19 – WSU 3, USC 7
Placekicker Black Mazza of Washington State responded with a 50-yard field goal putting the Cougs on the board.

Q2 13:29 – WSU 10, USC 7
James Williams signed off a 14 play, 59-yard drive with a four-yard rush between the tackles. (Mazza PAT good).

Q2 12:23 – WSU 10, USC 14
J.T. Daniels connected with Tyler Vaughns from nine yards out for the Trojans second score. (Brown PAT good)

Q2 12:10 – WSU 17, USC 14
Minshew II hooks up with Easop Winston Jr. for a 28-yards touchdown pass. (Mazza PAT good).

Q2 1:39 – WSU 24, USC 14
Minshew II throws his second touchdown pass of the night to Dezmon Patman from seven yards out. (Mazza PAT good)

Q2 0:00 – WSU 24, USC 17
A controversial call in the end zone stands, and USC settles for a field goal to close out the half. Brown converts from 26 yards out.

Q3 10:21 – WSU 30, USC 17
Freshman tailback Max Borghi opens up the second half with a 13-yard touchdown rush.  (Failed PAT after bobbled snap)

Q3 9:03 – WSU 30, USC 24
J.T. Daniels throws his second touchdown of the night. Michael Pittman Jr. took the screen 50 yards down the sideline for six. (Brown PAT good)

Q4 14:31 – WSU 30, USC 31
J.T. Daniels throws his third TD pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown for 30-yards. (Brown PAT good).

Q4 10:15 – WSU 36, USC 31
Minshew II finds Easop Winston Jr. for a 4-yard touchdown pass after leaving the pocket on a broken play. (Two-Point Conversion failed)

Q4 8:03 – WSU 36, USC 39
Halfback Vavae Malepeai scored on a two-yard rush giving the Trojans their second fourth quarter lead and eventual victory. (Two-Point Conversion good)

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