WSU vs. USC: Cougars defeat Trojans for the first time since 2002

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn't pretty, but the Cougs figured out a way to win behind a pair of Damante Horton interceptions.

Coming off a week in which the Cougars felt like they had let a game slip through their fingers, WSU somehow figured out a way to win in one of the ugliest games you'll ever see as the Cougars defeated USC 10-7 -- without scoring an offensive touchdown.

The game-winning drive was hardly a thing of beauty, but it was indicative of how WSU won the game by doing just enough to get ahead.

Facing 3rd-and-7 in its own territory, WSU went for the conservative call -- a theme in the second half -- with the tunnel screen to Dom Williams. Thanks to some nifty moves by Williams and bit of poor tackling by USC, it turned into a 49-yard gain, setting up the game-winning, 42-yard field goal by Andrew Furney.

The game was all but sealed a few plays later when Damante Horton picked up his second interception of the night, breaking hard on a curl route and straight taking the ball away from the wide receiver. It truly was sealed when Brett Bartolone drew a pass interference call on third down that allowed WSU to run its victory formation to run out the clock.

While fans expect the offense to get the headlines at WSU, it was the defense that led the Cougs to victory in this one. USC gained just 192 total yards in the game, including just 54 yards through the air as neither Cody Kessler nor Max Wittek were effective. The Trojans were able to run the ball effectively at times, but the defense came up with big stops when it needed to.

No stop was bigger than the penultimate USC drive of the first half, when Horton picked off a poor throw from Kessler and took it 70 yards for the tying score. His two interceptions will almost certainly win him Pac-12 defensive player of the week.

USC coach Lane Kiffin was oddly conservative with his team, repeatedly running the ball on third and long, and handing the ball off consecutive times when in field goal range. It came back to bite him when Toni Pole blocked a field goal and Andre Heidari duck hooked another attempt.

Leach was conservative, too, thanks to some incredibly poor play by Connor Halliday in the first half. He turned the ball over three times in the first 30 minutes, including a pair of interceptions -- one on a forced throw into the end zone, the other on a desperation heave off his back foot in the face of pressure. Halliday -- who finished 26-of-38 for 215 yards and zero touchdowns -- would attempt just 15 passes in the second half as Leach managed the game, hoping his defense could come up big.

It did, and the Cougs picked up their first win over USC since 2002.

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