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The most important person vs. USC: Hercules Mata’afa

The college football world already knows Hercules. Friday night, he has a chance to shine on the biggest stage yet ... and the Cougs will need it.

NCAA Football: Nevada at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

It lies in the lap of the gods.

-Homer, The Iliad


For the dedicated college football fan, more specifically Pac-12 fan, Hercules Mata’afa is not an unknown commodity. As we previewed before the season, there are times when the WSU redshirt junior is pretty much unblockable, even if you dedicate two offensive lineman to blocking him. He’s as close to a completely dominate defensive lineman as WSU has had since the days of Mkristo Bruce, cooler name to boot.

Mata’afa’s fame, though, has been somewhat limited to the legion of WSU fans who love him and the conference schools who have felt his wrath (sorry, not sorry Dakota Prukop). It’s part of the problem with playing late at night on Saturdays on a fairly consistent basis. By the time you kickoff, most of the country is ready to sip on a warm cup of tea and cozy up into bed.

Tomorrow, even though the game time is nearly the same, the competition for eyeballs is different. ESPN has spent all week promoting the game and with the Worldwide Leader’s marketing machine behind it, this top-20 match-up should get plenty of people watching, even those who won’t go to bed until 2 a.m. by doing so.

So, for the first time, many people are going to be introduced to an All Pac-12 and All Name Team player. It helps, too, that this game is one where WSU will desperately need his help up front to keep the USC Trojans in check.

Sam Darnold, despite his suboptimal touchdown to interception rate, is still completing passes at about the same rate as last year and his yards per attempt is also damn near identical. He can still use his legs to get outside the pocket and wreck havoc on a secondary thats done a good job staying on top of his receivers.

Not so long story short, despite the slow start to his season, Sam Darnold is still Sam Darnold. So who is in charge of keeping him contained and occasionally putting his rump on the turf? The defensive line, and especially Hercules Mata’afa.

Under the lights, in front of a sold out, a raucous crowd in WSU’s biggest September game in nearly three decades. It’s a recipe for a defensive line to feast on an offensive line and the quarterback they’re trying to protect.

A recipe for many college football fans across the country to be introduced to a Wazzu team that could make some noise.

A recipe for a demigod to become a household name.


The siege of Troy lasted for a decade before the Greeks retreated from their camps, leaving a large, wooden horse at the gates of the heavily fortified city. Despite warnings from the daughter of King Priam to not bring the horse inside the city, the gates were lowered and the horse brought inside.

Hours later, Greek troops, having secretly penetrated the Troy lines, poured from the horse and the rest of the Greek army returned, defeating the Trojans after a decade long war.


Hercules Mata’afa, the most important person vs. USC.