The Washington State Cougars started well, but were overwhelmed in the second half by the deeper, more talented USC Trojans. Both teams saw backup quarterbacks play significant snaps in the game, and USC true freshman Jaxson Dart was the star of the show, completing 30 of 46 passes for 391 yards and four scores. He did turn the ball over three times, but the Cougars were unable to capitalize on the free possessions. Dart’s favorite target was, unsurprisingly, wide receiver Drake London, who finished with 13 receptions for 170 yards and two touchdowns.
The Cougs started well on both sides of the ball, forcing a USC punt and knocking Kedon Slovis out of the game on its first drive, then responding with an 89 yard drive to open the scoring. WSU would continue to dominate—yes, dominate—USC for much of the first half. USC players not named Jaxson Dart had -11 yards rushing at the break (Dart had 35), and the offense sputtered before a Dart touchdown pass with 32 seconds left broke the ice.
Then the second half started.
A fumbled kickoff to open the half was followed by a defense that didn’t offer much resistance. To make matters even worse, starting quarterback Jayden de Laura was sidelined with an apparent leg injury. Nick Rolovich would turn to game one starter Jarrett Guaran-... scratch that, he went to third-string quarterback Cammon Coop-... I apologize. Rolovich sent in walk-on quarterback Victor Gabalis to take the reins of the offense against the University of Southern California.
It went about as well as you would expect.
Jayden de Laura would finish with 117 yards passing and two touchdowns against one interception. Max Borghi chipped in on the ground with 72 yards on 13 carries. Calvin Jackson paced the receivers with 8 catches for 94 yards, while Travell Harris caught both of de Laura’s TDs.
The Cougs (1-2, 0-1) will hit the road for the first time next week, heading to Salt Lake City for a date with the University of Utah.
Wasted Opportunities - First and goal from the 1, and zero points. Starting in plus territory after a turnover, zero points. USC scores on a 4th and 9 play. Missing Harris on an out-and-up after going down 21-14. The Cougs had a legitimate chance to be up 24-0 or 28-0. Would that have been enough to make USC panic? Who knows, but I sure would have liked the chance to find out.
Depth - The difference in recruiting depth was apparent at the quarterback position. When you can bring in a true freshman like Jaxson Dart as opposed to a walk-on like Victor Gabalis, you feel a lot better about your chances.
Pressure - A pass rush that had been largely absent this season reappeared, and brought with it a defensive line that got penetration against the run. Apparently Andrew Edson is the key to the defensive front. I mean, I certainly anticipated that coming into the season. Didn’t you?
Drake London - He’s really good.
12:56 - On USC’s opening drive, Andrew Edson sacks Kedon Slovis on 3rd and long. Slovis was banged up on the play and was replaced by Dart.
6:03 - Jayden de Laura finds Travell Harris for a 12 yard catch and run touchdown to cap a 12 play, 89 yard opening drive. USC 0, WSU 7
3:01 - Daniel Isom steps in front of a Dart pass and takes the interception back into USC territory.
0:12 - Without hesitation, Nick Rolovich goes for a 4th and 2 and converts, with Jayden de Laura running the speed option to Max Borghi for a pick up of 8.
13:16 - WSU has four shots from the 1 and is unable to punch it in. A Calvin Jackson drop on second down is the biggest culprit.
11:13 - Dart finds Drake London up the seam for a 32 yard connection, getting the USC offense out of the shadow of its own goalpost.
6:13 - De Laura finds Harris in the end zone for a second time, this time from seven yards out. USC 0, WSU 14
5:26 - Dart finds some room on a draw, but Armani Marsh punches the ball out and Jaylen Watson falls on it at the USC 36.
0:32 - On 4th and 9, Dart finds Gary Bryant, Jr on a post route, outrunning the Cougar defense for a 38 yard score. USC 7, WSU 14
14:54 - Travell Harris fumbles the second half kickoff away to the Trojans. Micah Croom knocks it out and Parker Lewis, the kicker, recovers, gifting USC great field position at the WSU 27.
12:21 - After a questionable roughing the passer call against Brennan Jackson gave USC three more chances at the end zone, Dart finds London Drake in traffic and he powers his way into the end zone from five yards away. USC 14, WSU 14
10:54 - With Victor Gabalis behind center for an apparently injured de Laura, the Cougs immediately go three-and-out and give the ball right back to the Trojans.
6:16 - Dart hits Gary Bryant on a swing pass that ends up technically being a lateral and he runs unmolested into the end zone for his second score of the day. USC 21, WSU 14
4:00 - Justus Rogers flushes Dart and he launches downfield into the arms of Armani Marsh.
3:12 - Liam Ryan gets beat around the edge by Drake Jackson and he swallows up Gabalis, forcing a fumble in the end zone that is recovered by Tuli Tuipulotu. The wheels have officially come off. USC 28, WSU 14
3:03 - Calen Bullock intercepts a de Laura deep ball intended for Calvin Jackson.
0:46 - Dart finds London behind the Cougar defense for his second touchdown of the afternoon. USC 35, WSU 14
8:49 - The defense decides to show up and holds USC to a 34 yard Parker Lewis field goal. USC 38, WSU 14
6:12 - Kyle Ford gets the first touchdown catch of his career, a 36 yard bomb from Dart. USC 45, WSU 14
Marcus Trufant speaks for all of us watching the third quarter.
And then there’s this:
Did You See That?!
Ladies and gentlemen, Andrew Edson.
An absolute clinic on route running in the end zone by Travell Harris.
One Stat to Tell the Tale
0 - The number of points WSU scored off of three first half USC turnovers, two of which the Cougs collected in USC territory. Also the number of first downs earned by the WSU offense in the second half, until a Max Borghi run with under nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. 21 minutes of game time without a first down.