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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

September 8, 2013 at 12:34 AM

Cougars start off the Pac-12 season with a big bang

 

One game into the Pac-12 football season, one conference game, and suddenly, a lot of things have changed.

Washington State upended a flailing USC football team, 10-7, and I’m guessing Lane Kiffin, the Trojans coach, isn’t going to sleep very well Saturday night. Maybe for awhile.

The loss will make it very difficult for USC to be a serious factor in the Pac-12 South race. And the way it threw the ball, beating anybody will be something of a challenge.

“We were kind of rooting for them to throw it a little more,” said WSU coach Mike Leach.

Incredibly, the Trojans’ long passing play of the night was for eight yards. That’s with a Biletnikoff Award winner, Marqise Lee, in the lineup.

“I’ve never seen stats as bad as we did (tonight),” said Kiffin. “That’s very discouraging, and obviously that falls on me.”

Assorted other observations and factoids:

—    USC obviously couldn’t get out of its own way offensively, but you have to give a ton of credit to WSU defensive coordinator Mike Breske and the Cougar defense. “For the defense to play the way they did tonight was absolutely amazing,” said WSU quarterback Connor Halliday.

—    Kiffin seemed content to try to pound the Cougars with tailback Tre Madden (32 carries for 151 yards), seemingly believing it might wear WSU down and provide the Trojans the go-ahead score in the second half. Problem was, the sluggishness of the offense kept WSU in it, and set up a situation where one big play could turn the tide, and WSU got it with Dom Williams’ 49-yard catch-and-run play.

—    Said Kiffin: “They played a bunch of ‘drop 8’ tonight, and they didn’t do that much last week. Unfortunately, when you drop eight, it closes up those passing lanes.”

—     Kiffin, conceding that the Trojans were conservative: “There was a feeling during the game that our defense was playing very well and Washington State was very turnover-prone. The plan was, if we were able to hold up on defense, to make sure we didn’t screw it up on offense. It’s easy to say we should have thrown later.”

—     USC fans showered “Fire Kiffin!” chants on the field as the Cougars were finishing it out, to which Kiffin responded, “I’m getting used to it. You really can’t worry about that. It is what it is.”

—      Halliday, on the Cougars hanging in there on offense despite their long, hard night against a tough USC defense with several future pros: “I want to congratulate the other 10 guys on offense. A couple of years ago, we would have gone in the tank mentally (at their failure to move the ball).”

—       Nobody on offense had a tougher night than guard Joe Dahl, the transfer from Montana, who was whistled for three penalties, a couple of holds and a false-start.

—      What a night for true freshman Daquawn Brown, a cornerback from nearby Dorsey High School. He had a team-high 11 tackles for the Cougars and drew this praise from Leach: “He played incredibly hard. He’s an incredibly confident person. If you left it to him, we’d still be out there playing, just for the fun of it.”

—    USC’s 54 passing yards were its lowest since it had 23 against Florida State in 1998. The seven points totaled by the Trojans were their lowest in the WSU series since 1941.

—     WSU allowed four sacks, which, given the troublesome USC front, isn’t bad. That makes it six over two weeks, against two good fronts in Auburn and USC.

—      It was WSU’s first win over a ranked opponent since it beat Oregon, 34-23, in Pullman in 2006. And it was the first win over a ranked opponent on the road since the signature Holiday Bowl triumph in 2003 against No. 5 Texas.

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