PULLMAN — USC head coach Pete Carroll had a hunch that something was up. Washington State’s usual kickoff man, Graham Siderius, had limped off in pregame warm-ups and was replaced by placekicker Loren Langley for the opening boot. Carroll didn’t know exactly what was going to happen, but his wariness was right on the money. The Cougars had gone through the pregame charade to get Langley on the field for an onside kick attempt that he had practiced all week. Unfortunately for WSU, the play’s execution didn’t look much like the chalkboard version.
Langley barely tapped the ball, and it skipped out of bounds at the 37-yard line, eight yards shy of where it needed to be for WSU to recover it. The Trojans had great field position to start the game, scored a touchdown five plays later, and the rout was on.
“We decided to take a chance early,” WSU head coach Bill Doba said, taking responsibility for the failed ploy. “The little guy has been onside kicking it really great all week.”
Carroll is used to teams trying bizarre kickoffs against his team this year with Heisman candidate Reggie Bush as a return man. Even when Siderius came on in the second half to kick off following the two Cougar touchdowns, he pooched the ball towards the sidelines to keep it away from Bush.
“We really anticipated something was going to happen because they have done a lot of creative kicks kicking off,” Carroll said. “That was a great opportunity for us.”
Back on the Brink
Alex Brink didn’t have to go on the road again in this, his second career start at quarterback. That did not make life any easier for the redshirt freshman.
Going up against the Pac-10’s No. 1 scoring defense, Brink failed for the second week in a row to complete 50 percent of his passes, although he faced an uphill struggle the entire way. By the time Brink took his first snap, the Cougars were already trailing 14-0 and less than five minutes later it was 21-0.
Still, the Oregon native said he continues to gain confidence in the pocket.
“Last week I felt comfortable and this week I felt more comfortable and at ease with the speed of the game,” Brink said. “I think there are some things I can do that will help our offense down the road and I want to do those things in the next three weeks.”
Life was also made difficult for Brink by constant pressure from the Trojan defense. USC sacked him five times over the course of the game, forcing fumbles twice.
Brink ended up 17-of-40 — at Oregon State he was 15-of-41 — for 165 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
“Their defensive line is the strength of their defense. But as we all saw, they were real effective all over the place,” Brink said. “When you have a pass rush like that, you can drop guys into coverage and it’s tough for an offense like ours that wants to throw the ball.”
Linebacker Will Derting had what might have been his most productive game of the year, leading WSU with 14 tackles. He also had 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for losses. … The Cougars held the ball for just 21:05 against USC, another addition to the team’s time of possession woes this season. … An odd weather trend struck again on Saturday: On multiple occasions this season, the Cougars have taken the field to a steady rain for pregame warm-ups, only to have the skies clear right around the opening kickoff. Before facing USC, rain — and even a little hail and snow — was coming in sideways, but by the first minutes of the game no more precipitation fell. … Reggie Bush’s punt return for a touchdown was the first against WSU since Oklahoma’s Antonio Perkins went 51 yards in the 2003 Rose Bowl. … Tight end Jesse Taylor played most of the snaps on offense with Troy Bienemann limited to long-snapping duties. Taylor pulled in the first reception of his career in the fourth quarter. … Wide receiver Greg Prator, who wasn’t expected to play after being carted off the field a week earlier with a sprained ankle, was able to take the field against the Trojans. … Former Cougar offensive lineman Mike Utley was on hand.