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Notebook: Pass defense shines for Cougars

LOS ANGELES – Daquawn Brown’s homecoming went just how he wanted it.

Brown, filling in at cornerback after a pair of injuries knocked out two players ahead of him on Washington State’s depth chart, led the Cougars with seven tackles in the first half of Saturday’s 10-7 upset at Southern California.

The 5-foot-11, 170-pound cornerback is a Los Angeles native, and practiced with the No. 1 defense all week after Nolan Washington and Anthony Carpenter were apparently injured in WSU’s season opener at Auburn.

“It just felt like home. I wanted to stay home and play,” Brown said. “I just had a big chip on my shoulder tonight. Getting the start really helped me with my motivation.”

Brown played every snap and finished with a team-high 11 tackles, including a couple of impressive stops in the open field, as well as two pass breakups. But he was also flagged for pass interference on a pass in the third quarter that was intercepted by teammate Deone Bucannon. Brown’s penalty – a fairly questionable call – negated the turnover.

Still, it was a celebratory day for Brown, who said he grew up about five minutes from Memorial Coliseum.

“I’m comfortable, man. I came here to play from Day 1,” Brown said. “I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do. My coaches put me in the right position. I’m just fulfilling what they expect of me.”

Horton snags another (two)

With WSU’s offense struggling to convert first downs or hang onto the ball, senior cornerback Damante Horton took it upon himself to get the Cougars on the scoreboard.

USC quarterback Cody Kessler threw a pass well behind his intended receiver, and Horton stepped in front of the ball, intercepted it and then ran 70 yards for a game-tying touchdown with 27 seconds remaining in the first half.

It was Horton’s fifth career interception – he later added a sixth – and the second time he’s returned one for a score. The first came in 2011, when as a sophomore he returned a pick 76 yards for a touchdown at Oregon. That was also the last time any Cougar player returned an interception for a touchdown.

Horton also made another of the game’s most important plays, intercepting a pass from Max Wittek with 2:18 left in the game after the Cougars had kicked a field goal to take a 10-7 lead. WSU used a first down to ice the game away after that.

Special-teams success

The Cougars knew defending Marqise Lee in the punt and kick return game would be a difficult task. But they handled it just fine.

Lee didn’t have a punt return longer than 11 yards – he actually muffed one of his tries – and the Cougars’ first kickoff resulted in a touchback before the third pinned USC at the 11-yard line after Lee tried to take it out of the end zone.

In addition, defensive tackle Toni Pole blocked a 32-yard field goal try that would have given USC the lead on its first possession of the third quarter. Trojans kicker Andrei Heidari later missed another potential go-ahead field goal, this one a 43-yarder he missed wide left with 2:49 remaining in the third quarter.