PULLMAN – Jamal Morrow and many of the other California-born players on this Washington State roster probably felt slighted as high school stars who never got the time of the day from the college football dynasty living in their own backyard.
How does Morrow feel about the Trojans? He won’t tell you, but he sure will show you.
For two halves, it was a blow-for-blow battle between No. 16 Washington State and No. 5 USC. But Morrow corralled one of Luke Falk’s signature shovel passes in the fourth quarter, saw a field of green in front of him and didn’t let up until he cleared the goal line.
Then Morrow rushed to the crowd of USC fans standing closest to the Cougars running back and threw up the two-finger salute that’s so sacred to the Trojans and their large network of fans.
Fight on? No. 16 WSU sure did Friday evening against the country’s fifth-ranked team.
Morrow put the Cougars ahead with his 23-yard catch-and-score. After the Trojans responded with a vintage Sam Darnold touchdown drive, the WSU tailback broke off a 35-yard run through the heart of the USC defense, setting up Erik Powell for a 32-yard field goal.
Powell’s kick went through the uprights, the Cougars forced Darnold to fumble on the next possession and within minutes, the Cougars were celebrating a 30-27 win over the Trojans – their first top-five upset in more than a decade.
Falk completed 34 for 51 passes for 340 yards and two touchdowns while becoming the Pac-12’s career leader in completions. Morrow finished with 91 rushing yards on six carries and a touchdown. The senior captain also reeled in five balls for 47 yards and another TD.
The Cougars improved to 5-0 on the season and ended a 13-game win streak for the visitors from Los Angeles.
This is how one of the Pac-12’s emerging powers managed to take down the conference’s most storied program.
Early in the first quarter, Morrow ripped off a 30-yard run through the middle of the field to put the Cougars in Trojans territory, but the home team had to settle for a 44-yard field goal from Powell when Falk’s end-zone heave to Jamire Calvin fell through the receiver’s hands.
Darnold completed three passes to Deontay Burnett, a former WSU commit, on the first USC drive and advanced the Trojans to the 13-yard line before getting 9 yards on a scramble that saw him evade Jahad Woods and break a tackle from Frankie Luvu. Darnold kept it for a 4-yard touchdown on the next play to make it 7-3.
The Cougars moved efficiently on their next possession. Falk delivered a 61-yard strike – his longest of the season – to productive freshman Renard Bell and the WSU QB followed with a nifty tunnel screen to Tavares Martin Jr., who slipped through a crease and ran 28 yards for a touchdown.
But USC responded in a blink. On third-and-4 from the 14-yard line, Trojans tailback Ronald Jones II burst through a gap in the defense and outran the Cougars for an 86-yard touchdown run to make it 14-10.
Things continued to spiral for WSU on the next drive when Falk’s first-down pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage. It fell to USC linebacker Uchenna Nwosu, who went down at the 3-yard line. But USC, which ranks 11th in the Pac-12 in red-zone offense, couldn’t move the ball an inch on three straight plays and settled for a 20-yard Chase McGrath field goal.
The Cougars followed with one of their most methodical drives of the season. Starting from the 6-yard line, Falk completed passes to five receivers and a pass interference call on USC’s Jack Jones set up WSU on the 2-yard line. Morrow then took a handoff from Falk, bounced outside, then cut inside to prance into the end zone, making it 17-all.
WSU’s starting inside linebacker, Isaac Dotson, limped off the field with what appeared to be a lower-body injury late in the first quarter. Dotson went to the locker room in the second quarter, but eventually returned to the WSU sideline. USC starting right tackle Chuma Edoga also hobbled off the field with an injury and didn’t return, as did starting Trojans right guard Viane Talamaivao. USC was already playing without starting left tackle Toa Lobendahn.