All of the leftovers you need – and much, much more – from Washington State’s 30-27 upset of No. 5 USC Friday night at Martin Stadium.
It looked a lot like Woodstock out there, didn’t it? Mike Leach sure thought so. In case you missed his postgame interview with ESPN’s Neil Everett…
Leach expanded on his Woodstock comparison after the game: “Yeah, that’s the first thing that hit me. It’s kind of like where you do the dot thing. I wish I’d been at that. Where the guy just does just the paint on the dots. What does this remind you of? Of course everybody knows what everything reminds you of. Sigmund Freud taught everyone that, but the thing is, all I saw out there was a mob of people. I saw a deal on the news thing, it was famous photographs of Woodstock, the original Woodstock. There’s just a lot of people out there. … Plus, I need a haircut, too.” Well, whatever you say, coach…
Before talking about the heroes on the field in Friday’s game, Leach mentioned one of those watching from afar. The coach dedicated the 30-27 win to Ben Cushing, a WSU student currenttly battling lymphoma.
This was a rare win for WSU, which hadn’t beat USC in Pullman since 2002. The score of the game? Also 30-27. Jason Gesser and Erik Coleman were a part of that victory and coincidentally enough, they were the ones raising the flag in the east end zone before the game.
The Cougars haven’t opened a season 5-0 since 2001. To match the ’01 Cougars, the ’17 ones would have to win their next two games for a 7-0 start.
Prior to Friday, WSU hadn’t beat a top-five team since it upended No. 5 Texas in the 2003 Holiday Bowl. The last time the Cougars beat a top-five team in the regular season was 25 years ago in the 1992 Apple Cup. The Huskies were No. 5 that year.
It’d been more than a year since USC lost a football game. The Trojans were riding a 13-game winning streak into Pullman – the second longest in the nation – and hadn’t been on the losing end of a game in 371 days. “It’s been awhile since we’ve felt like this,” USC coach Clay Helton said, “and it hurts.”
A sellout crowd of 33,773 was announced. That’s the highest attendance since the Martin Stadium reconfiguration in 2014 and it made a difference in the outcome of the game, according to the players. “It was super loud,” linebacker Jahad Woods said, “and when it gets loud like that, I don’t even know how to explain it.” Added nickel Hunter Dale: “Not saying you don’t always go out there to make a play, but when they get loud and they’re screaming for somebody to make a play, you want to make a play, you want to get your name on the board.”
Even the visitors took notice of the environment on the Palouse. “Electric atmosphere here tonight,” Helton said. “Washington State’s fans did a wonderful job creating a wonderful environment.”
And Luke Falk’s thoughts on the crowd? “It was the best atmosphere since I’ve been here.”
Your weekly dose of #FalkNews … The Washington State quarterback surpassed former Oregon State signal-caller Sean Mannion for the most career completions by a Pac-12 QB. Falk now has 1,211.
Falk’s two touchdown passes means he matches another quarterback who played ball in the state of Oregon – the Ducks’ Marcus Mariota – with 105 TDs. It’ll take just 11 more to tie Matt Barkley for most all-time.
With his 331 yards of total offense, Falk moved past Jared Goff and Barkley into third on the Pac-12 career leaderboard. That gives him 12,308.
Falk is on the fast track to become the winningest quarterback in Washington State history. Friday’s victory gave the senior his 23rd and by beating Oregon, Falk would match Gesser’s record of 24.
Of Falk, Leach said “Thought he played good because I thought there was a time early in the game where he held the whole thing together. Because we were out there just a little too eager, stuff wasn’t as precise as it could be, maybe somebody missed a block, maybe somebody dropped a ball and he battled some of that himself but I thought he stayed within himself, did a good job being patient.”
There were 22 NFL scouts in the house and many of them were in Pullman to see the QB duel between Falk and USC’s Sam Darnold. Falk was the more impressive of the two, completing 34 of 51 for 340 yards and two touchdowns, while Darnold was 15 of 29 with 164 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. “I didn’t play my best, for sure,” Darnold said afterward.
Erik Powell continues a perfect season … sort of. The senior kicker is 8-for-9 this season, but hasn’t missed a kick that wasn’t blocked. Powell connected from 44, 33 and 32 yards on Friday and booted the game-winner in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter. “I thought it was very important this game,” Leach said. “We had to be able to kick the ball and he was clutch in all three situations and really the ones he hit didn’t leave any doubt.”
For the third time in five games, redshirt freshman Renard Bell recorded 100 receiving yards. Bell, who’s established himself as potentially the team’s best deep threat, caught four passes for 101 yards. That gives Bell 17 catches and 329 yards on the season.
What’s more remarkable is that Bell, averaging more than 19 yards per catch, still hasn’t scored a touchdown for the Cougars.
Jamal Morrow finished with 138 all-purpose yards, bringing his career total to 3,567 – fifth-most in WSU history. Morrow had a rushing touchdown early on and took a shovel pass from Falk 23 yards to the end zone for a crucial fourth-quarter score. “That dude’s a gamer,” Falk said of his senior teammate. “He’s a clutch guy, he makes clutch plays. Really, when we played Oregon three years ago, he was making these type of plays. … Nothing new. That’s just Jamal.”
Hunter Dale registered the first sack of his career at Washington State career. He spoke about the team’s revamped defense afterward: “We’re definitely buying in to (Alex) Grinch’s program, Speed D, running to the ball. If all else fails, we just run to the ball.”
The Cougars continue their quest for 24 takeaways this season and they’re still on track after securing two more against the Trojans. Sean Harper Jr. intercepted Darnold – the first pick of his career – and Jahad Woods forced a fumble while sacking the USC QB in the fourth quarter. Derek Moore recovered it.
It was the first start of Moore’s career. The sophomore defensive end finished with three tackles, one tackle-for-loss and the recovered fumble.
Woods had the best game of his Cougars career while making his second start at Will linebacker. He led the team with nine tackles, had one sack and one forced fumble. Said Leach: “He’s sort of a quiet guy and he doesn’t say much but he’s always hit a ton.”
Jamal Morrow lost the coin toss and fell to 2-3 on the season. Something tells me he’ll get over it, though…
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.