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Sports >  WSU football

Recap and highlights: Washington State self destructs as USC comes back to win 45-14

Sept. 18, 2021 Updated Sat., Sept. 18, 2021 at 4:33 p.m.

PULLMAN – An early lead evaporated for Washington State and USC, playing its first game without Clay Helton in eight years, eviscerated the Cougars at Gesa Field, winning 45-14 on a grey, rainy afternoon in Pullman.

Six days after promoting cornerbacks coach Donte Williams to the interim head coaching role, the Trojans responded from a slow start and erased a 14-0 deficit in the fourth quarter, scoring 45 unanswered points to hand WSU its second loss of the season.

After three consecutive home games, the Cougars (1-2, 0-1) go on the road next week to play Utah. The Trojans (2-1, 1-1) return home to play Oregon State.

WSU’s two-touchdown lead didn’t last long and the Trojans got back into the game just before halftime on a fourth-and-9 touchdown pass from Jaxson Dart to Gary Bryant Jr. The Trojans’ offensive surge was mainly led by Dart, a true freshman backup who replaced Kedon Slovis early in the first quarter after USC’s All-Pac-12 first Team starter left the game with an injury.

Dart recovered from an early interception and finished the game 30 of 46 passing for 391 yards, four touchdowns and two picks. The Trojans’ Drake London was a mismatch nightmare for the Cougars all afternoon, hauling in 13 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns.

The Cougars faced quarterback problems of their own after sophomore starter Jayden de Laura left the game with what appeared to be a left leg injury. Victor Gabalis, a second-year walk-on from Everett, played the majority of snaps in the second half but finished just 6 of 10 for 19 yards. De Laura returned to the game for a brief moment in the third quarter, throwing an interception with the Cougars trailing the Trojans 28-14. The Honolulu native was 10 of 19 for 117 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

After accumulating 184 yards of total offense in the first half, the Cougars settled for -2 yards in the third quarter and managed just 97 in the fourth. USC finished with 449 yards of total offense and held WSU scoreless through the game’s final 46:13.

First quarter

12:56 - WSU 0, USC 0: WSU’s Andrew Edson sacks Kedon Slovis for a loss of 10 on third down, after USC’s Gary Bryant Jr. returned the opening kickoff 37 yards. Training staff came out to help Slovis after the play, but the quarterback jogged off to the sideline.

11:33 - WSU 0, USC 0: Max Borghi breaks off an 18-yard run to the right side to the Cougar 38.

6:03 - WSU 7, USC 0: Jayden de Laura completes a 12-yard touchdown to Travell Harris. The Cougars’ offense opened in a rhythm with a 12 play 89 yard drive. 

5:48 - WSU 7, USC 0: Jaxson Dart enters the game at quarterback for Kedon Slovis, who was injured on the opening drive. Dart, a true freshman and 2020 National Gatorade Player of the year, carries his first play for 18 yards.

3:01 - WSU 7, USC 0: Daniel Isom cuts off a Trojan receiver in heavy traffic for his first career interception. Isom returns the pick 27 yards to the USC 46.

 0:07 - WSU 7, USC 0: Jayden de Laura flips a speed option to Max Borghi for eight yards on fourth down, down to the USC 1 as the quarter expires.

Second quarter

13:59 - WSU 7, USC 0: Jayden de Laura is tackled for a loss of one on third down, after Calvin Jackson Jr. dropped a touchdown on second down. Cougars face fourth down on the USC 2.

13:16 - WSU 7, USC 0: Jayden de Laura keeps a read option up the middle but is stuffed on the USC 1, where the Trojans take over on downs.

11:43 - WSU 7, USC 0: The Trojans are stuffed on back-to-back run plays from their own 1, but Jaxson Dart completes an 11-yard pass to Gary Bryant Jr. on third down out of his own end zone.

11:13 - WSU 7, USC 0: Jaxson Dart follows up the third down conversion with a 32-yard pass to Drake London.

9:33 - WSU 7, USC 0: The Cougar defense holds strong on the USC 40 and forces a punt. Travell Harris, last week’s Pac-12 special teams player of the week, puts a move on a defender and returns the punt 25 yards to the WSU 42.

6:13 - WSU 14, USC 0: Jayden de Laura completes a 7-yard touchdown to Travell Harris — his second of the half.

5:26 - WSU 14, USC 0: Armani Marsh, a Gonzaga Prep graduate, punches the ball out from Jaxson Dart and the Cougars recover on the USC 36.


4:24 - WSU 14, USC 0: The Cougars go three-and-out and Jayden de Laura punts the ball out of bounds at the USC 7.

0:32 - WSU 14, USC 7: Jaxson Dart completes a 38-yard touchdown to Gary Bryant Jr. behind the Cougar secondary on fourth and nine to split the deficit right before half. 

Third quarter

14:54 - WSU 14, USC 7: Travell Harris has the ball punched out by USC’s Micah Croom on the kickoff, which is recovered by the Trojans at the Cougar 27.

13:06 - WSU 14, USC 7: Washington State’s defense stops the Trojans on third down, but roughing the passer on Brennan Jackson moves the chains. USC first down on the Cougar 8.

12:21 - WSU 14, USC 14: Jaxson Dart completes a 5-yard touchdown to London Drake through tight coverage to tie the game. Jayden de Laura exited the locker room with a brace on his left knee. Cammon Cooper and Victor Gabalis were seen throwing on the sideline.

12:21 - WSU 14, USC 14: Sophomore walk-on Victor Gabalis takes over at quarterback for the Cougars, after an unknown injury to Jayden de Laura in the first half.

10:54 - WSU 14, USC 14: The Cougars go three-and-out with Victor Gabalis in at quarterback. Gabalis completed two passes for four yards in his first drive. 

6:16 - USC 21, WSU 14: Gary Bryant Jr. catches a swing pass from Jaxson Dart behind the line of scrimmage that will go down as a 3-yard rushing touchdown. Trojans punch in an 11 play 81-yard drive.

4:00 - USC 21, WSU 14: Armani Marsh intercepts Jaxson Dart at the WSU 5, where the Cougars will start their next drive.

3:12 - USC 28, WSU 14: Victor Gabalis is strip sacked by Drake Jackson in the Cougar end zone, recovered by Tuli Tuipulotu for a Trojan touchdown. 

3:03 - USC 28, WSU 14: Jayden de Laura returns to quarterback for WSU and is intercepted by Calen Bullock on the USC 35 on a deep pass intended for Calvin Jackson Jr.

0:46 - USC 35, WSU 14: Jaxson Dart completes a 31-yard touchdown to Drake London over the middle. Dart is 27 of 40 with 308 yards and three touchdowns. London has 13 catches for 170 yards and two touchdowns. The Trojans have scored 35 unanswered points.

0:31 - USC 35, WSU 14: Victor Gabalis comes back in at quarterback for Jayden de Laura on third down. Cougars punt to the USC 40.

Fourth quarter

14:04 - USC 35, WSU 14: Travell Harris calls for a fair catch on the WSU 9.

11:48 - USC 35, WSU 14: Jaxon Dart completes a 42-yard pass to Joseph Manjack IV over the middle.

8:49 - USC 38, WSU 14: Parker Lewis’ 34-yard field goal is good.

6:19 - USC 38, WSU 14: Victor Gabalis’ pass intended for Travell Harris falls incomplete on fourth down. The Trojans take over on the Cougar 36.

6:12 - USC 45, WSU 14: Jaxson Dart completes a 36-yard touchdown to Kyle Ford down the left side. Dart has passed for 391 yards and four touchdowns.

2:22 - USC 45, WSU 14: Cammon Cooper enters at quarterback for WSU. Cooper scrambles for a 17-yard gain on fourth down to pick up a first at the USC 45.

0:11 - USC 45, WSU 14: Cammon Cooper’s pass is intercepted by Jayden Williams. USC takes a knee to end the game.


Washington State will host Southern California in Pullman at 12:30 p.m. on FOX and 920-FM. The Cougars are coming off a 44-24 win over Portland State, while the Trojans fell 42-28 to Stanford.

All of WSU’s skill players were suited in warm-ups. CB Jaylen Watson came out with the defensive backs about 50 minutes before kickoff. The former USC signee’s status was unknown, having sustained an injury last week.

USC defensive lineman Nick Figueroa and linebacker Solomon Tuliaupupu are both on the sidelines without pads. Figueroa recorded three sacks in the Trojans’ win over WSU last year.

Rough arrival

USC’s plane tipped up in the air while arriving in Pullman Friday. 

Game preview

Team stats

Scoring WSU USC
Points Per Game 33.5 29
Points Allowed Per Game 25 24.5
Total Yards 411 412
     Yards Passing 257 239.5
     Yards Rushing 154 271
Yards Allowed 430.5 375.5
     Pass Yards Allowed 268.5 271
     Rush Yards Allowed 162 104.5

Individual leaders

PASSING Att.-Comp. Yards TD Int.
Jayden de Laura (WSU) 33-51 458 4 1
Kedon Slovis (USC) 51-78 479 3 1
RUSHING Carries Yards TD
Max Borghi (WSU) 24 145 2
Vavae Malepeai (USC) 29 166 0
RECEIVING Receptions Yards TD
Calvin Jackson Jr. (WSU) 10 168 1
Drake London (USC) 16 205 1

Anthracite alchemy

WSU is going with an “All-Anthracite” uniform combo — not quite a black out, but the Cougars are bringing some ‘after dark’ energy to this Pac-12 matinee.

The Cougars wore this uniform combo in 2017, when they upset No. 5 USC 30-27 in Pullman. The Trojans lead the all-time series 60-10-4, with WSU’s only consecutive series victories coming from 2000-02. USC won 39-36 in 2018 and 38-13 in 2020 — both of those games were in Los Angeles.

Washington State Cougars linebacker Erik Glueck celebrates after his team defeated USC on Sept. 29, 2017. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars linebacker Erik Glueck celebrates after his team defeated USC on Sept. 29, 2017. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Coaching change

Following an embarrassing loss to Stanford, who was projected to finish fourth in the Pac-12 South, USC fired head coach Clay Helton on Monday. Helton had been in the position since 2015, combining for a 46-24 record and a 2-3 record in bowl games.

Helton was replaced by interim coach Donte Williams, 39, who will have his debut in Pullman as the first African-American head coach in USC history.

Williams joined USC in 2020 as the passing game coordinator and cornerbacks coach. He entered the 2021 season as the associated head coach and had short stints as a defensive backs coach at Oregon (2019), Nebraska (2017), Arizona (2016) and San Jose State (2013-2015). Williams was also a graduate assistant at Washington in 2011.

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