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Sports >  WSU football

TV Take: It was a tough to switch from Mariners historic comeback to catch beginning of WSU-USC

Oct. 8, 2022 Updated Sat., Oct. 8, 2022 at 9:31 p.m.

By Vince Grippi The Spokesman-Review

It happened. The worst thing possible. The Mariners tied their playoff game with the Blue Jays just as the Washington State football team was scheduled to start its game at No. 6 USC.

A decision had to be made – unless a second TV or some sort of ESPN feed was available nearby. If not, which game were you watching?

The decision may have depended on your allegiance, or the depth of same.

If you switched to the Cougars, you heard Noah Eagle and Mark Helfrich describe the first quarter of the game. If you stayed with the M’s until the final out, a line drive to Julio Rodriguez ending a 10-9 comeback win, you were able to switch just in time to see the Cougars’ first score.

And then stayed as the 25-year-old Eagle and Helfrich described the Trojans’ 30-14 victory Saturday night on Fox.

What they saw

• You probably recognized Eagles’ last name. And his cadence. He sounds similar to his father, Ian, the veteran NFL voice. This Eagle teamed with the former Oregon coach Helfrich, whose depth of knowledge of the game is unmatched.

His presentation, however, can lull the viewer to sleep with his combination of too much exposition and over-soothing tones.

The game, however, kept everyone awake as two explosive offenses and solid defenses matched up.

The action didn’t really blast off in the first half. Caleb Williams, the USC quarterback, at first failed to live up to his Superman nickname. That didn’t stop Eagle, however, from referencing it early in the game. And building from it, after Williams made something from nothing.

“He’s out of the phone booth,” Eagle said, though he didn’t explain what a phone booth is – something that might be called for these days.

Maybe the reference was something he learned around the dinner table, just like when he referred to USC’s high-powered offense “cooking with gas” during the Trojans’ second drive.

Williams finished 15-of-29 passing for 188 yards and two touchdowns. His WSU counterpart, Cameron Ward, was 19 of 32 for 172 yards and also two touchdowns.

“Caleb Williams was not his usual Superman self,” Helfrich said as time ran out.

All in all, though, Eagle did his job with the play-by-play, keeping the viewers up-to-date with the action and updated on injuries (like that of WSU running back Nakia Watson) – though even he had trouble keeping up with some of the flags and the explanations.

• One of the consistent beefs with Fox’s college football coverage concerns instant replays. The game’s strength is in its ability for seeing a key play over and over. The network’s coverage often doesn’t include enough.

Coincidentally, when a key whistle occurred in the first half – after a Robert Ferrel first-down catch – the broadcast was showing a replay of Ward’s one-handed shovel.

Viewers missed the next snap, which WSU’s coaches seem to feel came before a timeout was called. With the stoppage, replay got involved and the catch was overturned, USC held and turned the change into seven points and a 17-14 halftime lead.

With both teams moving quickly with the ball, a handful of times those in the booth went with a double-box, with the replay on the left and the game action on the right. It worked. At least if you weren’t watching the game on your phone.

What we saw

• One of the least-emphasized strengths of the Washington State (4-2 overall, 1-2 in Pac-12 play) defense is its ability to tackle in space.

Over the years, this hasn’t been one of their best attributes.

But the skill showed again in this one, with the back seven consistently limiting yards after catch and keeping Williams under control – for the most part – when he broke the pocket.

Linebacker Daiyan Henley led the way again with 11 tackles, despite at times playing coverage, at other times blitzing and others shadowing Williams.

With the USC pass offense not shining, the Trojans turned to Oregon transfer Travis Dye on the ground. He carried the ball 28 times for 149 yards. WSU’s backup running back Jaylen Jenkins carried 13 times for 130 yards.

• When the second half began, Eagle pointed out USC’s performance in the third quarter this season. He mentioned one key stat: The Trojans had a 55-7 edge in third-quarter points through their first five games, best in the nation. Would it continue?

Not at first. Both teams had two drives without scoring.

Eagle prefaced the Cougars’ second with, “It feels like this could be a monumental drive for Washington State.”

It was, but not in the way WSU wanted.

The Cougars marched to the USC 39-yard-line before facing a fourth down. They went for it. They failed.

The Trojans followed by covering the 62 yards in five plays to build what proved to be an insurmountable 24-14 lead.

The lack of replay reared its head in the USC (6-0, 4-0) drive, as viewers were shown only once a Washington State holding penalty that negated an interception.

And they didn’t see what caused a tacked-on unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

There were replays of Mario Williams’ touchdown catch – many of them – as it was reviewed. Two seemed to show the ball move as it touched the grass, but the ruling stood.

“The best third-quarter team in the conference, or the country, does it again,” Eagle said as USC kicked the extra point.

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