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Washington State rewind: Cougars show ‘passion’, ultimately outmatched in loss to USC

Washington State Cougars quarterback Cameron Ward (1) heads to the locker room after WSU fell to USC during the second half of a college football game on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, Calif. USC won the game 30-14.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
By Colton Clark The Spokesman-Review

LOS ANGELES – As frustrating as Saturday’s loss was, Washington State coach Jake Dickert made it a point to commend his team’s effort and ensured fans that the Cougars won’t be deflated coming off their 30-14 defeat at No. 6 USC.

“Those guys left it out there, and they have each other’s backs,” he said Saturday at L.A. Memorial Coliseum. “A gutsy loss like this, it shows the type of passion with this football team. We’ll come back ready to work on Monday.

“There’s an effort to this team and a heart to this team. I think that’s what you saw on both sides of the ball.”

The Cougs (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) gave the Trojans (6-0, 4-0) a challenge for much of a conference contest that was more well-matched than the score might indicate. The teams traded jabs in the first half and USC gradually pulled away after the break. A couple of critical mental mistakes, untimely penalties, injuries and second-half offensive inconsistencies bit the visitors, who put up comparable stat totals to USC but couldn’t muster any points after halftime.

WSU slipped to 10-69 versus top-10 teams, 6-41-2 at USC and 10-63-4 in its long-running series with the Trojans – a series that will now take an indefinite pause. The game marked the final Pac-12 matchup between the teams. They aren’t scheduled to play next season and the Trojans are heading to the Big Ten Conference in 2024.

“I wouldn’t say (players) weren’t locked in, but too many guys were letting the environment get to them,” WSU edge rusher Brennan Jackson said. “I think a lot of guys let the noise of the stadium or what was going on in the game affect their own mentality. That’s something we need to work on as a whole group.”

The Cougars came into the weekend one spot outside of the AP Top 25 rankings, but fell 10 slots down the “receiving votes” category when the Week 7 poll was released Sunday. They collected 10 votes.

Both of WSU’s losses this year have come against opponents ranked in the AP’s top 15. Only one of the Cougs’ final six foes is currently ranked (No. 20 Utah).

The Cougars will travel to Corvallis next weekend to take on Oregon State, which opened as a 3-point favorite. WSU is looking for its ninth consecutive victory over the Beavers (4-2, 1-2), who stunned Stanford late Saturday, winning 28-27 on a 56-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds remaining.

“That’s what we talked about in the locker room … we’ve got another tough opponent next week and we gotta go on the road,” Dickert said. “That’s what it’s like to be in this league. We gotta make sure we learn from this (loss). There will be a lot of things where we feel we can get better, including myself. We’ll look ourselves in the mirror and pick it back up and be ready to go.”