Initial Reaction: USC Falters 10-7 In Home Opener

Stephen Dunn

In what began as a promising start with the USC defense firing on all cylinders from the starting kickoff, the Trojans quarterback carousel of Max Wittek and Cody Kessler failed to effectively spread the rock amongst a bevy of talented players on offense, resulting in a crushing 10-7 loss in front of 77,823 fans at the Coliseum.

With both teams backs against the wall looking for a massive completion, WR Kristoff Williams broke free off a quick slant, dodging through tacklers for the biggest play of the night. Following the 49-yard reception and a defensive stand, Andrew Furney connected on 41-yard field goal attempt giving Washington State the lead for good.

The Cougars were implementing a good deal of "Cover 8" defense which was presenting major problems all night long for the USC offense, something that truly surprised Lane Kiffin come game day. Backs against the wall, Max Wittek was intercepted by Damante Horton (2nd of the Game) resulting in a crushing blow towards defeat.

The Cougars quickly recorded enough first downs to seal the game, sending their bench rushing towards the field in an upset victory defeating USC for the first time since 2002. The Trojans got the ball back in dire straits in the fourth quarter, before quickly being bailed out on yet another pass interference play down the sideline. An effort which was arguably the best defensive measure implemented by Washington State on the night.

Tre Madden finished the game with 156 yards on 32 carries, joining Marcus Allen in his Heisman Winning 1981 season (while leading the team out of the Coliseum Tunnel Saturday night) as Trojans to rush for over 100 yards in each of their first two games. This for a converted linebacker just learning the nooks and crannies of the position.

After the historic performance, Madden was rather somber, admitting that the teams overall performance overshadowed any real accomplishment achieved on the field. "When I got the ball I just ran as hard as I could today and tried to put points on the board, Madden said. "But it's disappointing."

Biletnikoff Award winner and future first-round NFL draft pick Marqise Lee had just seven catches for 27 yards against the Cougars depleted secondary. This stat the result of numerous swing passes and bubble screens towards the perimeter for next to no yardage, although Lee was quick to credit Washington State for their improved play in the secondary, giving the Trojans wide receivers little room to operate in space.

After the Trojans opened up the scoring with a four-yard rushing touchdown from Cody Kessler, the lead quickly evaporated in the second quarter when Damante Horton racked in an easy pick-six for the Cougars (the second such of his career) going 70 yards to the house just before the end of the first half.

Kessler, a sophomore making his second start, was 8 of 13 for just 41 yards heading into the locker room while failing to throw the ball down field for large portions of the mind-numbing half on offense. That resulted in a major shift at quarterback, as Lane Kiffin pulled Kessler and inserted Max Wittek for the start of the second half.

As part of that troublesome first half, USC went 0-6 on third-down conversions and continued that trend on first drive of the second half. That was in part thanks to conservative rushing plays called on third-down plays along with tremendous coverage in the perimeter by DB's Daquawn Brown and Damante Horton for Washington State.

In two of the first three drives in the second half, the Trojans drove down to the field thanks to their power running game led by Tre Madden and an opportunistic defense which forced three turnovers on the night. Hooking his second FG wide left, Andre Heidari had next to no opportunity the first time around when Toni Pole went right through RG/C hole on the rush blocking the attempt.

That drive was promptly ended by another rushing play on third down, yet another big reason behind the Trojans 3-13 chances on third down. Lane Kiffin said it best following the game when he added, that "only one phase of our game came to play today, and that was the defense."

Max Wittek entered the game for the USC offense looking to spark the sluggish passing attack, yet he threw his first official pass of the second half in the 12:00 minute mark of the fourth quarter, firing a quick route to Marqise Lee. The final drive of the game was rather similar to the rest resulting in little promise and a disappointing turnover to end it.

The Trojans will now be sitting at .500 and out of the AP Top 25 Rankings yet again, looking to rebound quickly before strapping it up for their next home game against Boston College (2-0) on Saturday.

News and Notes:

-Torin Harris may have played the best game of his career, finishing with six tackles on the night.
-Morgan Breslin back and healthy for the Trojans, recording two sacks on the night.
-Tre Madden running with authority in the backfield racking in 156 of 193 USC's entire output on offense.
-Wittek and Kessler combine for 54 yards passing, and fire less than 50 percent of passes past line of scrimmage.

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