The USC Trojans have a short week before facing the Washington State Cougars Friday night at the Coliseum. While USC is coming off a two-game losing streak, WSU is heading to Los Angeles undefeated. If the Trojans want to protect their 16 game home win streak, they will have to limit the following players.
Gardner Minshew - Quarterback
In just three games, graduate transfer Gardner Minshew already has racked up 1,203 passing yards with a 70.9 completion percentage. Like WSU quarterbacks before him, Minshew is on track to be a leading passer in the Pac-12.
Before transferring from East Carolina, Minshew totaled 3,487 yards in two years, 22 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. While the toughest opponent WSU has played has been Wyoming, which they beat 41-19, Minshew and the Cougars have been able to put up 131 points. That is 71 more points than the Trojans have on the season, and it all stems from the WSU’s quarterback. In the red zone Minshew is very efficient, last week he completed six of nine passes.
TD @WSUCougFB! Gardner Minshew is DEALING right now. pic.twitter.com/cLy76c9g0s— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) September 1, 2018
Minshew is not typically a runner, but he can roll out when he needs to. To stop him from throwing 300 plus yards, USC needs to bring the pressure and rattle him inside the pocket.
Tay Martin - Wide receiver
Sophomore Tay Martin returns to WSU as the Cougars leading receiver. In three games, he has 290 yards, 149 of which came from last week’s game against Eastern Washington. Martin recorded six touchdowns in his final six games of last season, and already has half of that with three touchdowns in 2018.
WSU fans and media are predicting that 2018 will be Martin’s breakout year, and it’s not hard to see why when you have the ability to adjust and catch balls like the one below.
A closer look at the touchdown by Tay Martin #GoCougs pic.twitter.com/lv97BXLU7e— WSU Cougar Football (@WSUCougFB) September 16, 2018
The athletic 6-foot-3 receiver was Minshew’s favorite target last week, with 13 receptions where Martin averaged 11.5 yards per catch. With a depleted backfield, USC will have to play lights out for the rest of the season, let alone against a dangerous quarterback/receiver combo like Minshew and Martin.
Jalen Thompson - Safety
Junior Jalen Thompson returned to WSU as their leader on defense. In 2017 he had a team best of 73 tackles, and four interceptions. He also tied for the most fumble recoveries in the Pac-12 with three. In his first three games this season, Thompson has recorded 13 total tackles and and one interception.
Over the summer, Thompson was added to the Bednarik Award watch list, which goes to the best defensive player in college football. Against true freshman JT Daniels, who as of late has a tendency to throw into double coverage, Thompson will be licking his chops.
A pick by Jalen Thompson to take us into the long weekend! #GoCougs #JoinTheHunt pic.twitter.com/KjaWK83gXw— WSU Cougar Football (@WSUCougFB) May 25, 2018
While the USC game is always a hyped one for WSU, it always means a little more to Southern California natives. A bit of a homecoming for Thompson who went to Downey High School, expect him to be a ball hawk from the start of the game.