Well, at least that's over.
The Cougs were the latest to line up and take a beating at the hands of the Trojans on Saturday. USC scored on their first four possessions – bang, bang, bang…um, bang – touchdowns each time. For a short time it looked like the Cougs might be able to keep pace. On their second possession, the Cougs were able to go 82 yards down the field with the drive culminating in a 13 yard touchdown run off a draw by Jerome Harrison. The PAT was blocked, and for a brief shining moment the score stood almost even at 6-7. Then the Trojans rattled off 41 – count 'em, 41 – unanswered points. WSU wouldn't score again until the reserves of both teams were in during the mid-fourth quarter.
Let's talk bright spots. If anyone outside Pullman doubted the ability of Harrison, hopefully Saturday's game will make them believers. Behind the run blocking of the Cougar offensive line Harrison was the Cougars' only true threat against USC. Harrison accounted for an impressive 147 yards on 21 carries and the first quarter touchdown. Behind the strong play of this Cougar line, Harrison has established that he can and will make it happen against anybody and recorded his 11th straight 100+ yard game. Harrison also became the first back to gain over 100 yards against USC this season. As for the line, they did not give up a sack. DeMaundray Woolridge didn't look too bad either, generating 40 yards on 8 carries. Woolridge scored his own touchdown in the fourth quarter – his second of the season - on a drive led by Josh Swogger.
Defensively, Mkristo Bruce continues to be the standout on the Cougar line. Against a pretty much dominant USC front, Bruce was able to get penetration and create pressure on Matt Lienhart several times and also played well against the run. The brightest spot on the defense, however, was Eric Frampton. Frampton led the team with 13 total tackles on the day, and a lot of those prevented USC from ripping off big gains. Frampton made at least one clear touchdown saving tackle, and also had a big hit that caused a USC fumble – although the Trojans would recover. Frampton's sole letdown came when he slipped and stumbled on coverage, allowing a Trojan receiver to come free for a touchdown – but hey, that's gonna happen to anybody sometimes.
On special teams, Kyle Basler definitely got a workout for his leg and did well. Basler punted 9 times, getting three to finish up inside the Trojan twenty and averaging 43 yards per kick. The Cougar punt coverage teams did a great job containing Reggie Bush on returns, giving him not much room to run and allowing no big returns. Mike Graise was again the star, consistently showing up at the ballcarrier.
So much for bright spots. USC pretty much nullified the Cougar passing attack and made Jason Hill a non-factor. Before being pulled with the game well out of reach, Alex Brink accounted for only 64 yards, completing 9 of 17 attempts. 49 of those yards went to Hill on 6 catches. USC held the Cougars to 284 total yards on the game and only 89 passing yards. The Trojans recovered two Cougar fumbles, one stripped away from Harrison deep in Cougar territory that led quickly to a USC score with the other getting away from Brink deep in USC territory to kill a Cougar drive. One of the Cougar lowlights was at the end of the first half. Getting the ball with 1:40 left in the half, the Cougars ran one run and two passes on their way to a three-and-out that took a whopping 45 seconds off the clock. The Trojans took over and with 55 seconds drove for a field goal to close the half. Ouch.
Defensively it was just not pretty. USC's game plan was plenty obvious in the first half: pass. The Trojans did what Pac-10 teams have done with success all season – go right at Alex Teems early and often. While Teems grabbed an interception in the Cougar endzone to kill a first half Trojan drive, more often than not he was being torched repeatedly by Trojan receivers. By the end of the first half USC had over 300 yards passing and three passing touchdowns and Leinhart was 20 of 29 with two of those incompletions coming on ball spikes in the final drive of the first half. On their first two drives, the Trojans threw 12 times against 3 runs.
For the second half, the Trojans anticipated WSU attempting to adjust to the pass and instead decided to run. Run and run. The Trojans ended up with 312 yards on the ground. USC had a grand total of 745 total yards – the most ever (ever!) allowed by a Cougar team. The defensive tackles were simply pushed around and aside by the Trojan offensive line, and USC created and exploited many coverage mismatches against the Cougar linebackers.
Special teams also contributed a lowlight when the Cougars' first PAT attempt was blocked. For the second time in two weeks, a PAT was blocked from exactly the same spot – right in the middle of the line. There is a blocking scheme issue there, and opponents are exploiting it.
The Cougs now sit at 0-5 in conference riding a five game losing streak. The Cougs must run the table in October to salvage the season.
CougZone Player of the Game – Eric Frampton: Frampton has been strong all season and did all he could to try to stop the bleeding against USC