USC quarterback Rob Johnson and wide receiver Johnnie Morton did Saturday night what they do nearly every afternoon on USC's practice field
put on a pass-and-catch show.
But this one came in a real football game and it resulted in a 34-3 Pacific 10 Conference victory over Washington State before 48,471 at the Coliseum and a bunch of records:
--Johnson, a junior, passed for 392 yards and three touchdowns by completing 21 of 26 passes.
The yardage is a USC one-game record.
--Morton, a senior, caught eight Johnson passes for 229 yards, another yardage record.
--USC's 413 passing yards, some of them produced by backup Kyle Wachholz late in the game, are another school record, breaking the record of 397 yards set in 1988 against Arizona State. Morton entered the season with 113 catches, fourth on the USC career list. He is now in second place with 146, and at the rate he's going, he could catch leader John Jackson (163) before the World Series.
If Coach John Robinson had let him play the fourth quarter Saturday night, Morton might have approached the NCAA record of 349 receiving yards, set by Texas El Paso's Chuck Hayes against North Texas State in 1965.
Robinson was as startled as everyone else by Morton.
"I don't know what to say about Morton--he was absolutely phenomenal," he said.
USC, 2-2 overall and 1-0 in the Pac-10, also got an outstanding game from defensive end Willie McGinest. "Willie McGinest looked like an awesome figure out there," Robinson said.
Johnson, despite having been sacked five times, had USC's single-game passing yardage record inside of three quarters. When he completed a six-yarder to Ryan Lenderman late in the third, he had passed for 392 yards, breaking the record of 380 yards set by Paul McDonald against Arizona in 1979.
Morton, too, had a record after three quarters, eight catches for 229 yards--breaking Hal Bedsole's record of 201 yards set in 1962 against California.
Johnson and Morton began the third quarter with a 69-yard play. Morton caught the ball at midfield and ran untouched to the end zone.
USC's McGinest-led defense seemed on its way to a shutout after three quarters, but McGinest himself, with another sack of Mike Pattinson, set up a 32-yard Aaron Price field goal for Washington State (2-2, 1-1) with 10:56 left in the game.
After that, Robinson began pulling starters. Backup quarterback Wachholz came in on the next drive, and Ryan Lenderman came in for Morton. Rory Brown came in for starting fullback Deon Strother.
Johnson and Morton dominated the first half. Johnson completed 15 of 19 passes for 261 yards, and Morton caught seven for 160 yards.
The Trojans scored two of the first three times they had the ball, got a field goal from Mike Salmon early in the second quarter, and then a great catch by Morton set up a touchdown pass from Johnson to Ed Hervey. Another field goal by Salmon created the 27-0 halftime score. Salmon, a starting safety, was kicking only because regular kicker Cole Ford was sidelined with back spasms.
Backup tailback Scott Fields led USC to its first touchdown on an 80-yard, 11-play drive that consumed 4:44 midway through the first quarter. David Dotson started the drive at tailback, but when Fields came on for the seventh play and gained 24 yards over left tackle, it put USC at Washington State's 17. He later scored from the one.
USC made the score 14-0 when Dotson went seven yards, stepping out of the arms of Anthony McClanahan, Washington State's Butkus Award nominee, after catching a pass from Johnson.
Johnson was sacked twice on the 75-yard, seven-play drive, but Morton kept it alive with a leaping catch on a 40-yard play over the middle to the Cougar nine. The touchdown came with 3:26 left in the first quarter, and Johnson had already completed eight of 10 for 104 yards.
USC cornerback John Herpin was flagged for his second pass-interference penalty of the half on Washington State's next series, but Jason Sehorn negated it with his second interception of the half. It came on an errant pass from Pattinson in the end zone, after Pattinson had taken the Cougars to the Trojans' six on a 70-yard drive.
Early in the second quarter, USC linebacker Joe Barry slammed hard into Pattinson, forcing a fumble that Terry McDaniel recovered at the Cougar 20.
Again, USC survived a sacking of Johnson to score. The loss created a third-and-22 play at the Cougars' 32, but Johnson and Morton gained 14, setting up Salmon's first field goal, a 36-yarder with 9:13 left in the second quarter.
Johnson and Morton later set up USC with a 38-yard pass play to Washington State's 19. Johnson struck quickly, passing to wide receiver Hervey to make the score 24-0.
At that point, Johnson was 13 of 15 for 212 yards and two touchdowns.
Next, Washington State put together its second long drive of the half, but it was slowed at the USC 25 when Trojan linebacker Jeff Kopp broke through and knocked Pattinson down with a hard tackle. Pattinson completed an eight-yard pass to Deron Pointer on the play, but was slow getting up.
The drive bottomed out at the USC 13, where a field-goal attempt failed.
Late in the half, Johnson and Morton teamed for a 45-yard pass play that set up the Trojans at Washington State's 31. But after Johnson missed Morton in the end zone, Salmon kicked his second collegiate field goal, with 28 seconds left in the half.