No. 5 USC upset by No. 16 Washington State 30-27
It wasn’t the best night of Sam Darnold’s college career. But, sometimes in Pullman, Wash., that’s just the way it goes.
No. 5 USC (4-1, 2-1 in Pac-12 play) fell to No. 16 Washington State (5-0, 2-0) for the first time since 2002 after Darnold fumbled the ball away on the Trojans’ final drive of the night.
Darnold finished 15-of-29 passing for 164 yards and had a pass intercepted. Ronald Jones II led all rushers with 128 yards in 14 carries with one touchdown.
Tyler Vaughns was USC’s top receiver with six catches for 89 yards.
Washington State takes lead over USC 30-27 in final two minutes
Jamal Morrow is not an easy man to bring down. The Washington State running back broke a sure tackle on first down to pick up 11 yards to start the Cougar drive. Morrow got the ball again on third and four and took off for a 35-yard gain to put his team inside of USC territory as the clock ran down under three minutes.
The Cougars ran the ball two more times, once on purpose the other a Luke Falk carry for seven yards, to run the clock down under two minutes and burn two of USC’s timeouts.
James Williams was stopped at the line of scrimmage for no gain on third and two on the USC 15 before USC used its last timeout. Rasheem Green was then helped off the field before Erik Powell made a 32-yard field goal to give Washington State a 30-27 lead with 1:40 left in the fourth quarter.
USC’s Sam Darnold will get one more chance.
Washington State 30, USC 27
Sam Darnold gives the Trojans a chance with a game-tying touchdown run
If USC is going to win this game it’s going to be because of Sam Darnold.
Darnold opened up the Trojans’ drive with an 11 yard carry on first down. Then a two-yard run on third and one gave his team another set of downs.
A thirteen yard toss to Joseph Lewis IV resulted in yet another first as USC marched into Washington State territory.
But as Darnold looked over at the sideline for the playcall inside of an extremely loud Martin Stadium, freshman tackle Austin Jackson took a slight step backward giving the Trojans on what was a third-and-long (eight) to a third-and-highly-unlikely (13).
Helton had Darnold give the ball to Ronald Jones II again, but he got on third and 13 bringing up fourth down.
This time, Helton kept his offense on the field.
Darnold bounced around the pocket, narrowly avoiding the outstretched arms of the Washington State defenders before tagging Tyler Vaughns with a 15-yard pass to pick up the first down.
On the next play, Darnold again spotted Vaughns, this time for a 26-yard gain to put the Trojans on the two-yardline.
On second and goal, Darnold did the work again, keeping on the ball on a zone read for a two-yard touchdown run.
USC 27, Washington State 27
Washington State takes a lead over USC with a 23-yard touchdown throw by Falk
Jamire Calvin sat with both knees on the grass, and the ball in his hand. He’d just caught a pass for a five-yard gain on first down before USC cornerback Ajene Harris smashed him from behind.
The two players got up and exchanged words before they were separated. Tied in the fourth quarter, both teams were feeling the pressure.
But Washington State quarterback Luke Falk remained cool and calm, converting on a pair of third downs with yardage to spare with passes for Renard Bell for 15 yards on third and six, and nine yards to James Williams on third and five.
But as Falk was asked to convert another third down with his arm, his throw to Davontavean Martin on the in the middle of the field he couldn’t connect. The coverage from Isaiah Langley was too good.
No matter, he’d get another shot as Mike Leach keeping his quarterback dealing with an 11 yard gain on an out route to convert on fourth and two. His next throw would go to Jamal Morrow, who went 23 yards for a go-ahead touchdown.
The touchdown throw was Falk’s 105th, giving him a tie for second all-time in the Pac-12 with former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Washington State 27, USC 20
USC settles for a field goal to tie the game at 20 apiece
Targetting or not, USC’s offense is running into problems with the Cougars in Pullman, Wash.
After receiving a generous bounce on another poor punt by Washington State, USC failed to fully capitalize on its opportunities.
Instead of a short touchdown drive, USC receiver Deontay Burnett took a big hit from Washington State defensive back Robert Taylor on first down, which brought out the flags and a video review.
Officials checked the tape and ruled Burnett wasn’t a victim of targeting, resulting in a second and 10.
On the next play, quaterback Sam Darnold stood with the ball out and ready for Ronald Jones II, but the running back was nearly beat to the ball by a Washington State defender resulting in a four-yard loss.
With nothing going on the ensuing play, Darnold took off with the ball for a nine-yard gain which brought out Chase McGrath for a 29-yard field goal to tie the game at 20 apiece as the third quarter came to a close.
USC 20, Washington State 20
USC quarterback Sam Darnold is having a tough time against Washington State
Sam Darnold appears to be... struggling.
Needing to come up with five yards on third down, Darnold took the snap and looked to his left side at Michael Pittman and let it fly. Had Pittman run an out or a corner route the Trojans could have had an easy conversion. But he a ran a post route toward the center of the field. Incompletion. Another three-and-out.
USC’s defense then got the job done. Linebacker Cameron Smith came up with a tackle for a two-yard loss on third and one to give his quarterback another chance with the ball.
A 19-yard punt but Washington State then seemed destined to end up as the game-tying or go-ahead points for USC.
But on the first play, Darnold took a late hit from corner Kirkland Parker on a incomplete pass to Tyler Vaughns.
Ronald Jones II couldn’t get anything going, and ran for a two-yard gain before Darnold overthrew Deontay Burnett, while taking another hit from the Cougar defense, and then bounced around the pocket before ultimately throwing up a prayer of a shovel pass on third down that ended up at the feet of his receiver.
Washingotn State 20, USC 17
Washington State takes lead over USC with a field goal
USC is certainly getting its second-half team prowess tested tonight.
The Trojans opened the third quarter down three offensive lineman, and without another receiver, Jalen Greene, who was spotted without pads on the sideline.
USC’s first drive of the second half came and went with a delayed three-and-out, thanks to an offensive pass interference call on USC receiver Tyler Vaughns, who was clearly grabbed and held for a number of yards by the Washington State corner Darrien Molton.
After punting, USC safety Marvell Tell crushed Luke Falk, but the Cougar quarterback managed to get the ball off to Renard Bell for a 25-yard gain up the middle of the field.
Falk then completed another big throw to Jamire Calvin for a 21-yard gain to get deeper into USC territory. A facemask penalty brought Washington State to the 22.
Inside the redzone, the Cougars failed get the touchdown and settled for a 33-yard field goal from Erik Powell.
Washington State 20, USC 17
Washington State ties it up with a dramatic 94-yard touchdown drive before halftime
Washington State stood just two yards from paydirt. With no timeouts left and 16 ticks left in the first half, the Cougars lined up in a goalline set before sending it’s receivers to the outside before the snap.
As soon as the players got set, Luke Falk called for the hike and immediately handed the ball over to Jamal Morrow for a two-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 17 apiece.
A dramatic capper to a momentum grabbing drive that ate nearly all of the final 4 minutes 45 seconds of the first half.
It all began with USC punter Reid Budrovich sticking Washington State inside its own 10-yardline with a 63-yard rope to the Cougar 6.
Falk ripped off his own first down with a 10-yard dash up the middle early in the drive after failing to find a open receiver.
Then, he found all of them, connecting with Gerard Wicks, Kyle Sweet, James Williams and Jamire Calvin.
Each receiver, explored their range of inside-outside moves on the USC defensive backs for gains of three, 12, 13 and nine yards.
Jamal Morrow picked up a 13 yards with a run up the middle after the Cougars worked near the sidelines on a series of throws.
USC cornerback Jack Jones picked up a pass interference penalty on a throw that sailed over the head of Tavares Martin Jr. which ultimately set up Morrow’s touchdown run.
USC 17, Washington State 17
USC starting to get to Washington State’s Luke Falk
The USC defense is finally getting to eat.
With Washington State looking for a screen, quarterback Luke Falk was left standing alone in the backfield with three Trojans closing in. Ultimately, Christian Rector and Josh Fatu picked up a sack.
Later, linebacker John Houston Jr. picked up a sack of his own on Falk.
But it wasn’t a perfect series for the defense. USC cornerback Iman Marshall picked up a pass interference penalty giving the Cougars a free 15-yard gain.
Meanwhile, Falk has picked up a new Pac-12 record for career completions at 1,188.
All in all, it was an eight-play drive that went all of 22 yards late in the second quarter and was full of hurt and achievement for Falk.
USC 17, Washington State 10
USC interception turns into three easy points
Uchenna Uwosu has some hands. The USC linebacker got his hands up at the line of scrimmage and batted a Luke Falk pass off a Washington State offensive lineman and then caught the ball to give the Trojans possession of the ball on the three-yardline.
But the Cougar defense locked down.
Ronald Jones II didn’t have the same magic, and ran for two yards. Sam Darnold’s first throw to Josh Falo was nearly intercepted. And, when Stephen Carr got his chance, the Cougars swallowed him up at the line of scrimmage for now gain.
The Trojans ended up with a 20-yard field goal from Chase McGrath.
USC 17, Washington State 10
USC suffers more offensive line injuries, but Ronald Jones II still takes off for a TD
It happening again.
USC saw another offensive lineman go down in the second quarter against Washington State. This time, offensive lineman Viane Talamaivao went down with an apparent injury. After he got off the field, the Trojans took a timeout.
On the next play, USC tempted fate, running Ronald Jones II up the middle for a five-yard gain on second and nine. His next carry would go longer.
Jones took a handoff through the right side of the Cougar line for an 86-yard touchdown run to take the lead.
USC 14, Washington State 10
Trojans and Cougars go back-and-forth with no results
About those interceptions.
USC quarterback Sam Darnold eyed Josh Imatorbhebhe on the left side of the field and got a front-row seat to Washington State defensive back Sean Harper Jr.’s first career interception.
The pick gave the Cougars put them in Trojan territory at the 45-yard line. A slightly better starting position than previous drive on their own 11.
Sometimes it feels like Washington State quarterback Luke Falk is getting all day to throw the ball. But it’s not like the Trojans haven’t applied pressure successfully.
He’s been sacked twice and USC has three quarterback hurries. Still, he’s completed nine of his 15 passes for 125 yards into the second quarter. Three of those incompletions were the result of dropped passes on third down.
Washington State pulls off big plays to take 10-7 lead over USC
It all started with a bubble.
Renard Bell slipped inside toward the middle of the field away from cornerback Ajene Harris just before the end of the first quarter and came away with a 61-yard gain to flip the field in Washington State’s favor.
Harris allowed Bell to work himself a good five-yard bubble away from the defender.
Washington State later took the lead on a 28 yard catch-and-run by Tavares Martin Jr. on a little pick play to keep corner Jack Jones from getting to the Washington State receiver while the Trojans loaded the box.
Washington State 10, USC 7
USC having trouble with its offensive tackles: first left now right
The Trojans have had to mix and match at left tackle with Toa Lobendahn out. Clayton Johnston got the start, but on the second series freshman Austin Jackson came in to watch Sam Darnold’s back.
But things got more complicated late in the first quarter when starting right tackle Chuma Edoga suffered an apparent left-leg injury and had to be helped off the field.
Freshman Andrew Vorhees will take over at right tackle now.
USC’s Sam Darnold scores on a four-yard keeper
USC quarterback Sam Darnold got it done with his arm, then his legs on the Trojans’ first drive.
Darnold muscled it out a nine-yard gain for a first down in the red zone before trotting into the end zone for a touchdown to give USC a 7-3 lead over Washington State in the first quarter.
The highly-touted quarterback out of San Clemente opened up the Trojans’ 10-play, 75-yard drive with a 16-yard pass to Tyler Vaughns. He couldn’t connect on his next two throws, giving way to running back Ronald Jones II.
Jones had runs of seven, 20 and one yard before the Darnold carried the ball into the end zone himself.
Washington State settles for a field goal on their first drive
Washington State put together an efficient, rhythm inducing eight-play drive to start the game.
The Cougars, wearing all black uniforms tonight -- presumably for #Pac12AfterDark -- opened with a pair of short passes to get quarterback Luke Falk going.
Jamal Morrow then broke off a 30-yard run through a huge hole in USC’s defensive line. He caught a 14-yard toss on the next play for another first down before things started coming apart of the Cougars.
A pair of incompletions broken up by a Rasheem Green sack eventually set left-footed kicker Erik Powell up for a 44-yard field goal.
Washington State 3, USC 0
It’s all happening: #Pac12AfterDark
Why is USC quarterback Sam Darnold having more passes intercepted this season?
You look at Sam and you see that and you say he’s hit that so many times, the one time he doesn’t, ‘What’s wrong?’
— USC coach Clay Helton
USC’s Sam Darnold uttered some words of regret on Sunday as he and quarterbacks coach Tyson Helton watched what usually should’ve been another addition to Darnold’s highlight reel.
Against California the previous day, Darnold saw pressure at the last minute, ducked out of the way and made a long throw to the corner of the end zone while on the run just before absorbing contact. The ball lofted past the deep safety. Deontay Burnett ran for it. He dived.
And — he missed it. The throw was too far.
In the film room, according to Helton, Darnold said, “Man!” and added that he should’ve had the touchdown.
“You look at Sam and you see that and you say he’s hit that so many times, the one time he doesn’t, ‘What’s wrong?’ ” Helton said a day later after practice. “And with a normal person, I still don’t know if they make that throw.”
Helton smiled and shrugged. “Sometimes you hit ‘em, sometimes you don’t,” he said.
Darnold made accurate throws like that so consistently last season that he is now graded on his own, different curve. By those standards, Darnold has experienced a drop-off in two significant areas in this season’s four games: touchdowns (nine) and interceptions (seven).
How USC and Washington State match up
No. 5 USC (4-0) vs. No. 16 Washington State (4-0)
Friday, 7:30 p.m., Martin Stadium, Pullman, Wash. TV: ESPN; Radio: 710
Quarterback Sam Darnold vs. Washington State’s secondary: Washington State has the nation’s 12th-best passing defense, averaging 142.3 yards a game with five interceptions and three touchdowns. Three of four starting quarterbacks haven’t lasted the full game against the Cougars, two because of injury and one because of performance. But none had close to Darnold’s talent.
USC (492.0 ypg/37.0 ppg): USC is hurting at its skill positions. The Trojans will return starting running back Ronald Jones II from a thigh injury and No. 1 receiver Deontay Burnett is not expected to miss time with a shoulder injury, but Steven Mitchell Jr. is doubtful because of an injured groin. Last week against California, USC’s offense struggled on short yardage: USC converted three of eight opportunities on third and fourth downs of four yards or less. And long yardage too: Darnold completed just one pass longer than 15 yards.
Washington State (504.3 ypg/43.8 ppg): Luke Falk is probably the best quarterback Clancy Pendergast’s defense has seen in his current tenure. Falk has 12,266 yards and 103 touchdowns in his career. This season, he has 14 touchdowns to just one interception and has completed 77% of his passes. He is “about as efficient as there is in the league right now,” USC Coach Clay Helton said. The running game is an afterthought in the “Air Raid” system, averaging just 2.8 yards a carry.
Experts say USC’s Darnold and UCLA’s Rosen are very different quarterbacks, but both have moxie to make it in the NFL
They reside on opposite sides of a storied college rivalry, with vastly different personalities and different ways of getting their jobs done.
But quarterbacks Sam Darnold of USC and Josh Rosen of UCLA could wind up in same place next spring — at or near the top of the NFL draft.
Just how much a dazzling new quarterback can mean to a franchise is on display this weekend as this city’s two NFL teams enter Week 4. The Rams are at Dallas, and the Chargers play host to Philadelphia. Three of the four starting quarterbacks in those games were products of the 2016 draft: Jared Goff of the Rams, Carson Wentz of the Eagles, and Dak Prescott of the Cowboys. Each has provided his team with varying degrees of hope.
Meanwhile, Rosen, a junior, and Darnold, a redshirt sophomore, could be on the verge of history. Only once in the past 50 years have quarterbacks from both schools been selected in the same draft — in 1989, UCLA’s Troy Aikman was taken No. 1 overall by Dallas, and USC’s Rodney Peete went in the sixth round to Detroit.
Should they decide to leave school early, Darnold and Rosen would be in the conversation as the top pick in the draft.
To get a better feel for how these quarterbacks might do in taking the step to the NFL, four professional observers who have a keen grasp of the topic gave their views.
USC will be without starting left tackle Toa Lobendahn
There’s a bit more than an hour to kickoff in Pullman, Wash., and the student section is starting to fill up. Martin Stadium is a cozy little bandbox and sold out all of its 35,117 seats, which is just slightly more than the population of Pullman. It has a reputation for rowdiness, particularly at night.
There’s a significant piece of news for USC today: Left tackle Toa Lobendahn did not make the trip. A USC spokesman said he has a lower-body skin infection.
Clayton Johnston is his likely replacement. Johnston split time with Lobendahn for much of training camp.