Maybe one silver lining in WSU loss to USC

TO THE DEGREE there are silver linings in a 50-16 setback, there was one Saturday in Washington State's loss to USC in sun-drenched Martin Stadium. The Cougar offense showed real signs of life against a bona fide FBS team, with the first series of the game serving as Exhibit A.

The Cougars went up 7-0 after putting together a 9-play, 80-yard drive. Take a picture of the scoreboard, WSU leads USC for the first time in, what, a decade? But what was really notable was the way it was done: the old-fashioned way.

The Cougars, going exclusively with the no-huddle and showing shades of the Pistol offense, mostly dinked and dunked their way down the field, effectively using the short passing game like a running attack. In between, they tossed in an option, a run by James Montgomery and a just-missed deep ball to Marquess Wilson to keep people honest. And of course there was the gadget play that capped it off and put the Cougs on the scoreboard first.

That was another Cougar first down!

When was the last time you heard that phrase with any regularity?

This was a script straight out of the Jim Walden handbook of the 1980s.

Was that Jeff Tuel behind center or Mark Rypien? Did Kitrick Taylor slip into uniform when no one was looking?

The Cougars, now 1-3 on the season, racked up 230 first-half yards of offense. Against the ow 4-0 USC Trojans. Granted, this maybe isn't THE USC, but it's still a solid football team. And yes, 13 first-half points by WSU isn't going to break any records, but remember that the Cougs were among the worst offenses in all of FBS last season.

Tuel completed seven of his first 11 passes and stood strong in the pocket. His day was far from sterling, however. He threw three interceptions. He finished hitting 24 of 37 passes for 222 yards and one TD. He was sacked three times.

At day's end, though, the story was USC's offense and a sleep-walking WSU defense that easily looked as bad as it did last season when setting new lows for ineptitude. Indeed, it took the USC offense just three snaps to score its first two TDs. The Trojans averaged 8.9 yards every time they lined up and wound up collecting 613 total yards of offense. They never punted.

If records were kept for arm tackles, the WSU D may have shattered the mark for misses.

"We're better than that," WSU head coach Paul Wulff said of his defense. "... we didn't tackle well and there's no excuse for that."

The halftime score was 28-13, but for the second straight week the third quarter proved deadly for the Cougs. USC took the opening posssession 90-plus yards in four plays for a TD and then added another 90-plus-yard drive at the 4-minute mark of the third for another TD.

WSU PLAYER OF THE GAME: Receiver Jared Karstetter caught 8 passes for 87 yards and 2 TDs. Two of his mates on the flanks had good days as well. Marquess Wison had 7 catches for 59 yards and Jeffrey Solomon grabbed 4 passes for 42. Solomon, who was a QB in high school, also fired the 29-yard flea flicker pass to Karstetter in the first quarter for the 7-0 WSU lead.

MISLEADING STAT OF THE GAME: As of the 10-minute mark in the second quarter, WSU held a time-of-possession advantage of 15:51 to 3:31. The Cougar O contributed nicely to that total but the biggest factor was the Cougar D's inability to stop USC's quick-strike offense.

TACKLING LEADERS: Freshman safety Deone Bucannon led the Cougars with eight total tackles. He also intercepted a Matt Barkley pass at the goal-line. It was Bucannon's first collegiate INT. Tyree Toomer had seven tackles. Linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis posted three tackles – one for loss – and grabbed an INT.

NEXT UP: The Cougars travel to Los Angeles next weekend to take on UCLA. The Bruins upset No. 7 Texas, in Austin, 34-12 today.

CF.C will be back later with more coverage.

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