WSU-USC Notes: Flor takes blame for Halliday
Halliday’s college career appeared to be finished after he suffered an apparent broken right leg when the 300-pound Williams blasted his way past Flor and banged into WSU’s star senior quarterback in the first quarter. “I felt awful about that,” Flor said. “I had a hand in that. That’s all on me.” Flor found little consolation in the fact that Williams is being eyed as a possible No. 1 overall draft pick in the NFL next year. “They did a twist on the D (defensive) line, and I just didn’t twist off fast enough,” Flor said. “I got beat.” Williams said he heard a haunting pop when Halliday hit the ground. Presuming his career is over, Halliday finishes third in Pac-12 history with 90 touchdown passes and fourth in passing yards with 11,304. Both marks are WSU records. He remains the nation's 2014 passing leader and likely will stay there for another week, or even two.
Three statistical measures from the game offered no clue to the lopsided nature of USC's victory. The Cougars had more first downs (23 to 21), led in time of possession (36:30 to 23:30), and won the third-down-conversion battle (7 of 20 to USC's paltry 2 of 11).
The game was played in chilly rain, fog and wind. Former WSU quarterback Jason Gesser, now part of the Cougars’ radio broadcast crew, said prior to the game the weather would provide the home team with a “huge” advantage over the visitors from sunny Southern California. The CouGreat underestimated the Trojans’ resolve. USC led 24-0 before Luke Falk, Halliday’s replacement, completed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Robert Lewis with 1 minute, 33 seconds left in the second quarter.
The Trojans, who started three freshmen on the offensive line – only one of whom has redshirted – led 14-0 after one quarter. USC has outscored rivals 108-20 in first quarters. The Cougars have been outscored 90-41 in the opening period. The 44-17 victory made USC (6-3, 5-2 Pac-12) bowl eligible and eliminated WSU (2-7, 1-5) from bowl consideration.
Walk-on wide receiver Tyler Baker, a junior who redshirted as a freshman at Mississippi, made his first start and had team highs of nine catches (tied with Vince Mayle) for 89 yards. Baker came into the game with five catches for 65 yards all year. Baker filled in for River Cracraft, who was injured last week against Arizona. “He was great all week helping me out,” Baker said, “and he was great on the sidelines today.”
Another redshirt junior, former California junior college star Jacob Seydel, also made his first start for WSU. Seydel took over at offensive right tackle for Cole Madison, who did not play.
Redshirt senior Theron West made his first start of the season, starting at running back with Jamal Morrow. Injured Gerard West sat out. West, a California juco product whose only previous start at WSU came in the New Mexico Bowl last year, had career highs of nine carries for 91 yards and seven receptions for 91 yards. “It was pretty awesome to get back in the groove,” West said. “Pretty fun just laying it on the line for the guy next to you.”
Destiny Vaeao returned to defensive end after starting at nose tackle last week for Toni Pole, who started alongside Vaeao on Saturday.
Mayle, another former California JC player, became the 11th Cougar to top 1,000 receiving yards in a season. However, Mayle was one of several Cougars who dropped passes. “They hit guys right in the chest, hands, guts,” Leach said. “If they were bullets, they would have killed them.”
Mayle, one of the nation’s leading receivers, was wide open when he dropped a Luke Falk pass in the end zone in the fourth quarter. Mayle did boost his season receptions total to 80, second in school history. Marquess Wilson set the record of 82 in 2011.
Washington State’s 9-59-4 record against USC is far and away the worst mark the Cougars hold against a conference rival. One of those USC wins was later vacated due to rules violations. Only in 2000 and 2002 have the Cougars posted back-to-back wins over the Trojans. The teams first met in 1921. WSU won 10-7 in Los Angeles last year.
WSU has lost nine of the past 10 games against USC. The Cougars have lost five straight to USC in Pullman, getting outscored by an average margin of 46.6-13.4. The low point was a 69-0 loss in 2008, when current Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was coaching the Trojans and went out of his way to hold the score down.
A fourth-straight loss extended WSU’s school record of consecutive losing seasons to eight. The 2006 Cougars finished 6-6 in 2006 following two straight losing seasons. The 2003 Cougars (10-3, 6-2) were the last WSU football team to post a winning overall or conference record.
The Cougars play at Oregon State next Saturday (1 p.m., Pac-12 Networks), then have a bye before finishing the season with games at Arizona State on Nov. 22 and at home against Washington on Nov. 29. The TV networks have yet to determine times for those games. Limited tickets remain available for the Washington game.
The season-low crowd of 25,012, which thinned out considerably at the half, marked WSU’s first crowd of less than 30,000 this season. Capacity at Martin Stadium is 32,952.
WSU senior wide receiver Isiah Myers caught his 10th touchdown pass of the year and the 17th of his career. Those marks are tied for seventh and eighth, respectively, in school history.
Former WSU player Jed Collins raised the Cougars flag prior to the game. Collins, a fullback with the Detroit Lions, took advantage of a bye week to return to his alma mater. Ex-Washington State and NFL quarterback standout Drew Bledsoe also attended the game.
Several USC players, including quarterback Cody Kessler and middle linebacker Hayes Pullard, looked on silently with obvious concern when Halliday was injured. Kessler and Pullard briefly spoke to Halliday before he was carted off the field.
One week after WSU’s young secondary was burned for five touchdown passes by Arizona redshirt freshman Anu Solomon, true freshman wideout Juju Smith caught three TD passes for USC. Kessler, a junior, completed 21 of 32 passes for career highs of 400 yards and five touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Nelson Agholor caught eight passes for a career-high 220 yards and one touchdown. He also set a school record with his fourth career punt return for a touchdown. WSU has given up TD’s on three punt returns and three kickoff returns in the past five games.
USC coach Steve Sarkisian improved to 5-1 against Washington State. He coached Washington the previous five years.
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