Ouch! Trojans throw Cougs back to early 1970s

PULLMAN – Maybe it was one too many Michelobs at the tailgater before the game. You see, for a second there it looked all the world like that was <b>Jim Sweeney</b> standing where <b>Bill Doba</b> had been just a moment earlier. And over on the other sideline, was that really the ghost of <b>John McKay</b> pushing <b>Pete Carroll</b> out of the way?

Saturday's matchup between No. 1 USC and struggling, but spirited, Washington State was a true throwback.

Back before the two Rose Bowls and the regular 10-win seasons. Before Mike Price and Jim Walden. Way back when the conference was called the Pac-8, there used to be an annual turkey shoot. It was called USC vs. WSU.

The names and faces changed over the years, but the outcome was usually the same: A wipeout win for Troy. The run of carnage began, 49-0, in 1967 and really didn't end for all practical purposes until the series got regularly competitive starting with the 1984 game. Some of the gems along the way were 70-33 in 1970, 44-3 in 1972 (thank God for Joe Danelo!) and 54-7 in '74.

And so it was Saturday. In fact, the Trojans achieved something even their predecessors didn't: They scored 14 points before WSU had taken one offensive snap.

Was that Alex Brink under center or Charlie Peck? Was that Anthony Davis dodging and dashing for six or Reggie Bush?

Was this Martin Stadium or Joe Albi? Was Lynn Swann broadcasting from the sidelines or working his magic across the middle?

Until those two quick Cougar TDs in the third quarter against USC's second teamers, about all you could say positive about WSU was the one-minute span late in the first quarter, USC leading 21-0, when Hamza Abdullah gave the packed house of crimson faithful two things to cheer about. He absorbed a personal foul that cost USC 15 yards and then caused a Reggie Bush fumble on the next play that Odell Howard recovered near midfield.

By halftime, though, it was 35-0.

The only question that remained was weather WSU's record for scoring – the Cougs haven't been shut out since traveling to Columbus in 1984 – would be snapped. That one was settled when Michael Bumpus – a one-time Trojan verbal commitment – caught a 24-yard pass across the middle from Brink and took it to the house.

On the ensuing Trojan possession, LB Pat Bennett picked off a tipped pass and returned it 28 yards for six -- the second INT TD of his career. But any Cougar momentum quickly faded into the Palouse night and the teams played to a stalemate from that point on.

Final score: USC 42. WSU 12.

While the margin of difference was only three points more than last year's affair -- won by USC 43-16 -- the way the game was lost was a world apart. A year ago, the senior-dominated Cougars had opportunities but were undone by a series of bad bounces and questionable calls.

Today there was none of that. This was plain old domination. The Cougars had minus-9 yards rushing and were outgained 421-156 in total yards. USC controlled the ball -- brace yourself -- 17 more minutes than the Cougars did.

It gets worse. The Cougars put the ball on the ground seven times and tossed an interception.

About the only place on the stat box where there was any parity was in penalties -- eight each.

Doba was his usual stand-self afterward. "We played a team that was quite honestly better than we were. Our kids battled in the second half. We have some good, young kids that did some good things. Alex Brink hung in there and battled pretty well, but early it was tough." Nuff said.

We'll have more coverage later tonight on CF.C


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