WSU gears for Mother of All Upsets

THE COUGARS HAVE PULLED off some titanic upsets over the years, but the one they're aiming to stage this Saturday in Pullman against No. 2-ranked USC would be the biggest for one daunting reason: USC comes into the game having won 48 of their last 50 games and 24 straight within the conference. Plus, some insight on why Washington State has hosted 'SC a mere 17 times in the 65 game series.

A win Saturday, in front of what promises to be a packed and vocal audience, would be akin to Notre Dame's basketball upset of seemingly invincible UCLA in 1971.

Moreover, the Cougs haven't shown a hint of being a threat to the Trojans in recent years, dropping the last three contests by a collective score of 140-41.

Cougars vs. Trojans
4 pm

Martin Stadium

National on TBS

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Trojans by 17

USC's offensive line coach is Pat "Golden" Ruel, a Cougar assistant under Jim Walden from 1978-81. The Trojans' D-coordinator is former Idaho head man Nick Holt. Junior kicker Mario Danelo is the son of former WSU and NFL kicking great Joe Danelo. USC has three players from the state of Washington: Freshman safety Taylor Mays (Seattle) sophomore punter Taylor Odegard (Mercer Island) and senior lineman Dominique Wise (Tacoma).

Trojans 20, Arizona 3; WSU 36, Stanford 10.

USC leads 53-8-4. The Trojans have won three straight since the Jason Gesser-led Cougs downed them in overtime in Pullman in 2002.

Oddsmakers have installed the 3-0 Trojans as 17-point favorites over the 3-1 Cougs.

WSU has faced greater point spreads over the years and come out victorious –- at Stanford in 1971 and Nebraska in '77, at home vs. Washington in '82, and at UCLA in '88.

But USC, even without Heisman winners Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart leading the way, is something else entirely.

The Trojans lead the Pac-10 in most defensive categories -– including ground yards given up (just 60.7 per game) -- and rank among the nation's elite in virtually all those same categories. In three games this year -– against Arkansas, Nebraska and Arizona -– they've outscored the opposition 98-27.

The offense isn't prolific the way it was with Leinart, Bush and LenDale White, but it is productive. They're converting 60 percent of their third down plays. Quarterback John David Booty has tossed just one interception in 110 attempts and starting tailback Emanuel Moody is averaging 7 yards per carry.

Perhaps most daunting of all is this little nugget: Over the last three-plus seasons the Trojans have piled up 17 consecutive road wins – 12 of them coming within the conference.

SURPRISINGLY, GIVEN THEIR porous play of 2005, the Cougar D actually has some buzz surrounding it this week. The Cougars feature the nation's premier sackmaster in Mkristo Bruce, and the pass defense, which surrendered 27 touchdown aerials last year has allowed just three in four games this season. In addition, in wins the last two weeks over Baylor and Stanford, the Cougars yielded a combined 18 yards in rushing.

The Cougar-Trojan game will perhaps feature two of the top receivers in the nation in WSU's Jason Hill and USC's Dwayne Jarrett, who sprained a shoulder against Arizona on Saturday and is listed as doubtful this weekend, although he reportedly said he is going to try to play. With a TD catch in Saturday's win at Stanford, Hill upped his career total to 28 TD receptions, tied for sixth on the Pac-10 career chart. Jarrett, meanwhile, pulled in a TD reception at Arizona that gives him 32 for his career and a share of the Pac-10 career record for most touchdown receptions with former Stanford star Ken Margerum, 1977-80.

IRONICALLY, JARRETT IS indirectly responsible for putting one of WSU's biggest playmakers, junior receiver Michael Bumpus, in crimson. Jarrett, from Brunswick, N.J., was widely considered the top receiving prospect in the nation in 2004. When he gave a late verbal commitment to USC, the Trojans put a stipulation on the scholarship offer Bumpus had accepted from them: Grayshirt and enroll in January.


Washington State has prevailed only eight times in the 65-game history of the WSU-USC rivalry. But get this: Of the first 45 games in the series, the Cougs enjoyed home-field advantage only eight times. Thirty-five of the first 45 were played in Southern Cal and another two were played at a neutral site.

To date, Washington State has hosted USC a total of 17 times, as opposed to Southern Cal's 46.

And, it has only been since 1984 that the Cougars' home turns have been played in Pullman.

Until then -- when they weren't insisting the game be held on their home field -- Southern Cal bullied the PCC, Pac-8 and Pac-10 into forcing WSU to play its home games against the Trojans in Spokane. Apparently, John McKay, John Robinson and others thought their players too delicate to make the 75-minute drive to Palouse country.

Bumpus, himself rated one of the nation's top receiving prospects that year, had verbally committed to the Trojans late in the fall. But talk of a grayshirt didn't suit him at all. Fortunately, Cougar assistant coach Kelly Skipper had kept in touch with Bumpus through the fall and winter. If he had a change of heart, Skipper would tell him, the Cougars would love to have him.

The combination of a great recruiting visit to Pullman in October and the fact Cougar DB Karl Paymah, a friend from Culver City, was playing for the Cougs didn't hurt matters. So on letter of intent signing day 2004, Bumpus caught the recruiting world off guard when he said he was going to be a Cougar rather than a Trojan.

Bumpus leads the Pac-10 in receptions this season, with 24. Two players are tied for second, with 20 -- Jarrett and Cal's DeSean Jackson.

• Safety Eric Frampton, WSU's leading tackler in 2005, and linebacker Scott Davis, the team's leading tackler in 2004, are duking it out for top honors this season. Frampton has 30 total tackles so far and Davis has 27.

• With seven sacks in four games, Mkristo Bruce is just three shy of equally his output for all of last season –- a season in which he climbed into the school's top 10 for most sacks in a single-year. The record is 17, set by DeWayne Patterson in 1993. No. 2 on the list is D.D. Acholonu, who recorded 16.5 in 2003.

• WSU's Oct. 7 game with Oregon State in Corvallis will be televised live on Fox Sports Northwest. Kickoff is set for 4 pm.

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