Individual and unit performances were the talk throughout the lockeroom on Saturday after career-best efforts by Michael Bumpus, kicker Loren Langley and linebacker Greg Trent, plus gritty work by quarterback Alex Brink and the hosses who protected him so well.
Bumpus, who continues to lead the Pac-10 in catches in the wake of his 11-reception, 112-yard showing against the Trojans, echoed what virtually all the coaches and players were saying after the game: Despite the loss, the Cougs played lights out and can use the experience to propel them through the rest of the season.
"Of course we're down because we lost," said Bumpus, who fell one ball short of trying the school record for most catches in one game (Doug Flansburg, 1966, holds the record). "But it's something great to build on. Now we feel we can use this momentum, and get our confidence up."
Confidence was a word used liberally on Saturday by those in and around the Cougar side, including head coach Bill Doba, offensive line coach George Yarno, and defensive Coordinator Robb Akey.
Yarno, who, in addition to praising the play of his reshuffled O-line, said that despite losing, the Cougs will undoubtedly improve because of their spirited performance. "We'll be better because of this," Yarno said. "Our kids know we can compete with anybody. We never gave up, we just came up short."
Said Akey: "I saw a lot of guys play with confidence. Once we got settled into the game, we started doing some things pretty well. On one hand," he continued, "you can look at it like we can play with the top teams in the country -- now we've got to get that little extra bit done so we can finish and win."
Offering the same perspective was Doba. "(The players) proved they can play with anybody I think, but we didn't win, and that's still the key."
"I'm proud of everybody on our team," said All-America candidate Mkristo Bruce. "No one believed that we were going to do anything against these guys but our team. We came out there but couldn't quite pull it off at the end. Everybody on the team had great effort and played as hard as they can so I'm proud of everybody."
WHEN DISCUSSING confidence and the Cougars, the talk of late often has surrounded Langley, who, despite hitting the game-winning field goal against Baylor earlier this year, has struggled mightily since the latter portion of 2005.
That talk looked to be old news Saturday, as the junior nailed 3-of-3 field goal attempts, splitting the uprights from 35 yards twice, and once from 20 yards out.
"Everybody keeps talking about my confidence," Langley said with a seemingly half-frustrated laugh, before continuing with how the game will affect the team as a whole. "They didn't blow us out of the water -- we can compete with anybody.
"I mean things go here and there, like that kickoff (a reference to a Cougar kickoff early in the fourth quarter that was fumbled by USC and looked to be recovered by the Cougs, but nonetheless was handed to the Trojans with no review) that I personally, and a lot of people thought that we recovered, I mean that goes our way, it's a whole different game," Langley added
As for the play of the offense, Brink at times looked automatic, particularly with the short passing game, against a truly impressive USC defense. He connected with five receivers on 26-of-46 pass attempts for 287 yards. He tossed two touchdowns and one Hail Mary interception at game's end.
On the other side of the ball, the D came up with the three sacks, one by senior defensive end Mkristo Bruce, who leads the nation in sacks, and two more by junior fellow end Lance Broadus. The defense also grabbed an interception, as senior cornerback Tyron Brackenridge pulled down a John David Booty pass late in the first half.
Sophomore middle linebacker Greg Trent, who was schooled by the Trojans a year ago when he was thrust into the starting lineup in place of injured Will Derting, was all over the field on Saturday. He posted a team-high –- and personal one-game career best –- 14 total tackles.
USC receiver Steve Smith, who riddled the Cougars for 11 catches, 186 yards and two TDs, was named Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week.
The Cougars game this week at Oregon State will be televised live on Fox Sports Northwest. Kickoff is at 4 pm.
Jason Hill's four-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter extended his school-record to 29. He is now tied for second among all NCAA Division I-A active receivers in scoring receptions.
WSU's 80-yard scoring drive with just more than four minutes left in the game did more than narrow the score to 28-22. It meant the Cougars have produced a drive of at least 80 yards in 19 straight games.
USC has won 49 of its last 51 games and a Pac-10 record 25 consecutive conference games.
Confidence boost all around after Saturday
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