The pride of Liberty High split the uprights late in the fourth quarter to tie the game and then connected from 35 yards out in overtime to give the Cougars a wild and dramatic 30-27 win over USC.
That's the type of clutch production that wins championships. It's the type of effort crimson faithful haven't truly seen since 1997. And it was all the more remarkable because the Cougars shot themselves in the foot time and again on this day, against a formidable defense, yet didn't flinch, always turning the proverbial lemons into ultimate lemonade.
And boy, did the faithful appreciate the effort Saturday under a sunny sky that gave way to a glorious fall evening. The 40,000 strong in Martin Stadium were deafening loud, almost from start to finish. But especially after the came was won in overtime -- a win made possible by Dunning's kick, but also by a glorious defensive effort, led by tackle Rien Long, that pushed the Trojans way back and forced them into an ill-fated 52-yard field goal try after they got the ball first in the OT period.
Alas, with two whips of his leg -- three, counting his 48-yarder in the first half --- Dunning chased decades of demons from Trojan games past out of Pullman.
In the process, the Cougars --- now 5-1 on the season --- cleared a mighty hurdle, the nation's top-ranked defense, en route to their goal of a Pac-10 title. But perhaps above all, they vanquished a mountain of historical woe.
The victory, WSU's third against USC in the last five match ups, was Mike Price's first-ever against the Trojans in Pullman.
Jason Gesser, labeled by some as too often leaving his best game home when the pressure is really on, had ice water in his veins when he went deep to Sammy Moore as the clock wound down. Moore's great catch set up Dunning's game-tieing field goal, also a 35 yarder, with less than two minutes on the clock.
And yes, the Cougars ended a pesky little habit --- dating to 1995 --- of losing to top 25 teams when they too are ranked. USC came into the game at No. 18, the Cougars at No. 17.
Heck, even old Cougar coach Jim Sweeney, who never was able to knock off the Trojans in his tenure in Pullman, was on hand to witness something he'd never seen in his Hall of Fame career.
Indeed, fate was on the Cougars' side.
While horrific visions of Todd Marinovich's fabled drive that beat the Cougars at the buzzer here in 1989 were no doubt dancing in the heads of many a fan when Carson Palmer went deep to put the Trojans up 27-24 late in the fourth, the 2002 Cougars would have nothing to do with it.
They rallied 'round the crimson flag, just as they had all day long. From all corners of the team, be it a freshman tight end (Troy Bienemann), a JC transfer running back (Jermaine Green), a tenacious defensive front (Williams, Long, Shavies, Brown and Acholonu), a 5-8 cornerback (Jason David) or gritty offensive line led by Derrick Roche and Tyler Hunt, the Cougars put together a team effort for four quarters -- a team effort that has given WSU just its eighth win over USC in 63 tries. And thrust the Cougars back into the BCS bowl picture.
On to Stanford!
Price is now the only Cougar head man ever to beat USC more than twice in a career --- he came into the game tied at two with legendary Babe Hollingbery. Price's other wins were in Los Angeles in 1997 and 2000.
Marcus Trufant's 12 tackles marked the single-game high for a Cougar this season. Middle linebacker Mawuli Davis, making the third start of his career, had nine tackles for the second straight week.
At 2-0 in conference play, WSU sits alone atop the Pac-10. The Cougs travel to Stanford next week.
11:27 -- USC, Sultan McCullough 6 Yard TD Run (Ryan Killeen kick)
8:37 -- WSU, Drew Dunning 48 yard FG
2:150 -- WSU, Mike Bush 3 yard pass from Jason Gesser ( Dunning kick)
2nd QUARTER - NONE
13:04 USC, Malaefou MacKenzie 15 yard pass from Carson Palmer (Ryan Killeen kick)
12:39 WSU, Jermaine Green 75 yard run (Dunning kick)
10:03 WSU, Devard Darling 2 yard pass from Gesser (Dunning kick)
7:54 USC, Palmer 3 yard run (Killeen kick)
4:10 USC, Mike Williams 55 yard pass from Palmer (kick failed)1:50 WSU, Dunning 35 yard FG
WSU, Dunning 35 yard FG