No hope against Trojan machine

THE SIGNS FOR an upset were all there. Orenthal James Simpson was arrested on felony charges… the jinx factor of Southern Cal being on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated… the first September rain on a Trojan home game ever...my daughter Lauren's crimson clad flag football team crushing their opponent—portentously dressed in gold—36-0 this morning.

Indeed, for the better part of one quarter it appeared the Washington State Cougars could hang with USC, answering the Trojans' opening 13 play, 83 yard scoring drive with a 15 play, 84 yard touchdown march of their own.

Sure, Southern Cal quarterback John David Booty looked quite Palmeresque (or is it Leinartesque) in that first possession, hitting on 10 of his 11 pass attempts while effortlessly leading Troy to pay dirt. But Cougar signal-caller Alex Brink looked pretty darn sharp himself. The senior pulled WSU out of a daunting third and 18 with a picture-perfect 44-yard strike to receiver Brandon Gibson. Later, he kept the drive alive with smart run for a Cougar first down in Trojan territory. With 11 minutes elapsed in the opening quarter, a 3-yard pass to tight end Jed Collins evened the score at 7 and gave Crimson faithful hope.

Hope can be a dangerous thing. Final score: USC 47 WSU 14.

I had hoped for a repeat of the 1986 contest between these two teams, when WSU—on their way to a three win season—shocked the heavily favored Trojans 34-14. Instead I painfully revisited the first time I ever saw USC in person—a 54-7 mauling of the Cougars at Spokane's Joe Albi Stadium in 1974.

There were a few bright spots for the Cougs. Brink's aforementioned first quarter toss to Gibson was one. His 20 yard TD laser pass to Michael Bumpus in the third quarter was another. Charles Dillon's 48 yard kick-off return was fun to watch, as was defensive tackle Toby Turpin's rumbling 30 yard interception return that stifled what seemed to be another inevitable Trojan score in the fourth quarter.

And, hey, the Cougs scored four more points on the vaunted SC defense than Idaho did.

Sadly, it appears that the gushing love fest Dan Fouts, Keith Jackson, ESPN and just about everyone else with a mic in their face has for Southern Cal is not without merit.

Heritage Hall is simply spilling over with NFL-caliber talent with no end in sight. Five-hundred and change total offensive yards tonight can attest to that. As did their defense, with their almost inhumane hitting that even gave me snot-bubbles and I was lucky enough to only be watching it on TV.

Something the late, great Cougar tackle Johnny Bley, a member of the 1934 squad that beat Southern Cal—one of only eight WSU teams to do so, told me a few years back seems to ring true today: "I couldn't tell much difference between USC's third team and their first team."

I yearned for a Cougar victory—or at very least, a solid showing—today for the same reasons I always do. But more, I wanted to—if only temporarily—silence the Bill Doba and Brink critics.

Alas, the din will likely roll across the Palouse like thunder.

SCORING SUMMARY

First Quarter
USC: Davis 6 yard pass from Booty (Buehler kick)
WSU: Collins 3 yard pass from Brink (Abdollmohammadi kick)
USC: Havili 1 yard run (Buehler kick)

Second Quarter
USC: Buehler 22 yard FG
USC: Davis 15 yard pass from Booty (Buehler kick)
USC: Buehler 29 yard FG

Third Quarter
USC: Washington 7 yard run (Buehler kick)
WSU: Bumpus 20 yard pass from Brink (Abdollmohammadi kick)
USC: Bradford 4 yard pass from Booty (kick failed)

Fourth Quarter
USC: Hazelton 20 yard pass from Booty (Buehler kick)

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