Young Kwak/Associated Press
The No. 16 Washington State Cougars upset the fifth-ranked USC Trojans, 30-27, Friday evening at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Washington, behind a clutch strip-sack from Jahad Woods with 1:27 remaining in regulation.
The Trojans tied things at 27 with 5:01 left in the fourth quarter when quarterback Sam Darnold plunged into the end zone from two yards out for his second rushing score of the game. However, Washington State signal-caller Luke Falk marched the Cougars right back down the field to set up a go-ahead field goal conversion by Erik Powell with 1:40 to go.
Ultimately, it was fitting that the Cougars were able to chase Darnold down when it mattered most.
Not only were the Trojans without starting left tackle Toa Lobendahn (staph infection), but right guard Viane Talamaivao (pectoral) and right tackle Chuma Edoga (ankle) were forced to leave the Pac-12 showdown with injuries.
USC was left to operate with a patchwork unit that featured two true freshmen as Darnold’s protection, and the Cougars capitalized with the result hanging in the balance.
While the Cougars’ task was made easier, they did an admirable job defending downfield against one of the nation’s premier quarterbacks.
Darnold completed 15 of 29 passes for a season-low 164 yards and one interception. It was also the second game this year in which the redshirt sophomore failed to throw a touchdown pass. The first came in a come-from-behind Week 1 win over the Western Michigan Broncos.
“They played hard,” Darnold said of the Cougars, according to the Los Angeles Times‘ Helene Elliott. “We knew what they were going to do, and it’s just a matter of executing at that point and they out-executed us, and I think that was the story of the game.”
On the other side, Falk looked like a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate against a Trojans team that entered the 2017 season firmly in the College Football Playoff conversation.
In the upset, Falk went 34-of-51 for 340 yards, two scores and one interception.
Falk, who has eclipsed 300 yards passing in four of five games this season, has now thrown for 1,718 yards, 16 touchdowns and a pair of interceptions during the Cougars’ 5-0 start.
The senior will look to keep things rolling Oct. 7, when the Cougars trek to Autzen Stadium for a meeting with the Oregon Ducks.
The Trojans, meanwhile, will attempt to bounce back at home against Oregon State on Oct. 7.