Washington State earned their biggest win under Mike Leach, going to Los Angeles to beat the USC Trojans 10-7 on Saturday night. It was the Cougars' second Pac-12 win with Leach as the head coach after last year's season-ending overtime win against Washington.
The Trojans took an early lead when Cody Kessler scored a four-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Driving again right before halftime, however, Kessler made an ill-advised throw right to Washington State cornerback Damante Horton. The latter returned it 70 yards for the game-tying touchdown.
The Cougars took the lead late in the fourth on a 41-yard Andrew Furney field goal with about three minutes remaining. USC later attempted to make one last drive with Max Wittek behind center, but the redshirt sophomore was picked off by Horton as well to secure the victory for Washington State.
Jeff Nusser of CougCenter noted Mike Leach's surprisingly conservative playcalling, especially on Washington State's eventual game-winning drive:
The game-winning drive was hardly a thing of beauty, but it was indicative of how WSU won the game by doing just enough to get ahead.
Facing 3rd-and-7 in its own territory, WSU went for the conservative call -- a theme in the second half -- with the tunnel screen to Dom Williams. Thanks to some nifty moves by Williams and bit of poor tackling by USC, it turned into a 49-yard gain, setting up the game-winning, 42-yard field goal by Andrew Furney.
Evan Budrovich at Conquest Chronicles noted the Trojans' conservative attack as well, which pointed to a lack of faith in their offense.
In an atmosphere that felt more and more like a road game with each passing moment of futility, the Trojans inability to move the football and win the turnover ability effectively cost them in the long run. This for an attack that did not throw the football the entire third quarter and has yet to score in that frame since facing Arizona State last season.
The stats will point to the Trojans inability to move the football with any real rhythm as the ultimate cause of their demise. Yet a recognition of score and performance from his outstanding defense, which did not allow points until the final five minutes of the game, points out an interesting method implemented by the dual-QB led offense.
"There was a feeling during the game that our defense was playing very well and WSU was very turnover prone," Kiffin said when asked about the somewhat conservative play calling on offense. "The plan was if we were able to hold up on the defense to make sure we didn't screw up on offense."
USC plays Boston College at home this Saturday. Washington State will host Southern Utah.