Nov. 13, 1999
WSU 28, USC 31
(November 13, 1999, Pullman, Wash.): Southern California did just enough defensively to ward off the Cougars and win 31-28 in front of 23,065 on a 74 degree day at Martin Stadium. The Trojans snapped a five-game losing streak and improved to 4-6 overall, 2-5 against Pac-10 opponents. WSU dropped to 2-8, 1-6 in conference play. On their first possession the Trojans marched from the WSU 42-yard-line to the end zone. Chad Morton rushed for 20 yards on the seven play drive including the seven-yard score to go up 7-0 at 10:29 in the first quarter. On the ensuing possession, quarterback Steve Birnbaum completed two passes for 23 yards and Deon Burnett rushed three times for 40 yards and a touchdown. With just over eight minutes left in the first quarter USC started its drive from the Trojan 20-yard-line. John Fox passed for 61 yards to lead the offense into Cougar territory before Morton took over. On his third consecutive rush inside the WSU 5-yard-line, Morton plowed his way into the end zone for his second touchdown of the game and a 14-7 Trojan lead. In the second quarter, on its third possession of the game, USC looked for its third score. Boosted by strong field position at the their own 41-yard-line, the Trojans needed only 42 yards before David Newbury split the uprights with a 34-yard field goal at 12:58. A trio of scoreless USC possessions, the last of which was a three-and-out inside the Trojan 10-yard-line, gave the Cougars' a chance to narrow the gap with field position at the USC 48-yard-line. After a quick first down, receiver Collin Henderson surprised the Trojans with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Williams that made it 17-14 at halftime. Opening up the second half from their own eight-yard-line, USC mounted a 10-play, 92-yard drive that made it 24-14 at 11:05 in the third quarter. On the drive, Morton carried the ball seven times for 35 yards and his third touchdown. WSU's next attempt to respond ended in disaster. Pinned back at the WSU 5-yard-line, Birnbaum avoided a safety by lobbing an errant pass that Kris Richard intercepted and ran in for a Trojan touchdown. The Cougars were down 31-14 and looking for their second third-quarter score in seven conference games. Responding to recent disaster Birnbaum led WSU to the end zone by completing five passes for 44 yards, the last a five-yard touchdown pass to Nian Taylor with 7:36 left in the third. Down 10 points, WSU began a crucial drive at midfield with 4:33 left in the third quarter. On third down, needing nine yards, Birnbaum fired complete to Williams for a 43-yard gain to the Trojan 6-yard-line. Three snaps later, by benefit of a pass interference call, the Cougars had first down at the Trojan 2-yard-line. Four snaps later, WSU was inside the 1-yard-line but not in the end zone. With 2:14 to play WSU added another touchdown to make it 31-28, burning two timeouts in the process. The Cougars had one last shot at it -- no timeouts remaining -- with 13 seconds left and the ball at the WSU 20-yard-line. One completion and a pass interference penalty gave WSU a final snap at its 49-yard-line with zero seconds left, but Birnbuam's pass to Williams was short of the end zone and incomplete.
NOTES & QUOTES:
TALE OF THE TAPE:"Was he in?" That's what everyone was asking after Jeremy Thielbahr's fourth-down run from the 1-yard-line was ruled shy of the end zone. USC linebacker Zeke Moreno, in on the tackle, said the Trojans' defensive stand was legitimate. "We hit helmet-to-helmet," Moreno said. "After he stopped, he tried to reach the ball over, but the play was already dead." In or not, WSU squandered an opportunity to score - getting zero points despite seven snaps from the USC 6-yard-line or closer. "We should have gotten in," WSU coach Mike Price said. "We shouldn't have left it up to the officials. It should have been in there easily. We're better than that. We are very disappointed about that."
WHAT A RUSH!: The Trojans pounded the Cougars on the ground, netting 201 yards for the game. Chad Morton picked up 117 yards to go along with three touchdowns. Both teams agreed, it was a deciding factor. "Their running the ball as well as they did was not a surprise to us," Coach Price said. "I was hoping they wouldn't try to run the ball. I thought we played against the run pretty good." Said USC quarterback John Fox of the Trojan running game, "I think it just makes a statement. That's what we wanted to come in doing, we set out minds to it and we got it done."
CLOSE CALLS: The Trojans handed off to the Cougars something USC had seen to much of - close losses. "We certainly played well enough to win," Coach Price said. "We are capable of beating that football team. It's really no different than what I thought August 1. I thought we were capable of beating everybody on our schedule and we haven't done it." Coach Hackett understands the feeling - finally a winner after five straight losses. "We knew we're fully capable," Hackett said. "We've never not played hard. We've never not played close. And today it came together...I tell you this needs to start it. We shouldn't lose again. We shouldn't lose no more games, ever. Ever."
HOME TEAM ADVANTAGE?: For the second straight home game WSU's opposing coach - this time USC coach Paul Hackett - noted that his players drew extra motivation from vociferous Cougar fans. The players were more reluctant to agree. "You come up here and that's what you expect from the Washington State fans," quarterback John Fox said. "Their fans love their team and that's great. And they don't love us and that's fine...I really don't care what they say."
WELCOME TO SUNNY PULLMAN: While there are those who would talk about the much maligned weather patterns on the Palouse, 1999 marked the third time in the last four seasons that Cougar fans sat through an entire home schedule without so much as one drop of rain or one flake of snow...1999s dry six-game slate repeated the comfortable weather pattern of 1998 (six games) and 1996 (five games)...in fact, half of WSU's football seasons this decade have been bone dry, including the 1991 and 1993 seasons...the trend of the last decade reversed the pattern of the 1980s when there were just two dry seasons -- 1984 and 1987...WSU began recording weather conditions at its home games in 1982.
SUNSCREEN AND T-SHIRTS IN NOVEMBER?: The official game-time temperature for Saturday's WSU-USC game was a remarkable 74 degrees...how remarkable is that? By way of comparison, Saturday's official high temperature at the Los Angeles International Airport was 71 degrees...prior to today, WSU had never had a November home game-time temperature of 60 degrees (let alone 70) since WSU began recording temperature records at football games in 1982...the previous high was 59 degrees on Nov. 10, 1990, versus Arizona State...though there are no records to verify it, it is thought that Saturday's temperature of 74 degrees (also a record for the city of Pullman on this date) is an all-time record for a WSU home football game in the month of November.
Deon Burnett -
With 96 net yards rushing, Deon Burnett needs only 212 yards to break the Pac-10 freshman rushing record of 1,069 yards held by Stanford's Darrin Nelson in 1977.
With his 22-yard touchdown run, Burnett now has 12 rushing touchdowns in 1999, moving into a tie for second place for rushing touchdowns in a year (Shaumbe Wright-Fair, 1992, Steve Broussard, 1989). Burnett is now tied for fourth in overall touchdowns in a season, trailing Broussard's '89 effort of 17 (w/ four TD receptions).
For the season Burnett has four 100-yard games to his credit, in addition to three games over 90 yards. For the season the freshman back has 857 yards.
Marcus Williams --
With the 24-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Williams from Wide Receiver Collin Henderson, the Cougars have now had four players throw for a touchdown pass this season (Birnbaum, Mencke, Gesser, Henderson)
WSU wide receiver Marcus Williams (Jr.) had his best day in a Cougar uniform, making seven catches for 121 yards and one touchdown (24 yards). His 100+-yard game marked only the third time the Cougars have had a receiver go over 100 yards receiving in a game (Leaford Hackett: 103 vs. Stanford, Nian Taylor: 101 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette).
Cougar Offense --
When Deon Burnett scored a touchdown in the first quarter, it was the fifth game in which the Cougs have scored a first quarter touchdown this season.
The last time WSU scored two touchdowns in the first half was against ASU (10/23)
The 28 points was the second best offensive scoring output of the season for WSU, second only to 44 points against Louisiana-Lafayette.
When Nian Taylor caught a third quarter touchdown, it broke a string of five consecutive Pac-10 games in which the Cougs went scoreless in the third quarter. WSU has still been outscored 69-14 in the third quarter by Pac-10 opponents. The third quarter score was the first in the last four games overall.
Steve Birnbaum threw for two touchdowns and 284 yards, marking the fourth time he has thrown for 2 TD's in a game and the fifth time in his career.
Nian Taylor made two 5-yard TD receptions, marking the first time a WSU wide receiver has caught two touchdown passes in a game this season. Taylor now has three touchdown receptions this season and 18 in his career.
Cougar Defense -
With Morton's multi-TD game, WSU has only two games (Stanford and Louisiana-Lafayette) in which they have not allowed an athlete to score two or more touchdowns in a game. (Utah: Anderson 2, Oregon: Latimer 2, Droughns 2, OSU: Simonton 2, ASU: Redmond 3, Arizona: Candidate 3, Idaho: Martin 2)
USC Offense --
When USC quarterback John Fox scampered for a 37-yard run in the third quarter, it was the longest run from scrimmage this year for the Trojans.
When Kris Richard returned an interception in the third quarter for a touchdown, it was the second time this season he accomplished that feat.
With Chad Morton's 117 net yards rushing in the game, he became the 6th running back to run for over a 100 yards vs. the Cougs this season. That marks the most 100-yard rushers vs. the Cougars defense in a season since 1993.
Morton's 3 TD's ties a career high (9/25, Oregon). His 117 yards rushing marks the third time he has gone over the century mark this year, and the 11th time in his career.
USC now leads the all-time series 50-6-4 which dates back to 1921. In addition the Trojans have won 27 of the last 29 meetings and (33 of the last 36). USC has won six consecutive games in Pullman.
With the win the Trojans snapped a five-game losing streak, and ended a chance of tying the school record of six straight loses (1991).
An amazing fact about USC's 4-6 overall record is that all six of its losses have been by 10 points or less, and three of their four wins have been by less than 10 points.