Los Angeles, CA – USC led by three points with just under two minutes left in the game when Washington State lined up for a 38-yard field goal. Jay Tufele was left unblocked and easily batted down the attempt at a tying field goal by the Cougars.
The block sealed the Trojans 39-36 conference victory over Washington State and gave USC its 18th consecutive home win on Friday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
USC head coach Clay Helton said this was a big Pac-12 win, a much-needed win and it was great to be home in the Coliseum.
“I’ve always thought that adversity defines who you are, and being down two scores defined who they are as men,” Helton said. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of them. It was a great football game between two good football teams. We each took blows at each other and at the end of the day we made one more play.”
The Trojans erased a 13-point deficit in the second half and freshman quarterback J.T. Daniels passed for 241 yards and three touchdowns to lead the come back over the Cougars.
“It comes down to more practice time and getting used to each other more and more,” Daniels said about the chemistry with his receivers. “Knowing where they want me to put the ball and that they’re going to go up and get it every time it’s there.”
With 8:03 left in the fourth quarter, USC running back Vavae Malepeai scored the go-ahead touchdown and Daniels fired a laser to Tyler Vaughns for the two-point conversion. Malepeai rushed for 80 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns.
Malepeai opened the scoring with a three-yard touchdown run and Vaughns caught a 9-yard touchdown to give USC a 14-10 lead in the second quarter. WSU quarterback Gardner Minshew threw two touchdowns to lead the Cougars into halftime with a 24-17 lead.
“They had done a very nice job,” Helton said. “Credit to Coach Leach. I thought they did a tremendous job on third and fourth down tonight. They were running the ball four yards and five yards. Not a ton of shots downfield, just moving the chain.”
WSU opened the third quarter with an 11-play, 75 yard drive, capped by a Max Borghi 13-yard touchdown run which gave the Cougars a 30-17 lead. On the ensuing drive, Michael Pittman took a five-yard pass, stiff armed a defender and raced 50 yards for the score.
USC took a 31-30 lead on freshman wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown’s 30-yard touchdown reception. Daniels put the ball exactly where it needed to be on the fade route. WSU responded with Easop Winston’s 4-yard touchdown reception and a 36-31 lead.
“To be able to get a win at home over a team that’s going to be a good team this year up North, it was critical for us,” Helton said. “For our confidence and our psyche. To be able to fight back and finish a game in the fourth quarter, it can only build confidence.”
The Trojans (2-2, 1-1) will head to Tucson for a road Pac-12 matchup against the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday, Sept. 29.