Football records sixth win over Cougars

USC defensive players shake hands after a play.
The Trojans’ current 6-0 record bests the 3-3 record football had within last year’s first six games and beats the four wins in the same time. (Jaden Dhaliwal | Daily Trojan)

USC Football rewarded the thousands of families at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum celebrating Trojan Family Weekend with a 30-14 win over the Washington State Cougars. USC continues to keep the playoff hope alive with the victory as they improve to 6-0 on the year. The last time USC accomplished this perfect start was in 2006 when USC went on to win the Rose Bowl. 

“[It was] a really tough, hard-fought win,” said Head Coach Lincoln Riley postgame. 

A stout defense and strong running game proved to be the winning formula for the Trojans. Redshirt senior running back Travis Dye continued his impressive 2022 season with a season-high 151 yards rushing, along with a touchdown. The USC offense relied heavily on Dye throughout the game for offensive production racking up 28 total carries, the most he’s had all season.

“[Dye] is a tough player. He’s shown he is a very reliable player. I just have a lot of trust and faith in what we are going to get from him,” Riley said. 

Junior defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu anchored the defense and earned himself player of the game with a career high three sacks and four tackles for loss. 

“[Tuipulotu] always had a strong work ethic… he really came into the offseason focused,” said senior defensive teammate Ralen Goforth. “He wants to be a leader, and that’s what he is, a leader.”

Penalties were a problem for both teams, but it was a particularly tough night for the Cougars and the yellow flag. WSU finished with 11 total penalties for 106 yards, which included an offensive targeting ejection — a rarity to say the least. Many crucial defensive penalties gifted USC with second chances and oftentimes resulted in Trojan scores. 

While USC finished with 30 points and 369 offensive yards, the offense struggled to establish a consistent attack all night. Sophomore quarterback Caleb Williams was forced to scramble on many occasions, dropped passes were frequent and USC punted an unusually high five times in the game after only punting 10 times in their previous five games combined. 

“We need consistency,” said junior wide receiver Brendan Rice. “We should’ve attacked the moment a little bit better.”

USC struck first, with Caleb Williams slinging a 38-yard strike to sophomore wide receiver Mario Williams at the pylon to give the Trojans an early 7-0 lead with 8:31 in the first quarter. Mario Williams ended the game with 2 touchdowns and 82 yards receiving. 

“It was nothing special,” Mario Williams said when asked about the play. “Just doing what I needed to do, getting the job done.” 

While USC entered the 2nd quarter up 10-0 after a 37-yard field goal from redshirt freshman kicker Denis Lynch, the Trojans repeated their characteristic second quarter malaise that has plagued the team all season, punting on their first two drives complemented by intermittent defensive mistakes. 

WSU capitalized on the momentum shift and stormed back with two touchdown passes from sophomore quarterback Cameron Ward to give the Cougars a 14-10 lead with 11:48 still remaining in the second quarter.

However, Dye’s power running, with the help of a few costly WSU penalties, gave the Trojans the lead back 17-14 to end the half. 

Halftime did not seem to address offensive woes for the Trojans, as the third quarter opened up with two consecutive punts. 

USC’s errant offense, however, was matched with more costly penalties from the Cougars. Two penalty calls turned an intercepted pass thrown by Caleb Williams into a 20-yard gain for the Trojans. This set up a 24-yard touchdown pass to Mario Williams to give USC a 24-14 lead with 5:20 in the third. 

A 27-yard field goal from Lynch gave USC a 27-14 lead with 9:09 in the 4th, and one more with 2:08 to end the scoring at 30-14. Lynch finished the game perfectly on all field goal attempts and extra points. Although he may lack veteran experience, Lynch has proven a reliable field goal kicker for the team as a freshman, converting on 8 out of 10 field goals this season. 

“I thought our special teams really stepped up tonight,” said Riley. “We were good on kickoff, we were good on field goal and extra point… punt team was awesome. Excited about the way we played on special teams.”

While the win was a great momentum builder for the Trojans, Rice and the team understand that there is still work to be done, as they face a tough road opponent in the Utah Utes next Saturday. 

“We have yet to show what we are really capable of… we’re going to go back to work on Monday, and we are going to get this thing right,” Rice said.