October 19, 2008

News and notes from Washington State

PULLMAN, Wash - Winning, and in particular winning big, has its perks.

USC and head coach Pete Carroll got to reap the benefits of a blowout Saturday at Washington State, steamrolling the Cougars 69-0.

The huge margin of victory allowed Carroll to rest his regulars early, taking most of his starters out early in the third quarter.

"The really exciting thing was to see so many guys play and so many guys contribute," Carroll said. "It's a great locker room right now. They're all feeling great about today, and they deserve to.

"Our guys had a ball playing football today."

According to the participation report, Carroll used nearly every player he brought with him to Martin Stadium, save for running back Joe McKnight, who watched the game from the sidelines in sweats thanks to turf toe.

The Trojan starters set a pretty high standard, jumping out to a 41-0 halftime lead. Then, fullback Stanley Havili said, things get even better.

"It was a really fun football game. Nothing is better than preparing your butt off for a game and leaving with a win like this," Havili said. "But, it's even more rewarding to watch the second team-guys."

Running back Broderick Green led USC with 18 carries and 121 yards rushing. Will Harris had his first interception of the seasons. All four quarterbacks on the trip

Lineman Nick Howell made his first start and helped the Trojans control the line of scrimmage.

"It feels kind of different, getting to play the whole game," Howell said.

Defensively, reserves Malcolm Smith (four tackles) and Armond Armstead (four tackles, two tackles for losses) took advantage of the extra playing time.

"All the young guys did a really good job," wide receiver Patrick Turner said. "The second-team offense kept scoring and the defense kept them off the board. It's fun to watch."

And, defensive tackle Fili Moala said, it's only the beginning.

"They're more than capable or else they wouldn't be here," Moala said. "It's good to see them out there doing the things they're capable of. They were playing great offense, great defense, running up and down the field, tackling everybody and it was good.

They're the future of this team, and the future is bright."

Able stable

Three Trojans running backs rushed for over 100 yards - something USC had not done since 1977.

C.J. Gable, who rushed for 109 yards on 16 carries with three touchdowns, said part of the reason for the success had to do with how the Trojans handled the running back rotation.

Down to just three healthy tailbacks, USC alternated series between Gable and Stafon Johnson before turning things over to Green when the game was in hand.

"It's kind of hard to do just one play and then sit out for a series. It was good to get into a rhythm like that," Gable said. "It was good letting everyone have a series. You get more going mentally and you start to make more plays."

Gable got the start and rushed for five yards on his first carry. On the very next play, he broke free for a 22-yard gain.

"Usually, I'd come out and someone else would come in," he said. "It really helps us go. It felt like a high school game where you get all the carries. Once you get going good, you become hard to stop."

Running backs coach Todd McNair watched his guys scamper through big holes and gain big yards while working within some structure.

"It was good for them to stay on the field a little bit," McNair said. "They liked it. It worked out."

Block party

USC rushed for 362 yards against Washington State, even with starting tackle Butch Lewis (illness) and starting guard Zack Heberer (turf toe) watching from home.

"This was a line that was somewhat thrown together," Stafon Johnson said. "We had people playing different positions. They came out and did their thing. I'm proud of them."

Gable said the Trojan line and fullbacks created the biggest holes he'd seen since dominant performances against Virginia and Ohio State in the non-conference schedule.

"It was all the line. They were on their game today. They blocked like they had something to prove," Gable said. "It wasn't the running backs; it was the line and the fullbacks making the holes for us.

"We didn't have to do much."

In addition to that, USC quarterback Mark Sanchez didn't feel pressure at all, as no Trojan quarterbacks got sacked.

"I felt good. We had plenty of time," Sanchez said. "With time like that, it's tough to stop this offense. That's a testament to the o-line."

Howell said it was a good day to be wearing USC colors down in the trenches.

"It starts with knowing what to do," he said. "Then, it gets fun because you're having so much success doing what you're supposed to. Then, you get to have a little fun with the other guy your beating. He goes down to the ground, and he'll remember you."

Extra Points

• Sanchez said the quick start in the first half helped put to rest any doubts about the Trojan offense after a horrific third quarter against Arizona State. Sanchez threw three interceptions and fumbled in the third against the Sun Devils.

"I think it was good for us to come back from that third quarter," Sanchez said. I didn't want anyone to try too hard, especially me. I didn't want to try too hard to get past last week or do something different in preparation.

"We needed to do what we always do, to prove the third quarter was a fluke."

And once Sanchez got going, the rest of the offense followed.

"It was really important for Mark to feel comfortable out there," Havili said. "A lot of it depends on him and how he feels. For him to hit those first few passes, it got him going and got the offense into rhythm."

• Moala said the Trojans' confidence wasn't shaken by the loss at Oregon State, something the defense has proven by allowing just 10 points since the trip to Corvallis, Ore.

"I don't think we ever lost our swagger," he said. "I think it's just the grind of the season. Sometimes, people are going to come mentally unprepared to play, and sometimes, people are. Today, we were.

"This entire week we had an emphasis on coming ready to play and respecting the game and not showing any less than who we are."

• Sanchez said the demeanor of the team was perfect this week, and he expects to see more of the same as USC prepares to head to Arizona.

"This proves to us that we know how to play on the road," he said. "We know how to make it business trip while still having fun. No one was joking around on the plane or giddy at the hotel. It was serious business.

"Winning is fun enough. It was great for us."

• With two touchdowns each, Turner and Ronald Johnson now are tied with Damian Williams for the team lead with five touchdown receptions each.

"It feels like a perfect day," Ronald Johnson said. "Things can get cleaned up, but it was a pretty good day."

• Turnovers and penalties had haunted USC in Pac-10 play and throughout the bulk of the season. Saturday at Washington State, the Trojans did not turn the ball over and committed just two penalties for 15 yards (a holding call and an offsides call).

"We fixed that stuff today," Carroll said.

The Trojans were also flagged for a personal foul, but since the penalty was offset with a Cougar personal foul, it doesn't count statistically.

• The 69-0 shutout was the largest shutout loss in Washington State history. It also snapped the Cougars' 280-game scoring streak - formerly the second-longest active streak.

• USC's 69 points were the most by the Trojans since they scored 70 against Arkansas in 2005.

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