The USC Trojans handled the Washington State Cougars in Pullman Saturday, overcoming a stuttering offense and more injury concerns with big plays to finish off the victory 44-17.
Nelson Agholor returned a punt for a touchdown and put up 220 yards receiving for a career day.
Cody Kessler joined in on the career yardage train with 400 yard and five touchdowns.
Washington State’s Connor Halliday had to be carted off the field with a leg injury. His replacement Luke Falk had 327 yards, two touchdown and an interception in his first major playing time of the season.
USC began the scoring with Agholor’s punt return. Drifting left and then cutting right through the Cougar coverage team, the Trojan returner took his second punt of the season to the house, giving USC the early lead.
Hayes Pullard picked off Connor Halliday, setting up Kessler’s 22-yard score to JuJu Smith.
The next Washington State drive saw Halliday go out injured when his leg was rolled under Leonard Williams. The senior quarterback was stretchered off the field and Falk came in to replace him.
Both offenses failed to produce much for the rest of the half.
The Trojans found a spark from Agholor who took a pass 49 yards to set up an Andre Heidari field goal.
Agholor almost grabbed another big play, tiptoeing the sideline to score on a bubble screen, but the play was called back because he stepped out of bounds. Kessler followed that up by dropping the ball in for Smith’s second touchdown of the season.
Falk seemed to settle into the game as the first half neared its close, leading the Cougars on a drive which ended with a 9-yard slip screen touchdown to Robert Lewis.
On top of conceding the first score to Washington State, USC suffered a blow on the touchdown play as Su’a Cravens sprained his knee without contact and had to be helped off the field. He missed the remainder of the contest.
Leon McQuay III picked off Falk to end the half, but the Trojans’ 24-7 lead was far from convincing
In the second half, USC’s offensive ineptitude opened the door for the Cougars, who put together another strong drive on Falk’s back, but had to settle for a field goal from 27-yards out.
Pinned inside their own 20, USC responded with another heavy dose of Agholor, who burst through the secondary uncovered and caught Kessler’s deep pass for an 87-yard score.
After Allen and Davis found more of a groove, the Trojans expanded their lead on a third Smith touchdown. Agholor also pitched in with a key 21-yard reception on fourth down.
If the score did not completely end Washington State’s hopes of mounting a comeback, a bad snap and fumble recovered by Scott Felix on the Cougars’ next drive did. Still, USC faced another injury scare when McQuay and Adoree’ Jackson collided and were both down on the field with injuries.
With the ball back in Trojan hands, Kessler put the final nail in the coffin, hitting Steven Mitchell on a roll out for his fifth touchdown pass of the day.
Isiah Myers pulled in an impressive touchdown from Falk to give the Cougars a consolation score in the fourth.
The Trojans head back home to face Cal on a Thursday night after the bye week.
Stay tuned to Reign of Troy for more USC vs. Washington State postgame content.