SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) Southern California came away frustrated from its latest loss but coach Steve Sarkisian expects his players to display their resilience come Saturday’s matchup with Washington State.
”This team won’t get knocked down and stay down,” said Sarkisian, whose Trojans fell 24-21 at Utah last weekend. ”I expect us to come out in a real good frame of mind Saturday.”
Southern California (5-3, 4-2 Pac-12) is one win away from postseason eligibility heading to Washington State (2-6, 1-4). And while the Cougars have struggled all season, Sarkisian doesn’t expect an easy outing in Pullman.
”One thing about Mike Leach’s teams is they always continue to fight,” Sarkisian said. ”I expect them to play good football.”
Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday, the nation’s passing leader, leads a high-powered offense that nevertheless sputtered early last week on the way to a 59-37 loss to No. 14 Arizona.
The Cougars want to ensure they don’t suffer another early breakdown.
”I thought we protected him (Halliday) inconsistently the last game, but we did move the ball well and still had some very productive periods on offense,” Leach said.
Halliday, who has thrown for 3,833 yards and 32 touchdowns in the first eight games, said preparation is the key to avoiding another slow start.
”You make sure that all 22 to 24 guys that are going to get reps are very prepared and make sure they’re watching film and make sure they’re confident when they go out on the field,” Halliday said.
Washington State beat USC 10-7 last year in Los Angeles. ”It’s exciting to have a chance to go 2-0 against them as a starter,” Halliday said.
Things to know when Southern Cal plays at Washington State:
MORE TURNOVERS: Washington State hasn’t benefited from turnovers much this season, with just two interceptions and four fumbles recovered. Leach blamed that in part on the many young players in the secondary. ”We had three guys back there last week that, combined, have probably played about a half of Division I football,” Leach said. This week they face a quarterback, Cody Kessler, who has thrown for 20 touchdowns against only two interceptions.
HALLIDAY’S RECORDS: Halliday owns school passing records for career touchdowns, career yards, completions, attempts and 300-yard games. He holds the NCAA single-game records for yards passing (734), set this year against California, and pass attempts (89), set last year against Oregon. Halliday ranks third in the league in career touchdown passes with 90 and fourth with 11,264 yards passing. Former USC quarterback Matt Barkley is the career leader with 116 touchdowns and 12,327 yards passing.
AMAZING ALLEN: Tailback Javorius Allen leads the Pac-12 in rushing and all-purpose yards, and is the only player in the nation with at least 1,000 rushing yards and 300 receiving yards. He comes in with a string of five straight 100-yard games. ”He’s starting to get the attention he deserves, I think,” Leach said. ”Very explosive and strong.”
COUGAR RECEIVERS: Washington State wideouts River Cracraft, Vince Mayle and Isiah Myers already each have more than 50 receptions and all rank in the top 25 nationally in receptions and receiving yardage.
LOP-SIDED SERIES: Historically, Southern California has dominated the Cougars. The Trojans lead the series 58-9-4. Prior to last season’s win, the Cougars had lost eight straight to the Trojans.