PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — Luke Falk threw for 340 yards and two touchdowns, Erik Powell kicked a 32-yard field goal with 1:40 left and No. 16 Washington State beat No. 5 Southern California 30-27 on Friday night.
With the national stage to themselves, the Cougars proved they are ready to contend for the Pac-12 title, pulling off their first regular-season win over a top-five opponent in 25 years. Washington State (5-0, 2-0) had lost 15 consecutive home games against ranked opponents.
Falk was excellent most of the night against Southern California’s pressure, but it was a key 35-yard run from Jamal Morrow that set up Powell’s winning field goal.
USC star Sam Darnold struggled through a miserable night. Darnold was 15-of-29 passing for 164 yards and an interception. Darnold has thrown eight interceptions in five games after throwing nine interceptions all of last season.
Darnold did run for a pair of touchdowns, including a 2-yarder with 5:01 remaining that tied it at 27. But he couldn’t pull off a final rally, fumbling when he was sacked deep in Washington State territory with 1:27 left. Falk took two kneel downs and the party erupted on the turf of Martin Stadium.
Falk finished 34-of-51 passing, while Morrow added 91 yards rushing on six carries. The duo combined to give the Cougars the lead early in the fourth quarter, with Falk finding Morrow for a 23-yard TD on a shovel pass and run. The drive included a key third-and-6 conversion early in the possession and a fourth-and-3 on Falk’s pass to Kyle Sweet for 12 yards.
Darnold led the Trojans right back down the field, capping the drive with a series of plays that lived up to his hype. He stayed in a collapsing pocket on fourth-and-13 and Tyler Vaughns made a leaping catch across the middle in traffic for 15 yards to the Washington State 27. Darnold hit Vaughns for 26 yards on the next snap and two plays later Darnold scored his second rushing touchdown.
Playing without three of his starting offensive linemen, Darnold was flustered and at times appeared rattled by the pressure from Washington State’s defensive line. He was sacked only twice but was forced to move in the pocket regularly, disrupting the timing of the pass game.
USC (4-1, 2-1) was already without starting left tackle Toa Lobendahn when starting right tackle Chuma Edoga limped off late in the first quarter after a disastrous flea flicker that ended up being an intentional grounding penalty and a 14-yard loss.
It got worse for the Trojans when Viane Talamaivao was shaken up early in the second quarter and also did not return.
Southern California’s Ronald Jones had 128 yards rushing and an 86-yard touchdown, but was mostly a non-factor outside of the long run.