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Washington State surprises USC

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- Washington State is making progress.

USC has taken a mighty step backward.

And it all played out Saturday night when the Cougars ventured into the venerable Coliseum and upended the 25th-ranked Trojans 10-7 in both teams' Pacific-12 Conference opener.

Washington State beat USC without the benefit of its offense scoring a touchdown, getting a 70-yard interception return for a score from Damante Horton late in the first half and an Andrew Furney 42-yard field goal with 3:03 remaining in the game to go ahead 10-7.

Horton capped the win by intercepting USC quarterback Max Wittek late in the fourth quarter.

And with it, the biggest win in year two of the Mike Leach coaching era.

"It's a start to where we want to go," Washington State center Gunner Eklund said. "But it's a big first step."

Leach agreed.

"There's a lot of ghosts in this stadium," Leach said. "It's an exciting place to play. You're talking about a school that has Twitter account numbers next to their two-deep. So I'm proud of our guys to come in here and play the way we did."

USC could not say the same after another another sloppy, uninspired, offensively challenged performance. The Trojans have a litany of questions to answer before they regain the swagger that made them one of the elite programs during the past decade.

Namely, who can they rely on at quarterback?

Once again, USC opted to use both Cody Kessler and Wittek, with Kessler taking the first half and Wittek getting the second.

And for the second straight week, neither distinguished himself.

Kessler finished his half 8-of-13 passing for 41 yards and a 4-yard touchdown run. He also threw a pick-six with 27 seconds left in the half that resulted in 70-yard touchdown and a halftime tie.

Wittek finished 3 of 8 for 13 yards.

Washington State held USC to 192 yards of offense -- 150 yards by running back Tre Madden.

"It was a painful loss," USC linebacker Devon Kinnard said. "But we have to get through this, come back to work Monday and put this behind us."

That is easier said than done, especially with such instability at quarterback.

"We didn't have any sync with either quarterback, but that falls on everybody," Madden said.

USC went with Kessler again at quarterback to start the game as opposed to Wittek.

The result was eerily similar to the Trojans' offensive struggles in their season opener against Hawaii, with Kessler not showing much decisiveness or arm strength.

In fact, the only scoring drive directed by Kessler went 22 yards on six plays capped by his 4-yard touchdown run.

Kessler cost the Trojans seven points with 27 seconds left in the half when he didn't see Horton lurking behind wide receiver Nelson Agholor, resulting in Horton intercepting Kessler's pass and returning it 70 yards for a touchdown to tie the score 7-7.

Washington State moved the ball decently against a revamped USC defense but could not cash in with points as quarterback Conner Halliday threw two interceptions.

But thanks to the Trojans' punchless offense, Washington State had one of its biggest wins in school history.

"We have to bounce back. We can't let this loss linger into next week," Kinnard said. "Everybody is going to be hurt tonight, but by tomorrow we have to let this one go and get ready for next week."

NOTES: As expected, USC senior running back Silas Redd missed his second straight game while recovering from offseason knee surgery to repair torn miniscus. Redd, the Trojans' leading rusher last season with 905 yards and nine touchdowns, missed the majority of spring practice and all training camp after suffering the injury. ... The Trojans were also without Anthony Brown, J.R. Tavai and Greg Townsend.
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