Chalk Talk: USC program feeling the pressure coming to Pullman

PULLMAN, Wash. — The Washington State Cougars are coming off a 44 points performance against Portland State on Saturday.  There’s a slight feeling of momentum with this team, and that’s going to be needed with USC coming to town on Saturday.

At first glance, Cougar fans might be worried about playing a team that invokes memories of a powerhouse program, but the men of Troy are not what they used to be.

Amid the glitz and glitter of Hollywood, the USC Trojans used to be a star in their own right, but there has been trouble brewing in paradise for some time now. We’re a long time removed from Pete Carroll leading USC to back-to-back National Championship in 2003 and 2004 (the 2004 title was later vacated).

On Monday, the University announced the firing of Head Coach Clay Helton, who had has been with the school since 2010 in assistant roles. However, he became head coach during the 2015 season.  In that time they’ve had some successes including a PAC-12 Championship in 2017 and a Rose Bowl victory a season before that.

However, the pressure to win is always on in Los Angeles and his hot seat simply reached a boiling point. Since the beginning of the 2018 season, his teams are only 19-14. After a blowout loss on Saturday, calls for his job began almost immediately.

As for Washington State, its players and fans still remember the last time USC played in Pullman.  In September of 2017, USC was ranked #5 at the time and led by eventual NFL 1st round draft pick Sam Darnold.  After a late 4th quarter field goal by Erik Powell to give the Cougars a 30-27 lead, the Trojans had one last chance to score.  On the second play of the drive, Jahad Woods sacked Darnold, who fumbled the ball, and the Cougar defense landed on it clinching the victory.

For this year’s team, there is already one player looking forward to an opportunity this weekend.

“Maybe next week I’ll run through someone’s face,” said Senior Max Borghi in the post-game press conference on Saturday.

When it comes to the offensive and defensive productivity for this season the two teams match up similarly.  The Cougar offense is passing for 257 yards per game, USC is at 239 yards per game.  On the ground the script is flipped, USC is averaging 172 yards while WSU is sitting at 154 yards per game.  The defenses are also virtually tied at points per game.

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