PULLMAN, Wash. – USC used 58 players against Washington State. 57 will head back to Los Angeles ready to play again.
Only defensive end Wes Horton was injured in Saturday’s Pac-10 opener, at the hands – or feet, rather - of teammate Nick Perry.
“Nick’s legs whipped around and kicked me in the back,” said Horton, who had one of three Trojan sacks.
Horton said he would be evaluated after returning to campus.
Defensive end Armond Armstead was held out of the game to give him another week to recover from a shoulder injury.
Armstead was limited in practice all well, but could have played if absolutely necessary.
“We did bring his stuff and have him ready to go in case we needed him. At halftime, we were going to talk about it in case it was going the way we didn’t want to,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said.
Special teams coach John Baxter is certainly living up to his lofty reputation. Through four games, the Trojans have done it all after blocking a punt and an extra point against the Cougars.
They came into Martin Stadium with a punt return for a touchdown at Hawaii, blocked a field goal against Virginia and had a kickoff return for a touchdown last week at Minnesota.
For the first time in a long time, USC has a schematic edge on special teams thanks to Baxter.
“He coaches us so well and we’re so prepared before the game,” Horton said of Baxter. “I feel like we’re just so much more prepared than the other team.”
Horton blocked a punt by Reid Forrest in the first quarter, but said he could have blocked one earlier based on the protection scheme used by Washington State.
“I was the guy that was going to come free and I had to be the guy to make the play. The first time I lined up a little too wide. The second time I tightened by alignment, took a good angle to the punter, laid out and got it,” Horton said.
Still the Man
Kiffin said he was still confident in kicker Joe Houston despite his 38-yard miss at the end of the first half.
“I get worried when they kick the ball and it doesn’t get there and it’s coming off low. He’s kicking the ball well, we just have to get him more accurate,” Kiffin said.
Houston has hit just 1 of 4 tries this season.
“In practice, I didn’t miss all week. I made 12 straight kicks. That’s just the way it is sometimes,” Houston said. “You got to have a short memory and bounce back and make the next one.
“I know I’ll have to make some big kicks against Washington, so that’s what I’m focused on.”
USC still had two timeouts remaining when Marc Tyler ran on first down, setting the ball on the right hash mark for Houston, instead of taking one shot at the end zone.
“I think the plan was to run the ball in the middle of the field, but I’ve got to make that kick,” said Houston, who added that he did not have a preference which hash he kicked from.
No Huddle, Big Surprise
The Trojans were caught off guard twice on the Cougars’ opening possession. First, they started in a no-huddle offense, which the defense had not prepared for. Then, Washington State capped off the drive with a 29-yard touchdown pass by wide receiver Jeffrey Solomon coming off a reverse.
“At first we got them back on their heels, especially that first drive,” said wide receiver Jared Karstetter, who caught the touchdown. “You could see their d-line got a little tired.”
Almost one-quarter of the Cougars’ total offense came on that 80-yard drive.
Said Horton of the no-huddle approach: “It was a little overwhelming but we adjusted.”
The announced attendance of 24,310 was the smallest crowd USC had played in front of since its last visit to the Palouse.
In 2008, a crowd of just 25,118 saw the Trojans post a 69-0 win over Washington State.