Jahleel Pinner, Lane Kiffin

Washington State claws way to victory over USC


The first step for USC is to admit it has a problem.

That problem is Lane Kiffin.

How else to explain a very talented Trojan team’s horrid performance in a 10-7 loss to Washington State on Saturday night?

A USC offense filled with elite recruits put up just 192 total yards, including 54 through the air. Mind you, this is an offense that features Marqise Lee, one of the top players in the country. But Lee managed just 27 yards on seven catches.

But it hasn’t been just this game. This is part of a longer term trend for USC under Kiffin. The Trojans have scored just five offensive touchdowns in their last four games. USC hasn’t scored a point in a third quarter since the Arizona State game of last season. It is averaging 9 points per game in its last three home games. The Trojans have lost six of their last eight games.

And USC hasn’t lost to WSU in the Coliseum since 2000, the last year a Trojan head coach was fired.  Will USC athletic director Pat Haden have the guts to pull the trigger this time around? Stay tuned.

For all the talk of USC, though, this was also the first big win for Mike Leach at WSU. The Cougars showed signs of life last week against Auburn and proved it wasn’t a fluke — their mental toughness was the difference against the Trojans.

Still, the path to a WSU win seemed problematic midway through the second quarter. The Trojans were up, 7-0, and driving. The Cougars offense was getting throttled and it looked like WSU was headed for another road loss.

But that all changed when Damante Horton stepped in front of a Cody Kessler pass and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly, the score was 7-7 headed into the half and the game was up for grabs.

Most of the rest of the game was sloppy and it looked like it might be headed to overtime but, once again, WSU made a play. Dom Williams took a Connor Halliday pass 50 yards  down the sideline to set up Andrew Furney‘s 41-yard field goal with 3:15 left to play. The pressure shifted over to the Trojans.

But USC under Kiffin clearly doesn’t handle pressure well. Horton sat on another pass, this one from Max Wittek, and the Cougars ran out the clock. Suddenly, a bowl game seems like a possibility.

Whither USC, though? Given the embarrassing collapse to the Cougars, I’d be surprised if Kiffin lasts the season.

Certainly the fans have made up their minds.

“Fire Kiffin!” they shouted from the Coliseum stands as the seconds ticked down.

Miami defense shutting down Pitt; Hurricanes lead 23-3 at half

Brad Kaaya
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It may be hard to believe, but Miami is in position to end the season with nine wins. That assumes, of course, the Hurricanes avoid a second half meltdown against Pittsburgh and close out the year with a bowl win. For now, Miami should be feeling pretty good as the Hurricanes have stomped Pitt in the first half of an early kickoff in western Pennsylvania. Miami took a 23-3 lead into the half.

Miami has more than doubled the total offensive production of the Panthers, outgaining Pitt at halftime 248 yards to 102. The Panthers have just 36 passing yards and 66 rushing yards in the half. Pitt also had a turnover with Nathan Peterman having a pass picked off by Artie Burns.

Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya has completed 13 of 23 pass attempts for 166 yards, with Rashawn Scott on the receiving end of the touchdown play and leading the team with 50 receiving yards. Miami’s Joseph Yardley leads all players with 64 rushing yards. Pitt’s star receiver, Tyler Boyd, has just one catch for eight yards.

Houston takes halftime lead on Navy in AAC West winner-takes-all contest

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If Houston is going to slow down Navy’s offense, keeping it off the field is a good way to go about it. In a battle for the American Athletic Conference West Division title, and home field advantage in the AAC Championship Game, Houston has used methodic ball control to its advantage and leads the Midshipmen 24-14 at halftime. Greg Ward Jr.‘s five-yard touchdown run gave the home team the lead just minutes after Houston successfully converted a fourth down and short after a timeout.

Houston took the game’s opening possession 82 yards for a touchdown after 13 plays for an early lead. Greg Ward Jr. completed a short pass to Steven Dunbar from five yards out for the score, but Navy answered with a touchdown drive on their opening possession. Keenan Reynolds ripped off a 52-yard run and later capped the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 7-7.

Houston again put together a lengthy and time-consuming touchdown drive on the ensuing possession. The Cougars took 13 plays to move 76 yards for a score, this time seeing Brandon Wilson complete the drive with a 17-yard touchdown run for a 14-7 lead. The two teams exchanged punts before Navy once again tied the game with Reynolds completing a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jamir Tillman.

Report: Washington State QB Luke Falk won’t play in Apple Cup

Luke Falk
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Earlier this week it was looking as though Washington State quarterback Luke Falk might be available to play Washington in this year’s edition of the Apple Cup. Now the outlook is not so good.

According to a report from Stefanie Loh of The Seattle Times, Washington State will start Peyton Bender at quarterback against the Huskies. Falk, who is recovering form a concussion last week, is not expected to dress for the game. It will be the first start of the redshirt freshman’s career. Bender has appeared in four games this season serving as Falk’s backup. In his limited playing time, Bender has completed 17 of 33 pass attempts for 210 yards and two touchdowns. He has been picked off twice.

The loss of Falk is certainly a blow to Washington State’s offense, although we will see if Mike Leach has a system in place where he can plug in a quarterback and still get the production through the air as has been the case during his career. There is no word on whether or not Falk will be available for the bowl season, although that would seem to look possible given more time to recover from a concussion.

NCAA denies sixth-year for Syracuse QB Terrel Hunt

Terrel Hunt

Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt will not get a sixth year of eligibility. The NCAA has denied a request to extend Hunt’s eligibility by one more year, Syracuse announced today.

Hunt had his 2014 and 2015 seasons cut short due to injuries. A broken leg in 2014 forced Hunt to miss the final seven games of the season. An Achilles tendon injury against Rhode Island in the 2015 season opener has sidelined Hunt for the entire 2015 season, effectively.

“Obviously, it’s very disappointing but I want to thank my teammates, coaches and all the Syracuse fans who have supported me through this process and during my time here,” Hunt said in a statement shared by Syracuse athletics. “Even though my career didn’t turn how I thought it would, I still have a lot of great memories that I’ll take with me for the rest of my life.

“Right now I’m focused on my rehab and on finishing graduate school. I’m getting better every day and hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to continue my career at the professional level.”

Hunt’s Syracuse career will end with 2,621 passing yards and 24 touchdowns (11 passing, 13 rushing).