Washington State’s offense was unable to produce any points in its final five drives, and the defense just wore down against athletes that had just one extra step on them throughout the game. The matchup against Southern California was always going to be a tough one for a defense that has been built on speed. It just would have been nice if the refs hadn’t gotten so heavily involved in this game.
The most glaring example, that caught national attention, was when Grant Stephens went to block a line back in the backfield. Stephens squared up and put his hands in the linebackers chest; because the linebacker was bent forward to make an attempt at wrapping up quarterback Cam Ward his facemask slammed into Stephens’ shoulder pad. Which then resulted in a personal foul for targeting.
How dare he play through the whistle and try to keep his quarterback upright.
There was also a play in the redzone that got flagged for DPI, when Armani Marsh had been shoved to the ground, that gave USC another set of downs — if the penalty is correctly assessed, that’s a third down stop and a long ass field goal attempt at the end of the first half. Travis Dye punched it in a few plays later to make it 17-14 with 2:10 left in the second quarter.
Washington State would not hold the lead again in this game.
After the game, head coach Jake Dickert was asked about the officiating. While he stated they won’t use that as an excuse — nor should they — it’s crystal clear that he was absolutely pissed off about how the game had been officiated.
His decision to focus on the non-controversial penalties (and it sounds like areas he and the defensive staff had emphasized the team should be wary of) was smart. Not getting fined is always a wise decision for a new coach. On top of that, that’s stuff he and his staff can work on to fix; meanwhile, the officiating is out of his control.
But, and I hope he’s made this clear to his players, the way they got absolutely ratfucked by this officiating crew was unacceptable.
Officiating issues against WSU in big games, against brand name schools, is routinely atrocious. It got so bad that even Jon Wilner felt compelled to document it. His conclusion was that it’s bad luck. However, if it’s so consistently awful that you had to write a column about it, then you should realize that more is at work here than just “bad luck”. Whether it’s the officials getting caught up in the moment, or it’s something more sinister from Conference leadership, the conference needs to fix it.
Washington State has been to eight straight bowl games, excluding the COVID shortened 2020 season, and nine bowl games in the last ten. That’s more consistency than anyone in the conference bar Oregon and Utah over that stretch. The Cougs have picked up non-conference over Wisconsin, Iowa State, and Boise State (back when they were actually good). On top of that, when the Cougs play on national TV they draw eyeballs.
Yet, the conference continues to routinely screw of the program with its scheduling and officiating in big games. And I’m so fucking sick of it. Especially since USC is leaving its historic home for a bigger paycheck in a couple of years.
Jokes on the Trojans tho, the Cougs have an easier path to the playoffs once it expands to 12 teams. Get fucked Southern Cal, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.