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October 18, 2008PULLMAN, Wash. - After a week's worth of hard work, five plays was all it took.
The No. 6 USC Trojans began Saturday's game with the ball and announced their presence with authority.
A pass to Stanley Havili got 16 yards. A toss to Ronald Johnson gained 11. C.J. Gable ran for five yards; then for 22. Mark Sanchez found Patrick Turner for 23 yards to mercifully end the drive with a touchdown.
This string of events would happen again and again and again, as the Trojans (5-1, 3-1 Pac-10) absolutely destroyed Washington State 69-0.
It was the largest shutout win for the Trojans since a 69-0 win over Montana in 1931.
"We came out firing. It was a good first drive to have because it established ourselves and how we wanted to play," Turner said. "The rest of the guys on this entire team just took control of the game.
"Just look at the score. We feel we were pretty dominant."
Sanchez tied a USC record with five passing touchdowns, tying him with Rodney Peete, Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. The difference, though, is that all five of Sanchez's touchdown throws came in one half.
"That's a tremendous honor," Sanchez said. "It's a testament to the offensive line blocking and giving me plenty of time, the running backs taking pressure off me, and the receivers making plays after they catch the ball.
"That means a lot knowing the quarterback lineage before me."
For the first time since 1977, USC had three different running backs rush for over a 100 yards even with Joe McKnight on the sidelines, out with turf toe.
Broderick Green led USC with 121 yards on 18 carries. Stafon Johnson rushed for 112 yards on 11 attempts and Gable ran for 109 yards and three touchdowns.
"We found a hole in their defense and we exploited it," Stafon Johnson said. "We wanted to hit them hard. Our offense opened up these big holes, and it let us be running backs."
In the game's first half, USC dominated in every aspect of the game, putting together some gaudy numbers.
USC had 20 first downs in the half; Washington State (1-7, 0-5) had just one. The Trojans rushed for 155 yards, and the Cougars ran for five. USC averaged just under 9.5 yards per play; Washington State averaged 0.8 yards per play.
The Trojans showed no signs of playing down to their opponents, especially early, Pete Carroll said.
"We made a really big deal to our team about respecting the game, respecting the preparation and respecting this opportunity in the Pac-10," Carroll said. "We wanted to see that we'd bring everything - bring the energy, bring the excitement, bring the toughness and bring the execution for the game.
"We did all of that."
USC's 41 first-half points were the most the Trojans' have scored since putting 44 up on Stanford in 2005.
"It meant a lot for us to prepare well and to come out and show that our preparation would pay off," Sanchez said. "We had a solid game plan, and we showed that we could get through a game with no real hiccups."
USC committed no turnovers and were flagged twice for 15 yards.
The offense looked masterful in the first half, scoring on each of its first six possessions. With no pressure, Sanchez picked apart the Cougar defense, finding Turner for two scores, Ronald Johnson for two scores and tight end Anthony McCoy for a 21-yard strike.
Carroll said he heard from the Cougar fans after going for it on fourth-and-seven from the 16, already leading 27-0. Sanchez and Ronald Johnson connected for a scoring play.
"I think the opposite of people who think you should kick the field goal," Carroll said. "We're going for it, trying to run the ball or throw the ball to make a first down. If we can, we can. If not, we give them the football. I think kicking field goals is the wrong way to go, really.
" We just tried to keep running some plays. We would've gone for it on fourth down every time in that section of the field."
USC could've added points at the end of the first half, but the Trojans instead headed to the locker room with seconds on the clock and the ball inside the red zone.
In the second half, USC subbed out nearly its entire first team, and there Trojan reserves got to work.
"It's more rewarding to watch the second-string guys in there," fullback Stanley Havili said. "They work hard behind the scenes and don't get that much time on the field. To see them get their time, that was great."
Green emerged as the biggest star, rushing for his first and second touchdowns of his collegiate career on his way to leading the team in rushing.
When he got back to the locker room, he had 20 missed calls and 40 text messages on his cell phone.
"This is the greatest feeling in the world," Green said. "The offensive line was great and so were the fullbacks, the tight ends and the receivers.
"The whole team was just great."
While the offense put up huge numbers, the Trojan defense continued to stifle, shutting out its opponents for 10-straight quarters dating back to the second half against Oregon.
USC held Washington State to 88 yards rushing on 37 carries and just 28 yards passing.
"We had a game plan to establish the run, but in the first half, we couldn't do that," Washington State quarterback Kevin Lopina said. "We were kind of stuck."
And that allowed the Trojans to lock in on the Cougars.
"We just teed off," defensive tackle Fili Moala said. "I think they knew there chances were slim, so they kept it real simple for their offense. They didn't want to get their quarterback hit. They didn't want do anything too fancy that could leave them with some injuries.
"They just wanted to run the ball and let the chips fall - and get out of there."