Connect with us

Tuls | Falk spurs Washington State stunning upset over USC

Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire

Scouting Notes

Tuls | Falk spurs Washington State stunning upset over USC

#5 USC Trojans vs #16 Washington State Cougars


Martin Stadium – Pullman, WA

Score: USC (27), Washington State (30)

Notable Prospects Entering the Contest

USC Trojans 

Sam Darnold, QB (Redshirt Sophomore) 

In a primetime game against a top-25 opponent, Sam Darnold failed to deliver. His stats look worse than he actually played, but it was what he did not do, as opposed to what he actually did in Pullman. A 15/29, 164 yards and one interception stat line looks awful on the surface, but Darnold still showed in flashes why he received the massive amount of hype in the first place. His accuracy and pocket comfortability was awe-inspiring at times in this game, but the consistency just was not there like it has been in previous games. More significantly, his poor decision making continued. Darnold’s fearlessness has caught up with him in every game this season, but for the first time, I saw him second guess himself and hesitate on some open throws, especially after the interception. It was his legs that almost salvaged a disappointing performance into a win for the Trojans, but Sam Darnold’s lack of consistency in terms of ball placement and decision making is what buried USC in this upset loss. Stock: Down

Ronald Jones II, RB (Junior)

Ronald Jones II was the lone bright spot on offense for USC Friday night. The highlight of his performance was a spectacular 86-yard touchdown on an outside zone to the right side. He patiently waited for the crease and then exploded along the sideline with his breakaway speed. With the number 25 on his jersey and dreadlocks in the distance, he looked like a clone of Jamaal Charles carrying the football. He did not catch the football this game, but this is something he will be asked to do plenty of in the NFL, as he has showed in previous games. It seems like the more games Jones plays, the more explosive he becomes, and that is a great sign for his draft stock. Stock: Up

Deontay Burnett, WR (Junior) 

Early on in the game, Deontay Burnett served as Darnold’s safety blanket over the middle, catching short crossers and dig routes. He ended up with six catches for 45 yards, and for the first time this season, he was not able to show off his YAC skills. His calling card is when he gets the ball in his hands to make an explosive play after the catch, but he was nothing more than a possession receiver in this game with his longest catch going for a mere 13 yards. It was a bit disappointing to see Burnett not get the opportunities to showcase his talent, but a lot of that can be attributed to quarterback play and not being 100 percent healthy. Stock: Same

Uchenna Nwosu, EDGE (Senior)

Can anyone in college football block Uchenna Nwosu? So far, no one has been able to for a sustained period of time. Whether it is a sack, TFL, pass deflection, or like in this game, an interception, Nwosu has been an unstoppable force as an edge defender. Washington State simply had no answer for him. The problem is that he can beat you in so many ways. His athleticism and explosiveness to bend off the edge allows him to win the corner and close on the quarterback. On the other hand, he has a wide array of inside counters, as he showed in this game with an inside rip and spin, to get to the quarterback as well. Then when Washington State tried to attack his side with the run, he held his lane and pursued with his trademark competitive toughness. He is a prototypical 3-4 linebacker, and despite his lack of size, he is going to make a team really happy with his ability to rush and drop back. Stock: Up

Cameron Smith, ILB (Junior)

A lot of this game was out of Smith’s wheelhouse because of the offense Washington State runs. The air raid offense is a tough film watch for a MIKE linebacker prospect, but Smith held up well for the most part. One of the biggest knocks on Smith is his limited athletic ability and range. However, Smith’s instincts and ball awareness allows him to make up for some of those deficiencies. You are never going to see Smith late to the football, but there were times in this game where he needed to finish better. Smith is a stud inside linebacker prospect who looked a bit out of place against Mike Leach’s air raid offense in an up and down performance despite having his moments in zone coverage. Stock: Same

Iman Marshall, CB (Junior) 

I’m going to have a piece on Iman Marshall’s early struggles later this week, and a lot of the disappointment stems from this game in Pullman. The Washington State wide receivers are not going to be hot commodities at the next level, but with the way Marshall played, he made them seem like it. I’ve said time and time again that his grabby, overaggressive playing style would catch up to him at some point this season. It did Friday night. Whether it resulted in a flag or him getting burned because of a lunge in both Press and Off, Marshall’s weaknesses were exposed in the spotlight for everyone to see. Marshall still has the ball skills and zone awareness to make up for some of his mistakes, but he needs to be more under control in man coverage before he deserves to receive the preseason hype that he got from the NFL draft community. Stock: Down

Washington State Cougars

Luke Falk, QB (Redshirt Senior) 

The system Falk plays in helps him a lot, but I have to give him a ton of credit for his performance against USC. Not only did he make good decisions with his throws, but he also threw them with consistent accuracy and placement. He is still a statue in the pocket, but when given time, he will make the defense pay. One thing I did want to see was Falk to attack this USC secondary deep, and with a guy like Renard Bell, he did just that. On a 61-yard connection to Bell over the middle, Falk showed on this play that he is more than just an intermediate game passer. Falk struggles when he is not in structure, but his performance in this game rejuvenated his draft stock, showing that he can absolutely pick apart a defense with deadly accuracy, if given a clean pocket. Stock: Up

Jamal Morrow, RB (Redshirt Senior)

Washington State uses their running backs more in the passing game than most because of the offense they play, and Jamal Morrow was able to showcase his dual threat ability with 138 total yards and two touchdowns on just 11 touches. Morrow is never going to be a featured back in an offense, but with more games like this against top competition, he is going to rise up draft boards because of his versatility that the NFL is trending towards with guys like Tarik Cohen and Alvin Kamara. Stock: Up

Hercules Mata’afa, EDGE (Redshirt Junior) 

This game was my first live exposure to Hercules Mata’afa, and my takeaway from the viewing is that he is going to be a problem for defensive coordinators at the next level. He is an edge defender who absolutely blows up the run, but can get to the quarterback with his ease because of his uncanny ability to convert speed to power in a pinch. For how strong he is against the run, it was surprising to see how athletic he was as a whole. In fact, I would be shocked if he didn’t blow up the Combine, specifically in the jumps and three-cone drill. His explosiveness affected the game on all three downs, and he is squarely on my draft radar for top edge defender prospects. Stock: Up

Other Players that Flashed

USC’s Rasheem Green, DT (Junior)

Washington State could not block Rasheem Green for the early part of the game, but when they decided to double him on some snaps, his production predictably slowed down. The key though is that for the first time this season, we were able to witness the immense talent that Green possesses, especially as a pass rusher with his quick first step and heavy hands. Consistency is the big question mark for Green because he has a tendency to disappear for an extended period of time, but he simply dominated the Cougars’ interior offensive line in this one.

Washington State’s Renard Bell, WR (Freshman)

Bell was the deep threat that killed USC Friday night. His explosiveness both laterally and vertically makes him a big play receiver on any given play. The highlight was a 61-yard bomb from Falk over the middle that he nearly took to house. He is only a freshman, but his performance against a defense like USC put other Pac 12 teams on notice, as he is the type of player that you may have to gameplan for. He is what Jakeem Grant was to Texas Tech in their air raid offense a couple of years ago.

Best Players on the Field

Washington State’s Luke Falk, QB (Redshirt Senior)

Washington State’s Renard Bell, WR (Freshman)

Washington State’s Hercules Mata’afa, EDGE (Redshirt Junior)

USC’s Rasheem Green, DT (Junior)

USC’s Ronald Jones II, RB (Junior)

USC’s Uchenna Nwosu, EDGE (Senior)

Forgettable Performances

USC’s Sam Darnold, QB (Redshirt Sophomore)

USC’s Stephen Carr, RB (Freshman)

USC’s Iman Marshall, CB (Junior)

Jonah Tuls

Tuls is one of the lead NFL Draft analysts for Draftbreakdown.com and has been a key contributor to several other NFL Draft sites in recent years. At Draftbreakdown, Tuls provides macro-oriented NFL Draft coverage, including comprehensive player rankings, mock drafts and big boards for the site. Tuls has worked with some of the NDT Scouting staff previously before; he worked with National Scout Jon Ledyard to form the core of USA Today’s Draft Wire site for the 2016 NFL Draft season. His work there was centered around draft reports, with additional analysis and breaking news efforts as well.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Scouting Notes

To Top