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A few hours before Washington State would try to add USC to its list of upset victims, Cougar Quarterback Jack Thompson happily discovered that his locker-room cubicle in the L.A. Coliseum was the same one used by his NFL idol, Joe Namath. It may have been the most misleading omen of the year.
In a 41-7 rout, USC hammered WSU and Thompson with a defense that keyed the Trojans' 15th straight victory. USC repeatedly drove Thompson out of the pocket, intercepted him twice and treated the Throwin' Samoan the way rivals treated Joe Willie in his last seasons with the Jets.
Because the Cougars had upset Nebraska and Michigan State, USC Coach John Robinson said, "They had our attention all week—and sometimes it's bad to get our attention." Indeed, USC matched a strong rush with superlative coverage, holding Thompson to three completions in nine attempts in the first half, even though four Trojan defensive starters were out with injuries. Thompson, who was averaging 21 completions a game, finished with 10 in 21 attempts for 136 yards and a touchdown scored after USC led 41-0.
Southern Cal Tailbacks Charles White and Dwight Ford combined for 246 yards rushing and four touchdowns while Rob Hertel, the Trojan quarterback, completed 11 of 18 for 182 yards, including a touchdown bomb to Randy Simmrin.
USC's win streak is the nation's longest among major teams and, depending on which poll you read, the Trojans rank No. 1 or No. 2. While Robinson said, "No. 1 is not that much of an issue right now," he also admitted, "We impressed me a little bit tonight."
For the first time since 1952, California also stands 4-0 after its first four games, the result of a 52-3 blitz of injured and overmatched San Jose State. The Golden Bears racked up 333 yards total offense in the first half, and Quarterback Charlie Young paced the offense by completing 12 of 15 passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns.
Stanford made a successful conference debut by dropping Oregon 20-10, but the Cards' joy was tempered when Quarterback Guy Benjamin, the Pac-8 passing leader, suffered a knee injury in the fourth quarter. He is not expected to play against UCLA this week.
Brigham Young followed a familiar format in smashing New Mexico 54-19. The Cougar defense forced early turnovers and Quarterback Gifford Nielsen was devastating. The nation's leading passer, Nielsen completed 19 of 23 for 273 yards and five touchdowns before he went to the bench with six minutes left in the third quarter. Although he has played but 10 quarters, Nielsen has a 70.4% completion rate and has thrown for 912 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Missouri got its first victory by blanking Arizona State 15-0 as the Tigers intercepted five passes and recovered three Sun Devil fumbles. Both Missouri touchdowns came on 80-yard drives under the direction of freshman Quarterback Phil Bradley, who passed for one score and ran for another.