Talanoa Hufanga a relentless defensive machine in USC’s win over Washington State


LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 06: Max Williams #4 and Talanoa Hufanga #15 of the USC Trojans.
USC safeties Talanoa Hufanga (15) and Max Williams (4) sort out Washington State extensive receiver Calvin Jackson Jr. through the first half of the Trojans’ 38-13 win Sunday. (Sean M. Haffey / Getty Photos)

Amon-ra St. Brown isn’t the one Trojans participant with fast fingers.

Whereas the receiver’s 4 landing catches dominated No. 20 USC’s 38-13 over Washington State on Sunday, security Talanoa Hufanga offered a defensive spotlight with an interception he tipped to himself within the first quarter.

The junior from Corvallis, Ore., had a team-high 9 tackles, a five-yard sack and a 37-yard interception return because the Trojans (4-0) stayed atop the Pac-12 South with one regular-season recreation remaining.

Hufanga’s takeaway was his third interception in 4 video games. With the Trojans already up 14-0, Hufanga tipped a cross from Cougars starter Jayden de Laura to himself, hurdled a would-be tackler and rumbled down the sideline to the four-yard line.

As head coach Clay Helton spoke after the sport concerning the play, the coach’s eyes obtained extensive above the USC neck gaiter that coated his nostril and mouth.

“When he hurdled the man, I used to be like, ‘Oh my goodness,’” Helton mentioned. “‘We’re taking it to a different degree now.’”

After the play, which led to a four-yard landing cross from Kedon Slovis to St. Brown, Hufanga approached Helton on the sideline. That’s why I’m right here, the junior assured his coach.

“I need to have the ability to assist win a championship,” Helton mentioned of Hufanga’s message. “He made some particular performs tonight. He’s taking part in actually good soccer.”

Since being named the inaugural Polynesian Soccer Corridor of Fame highschool participant of the 12 months in 2017, Hufanga has emerged as a dependable piece for the Trojans. He began in every of his 10 appearances final season and completed second on the staff with 90 tackles regardless of lacking one recreation with a concussion and two extra due to a shoulder harm. He leads the Trojans with 33 tackles this 12 months.

Helton known as the 6-foot-1, 215-pound security “one of many smartest gamers I’ve ever had the chance to teach.”

Hufanga confirmed his soccer mind Sunday as he made a cameo look at inside linebacker. To face Washington State’s run-and-shoot offense, defensive coordinator Todd Orlando wished to maximise the variety of athletes USC had on the sector to restrict the Cougars’ alternatives on the perimeter.

Washington State offensive linemen Abraham Lucas, right, and Josh Watson try to block USC's Talanoa Hufanga.
Washington State offensive linemen Abraham Lucas, proper, and Josh Watson attempt to block USC’s Talanoa Hufanga through the second half of the Trojans’ win Sunday. (Sean M. Haffey / Getty Photos)

The Trojans, who have been additionally with out injured linebackers Palaie Gaoteote IV (concussion) and Ralen Goforth (foot), usually had 5 – 6 defensive backs on the sector at a time.

Washington State, which averaged 164.5 dashing yards in its first two video games, had simply 73 yards dashing Sunday.

“We talked about actually making an attempt to make Washington State one-dimensional,” Helton mentioned, emphasizing the necessity to cease operating again Deon McIntosh, who was averaging 119.5 yards dashing per recreation. “That allowed us to essentially have some third-down conditions the place we might get after the quarterback and produce 4 sacks and three turnovers.”

Hufanga’s interception was the primary of the three takeaways for the USC protection as Washington State regarded each bit like a staff that hadn’t performed in three weeks due to COVID-19 cancellations.

De Laura threw one other interception to Olaijah Griffin on the drive instantly after Hufanga’s decide, and the Cougars misplaced a fumble recovered by Chase Williams on their first drive within the second half.

This story initially appeared in Los Angeles Occasions.



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