Washington State defensive end Hercules Mata’afa, a 2014 Lahainaluna alum, had five tackles with two tackles for loss in the Cougars’ 30-27 win over No. 5 Southern California on Friday in Pullman, Wash.
Washington State, ranked No. 16 this week, improve to 5-0 for the first time since 2001 and won its first regular-season game against a team ranked in the top five in 25 years.
Mata’afa, who leads all active Pac-12 players in career tackles for loss, upped his total to 34 1/2, ranking seventh in school history.
The 6-foot-2, 252-pound redshirt junior already has 10 tackles for loss this season.
“We showed that we were the better team tonight,” Mata’afa said in a postgame press conference Friday. “It was fun to go out there and play against (USC).
“We went out there and penetrated the line of scrimmage and we came downhill at them and they weren’t expecting that.”
After redshirting his first season in Pullman, Mata’afa has not missed a game and was named to the All-Pac-12 second team last season.
He helped hold USC to a season-low 327 total yards on offense.
“We have all the trust in each other,” Mata’afa said of the defense. “We’ve got more experience coming back (from last year) and we trust each other a lot.”
The Cougars went 9-4 and beat Miami in the Sun Bowl two years ago and were 8-5 with a loss to Minnesota in the Holiday Bowl last year.
WSU plays back-to-back road games at Oregon and California the next two weeks. After beating USC, the only other Pac-12 team ranked higher than WSU is No. 6 Washington. The two teams will meet in the Apple Cup in November to end the regular season.