In the news:
WSU’s Damante Horton credits coach for his defensive success against USC
Cougars cornerback named Pac-12 defensive player of the week
Senior cornerback Damante Horton isn’t much for talking about himself, or a whole lot else, really. So his anointment Monday as Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week will have to speak for him.
Horton’s two interceptions in Washington State’s 10-7 upset Saturday of USC — one returned 70 yards for a touchdown, the other late in the game to give the Cougars the ball and a chance to eventually run out the clock — landed him the honor for the first time in his career.
The announcement didn’t come from the Pac-12 until after Horton had already addressed the media Monday. But Horton, soft-spoken and humble as usual, credited defensive coordinator Mike Breske for his performance.
“It was a lot (to do) with the play-calling. The defensive coordinator called great calls and put me in the right positions,” Horton said.
His interceptions were similar, Horton said. He had been instructed to sit on shorter routes, because it became obvious that USC was unwilling — or unable — to throw the ball deep. So Horton was in the right place at the right time with less than a minute remaining in the first half, when Cody Kessler threw well behind his receiver and right to Horton.
He caught it and ran 70 yards for a touchdown without being touched.
“From the call, I was just sitting on any short routes, so as soon as I saw the ball, I just went for it,” Horton said.
The second interception was of a pass thrown by backup quarterback Max Wittek on a slant route with fewer than three minutes left in the game. WSU had just taken the lead thanks to a 41-yard field goal by Andrew Furney, and Horton was still sitting on those short routes.
And, just like the first one, “as soon as I saw the ball, I just went for it,” he said.
WSU coach Mike Leach credits Horton’s strong start to his willingness to relax a little. Leach described Horton as a “perfectionist,” which is a quality that hindered him at times last season.
“Some of that would slow him down,” Leach said. “But now he’s relaxed and lets himself play. He understands that once in a while there’s going to be a mistake, but just let it fly and play as hard as you can, and I think it’s really paid off for him.”
Ioane Gauta is a big dude, but the 6-foot-3, 285-pounder used to stand out on the field in another way: by his long, unmistakable hair.
But Gauta is playing with a shorter cut this season.
A phone call from Gauta’s father before the Apple Cup last season convinced him to shorten it.
“I wanted to start a new legacy with this new hair,” Gauta said. “I knew it was a big game, Apple Cup game, and my dad called me up and said, ‘I want to see my last name on your jersey.’ And that pretty much hit me like, all right, so I really got to cut this hair now. So when I cut it, my dad was proud; we were proud after that win. So everything happens for a reason.”
• Washington State will play another 7:30 p.m. game next week, on Sept. 21, against Idaho at Martin Stadium. The game will air on the Pac-12 Networks.