Slovis, St. Brown help No. 16 USC rout Washington State

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Southern California wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, right, catches a touchdown over Washington State defensive back Armani Marsh during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

LOS ANGELES – Kedon Slovis and Amon-Ra St. Brown kept grinding in practice while No. 16 Southern California waited two weeks and then two more days to get back on the field.

When the Trojans and Washington State finally got the green light Sunday night, Slovis and St. Brown roared right through it for a record-setting start to a blowout win.

St. Brown caught four touchdown passes from Slovis in a spectacular first quarter, and unbeaten USC cruised to a 38-13 victory over the Cougars.

Slovis threw five touchdown passes in the first half before finishing with 287 yards as the Trojans (4-0) returned from a prolonged absence caused by a COVID-19 outbreak with a dominant performance on both sides of the ball against the Cougars (1-2), who also hadn't played since Nov. 14.

St. Brown made college football history with touchdowns on every one of his four catches in the opening quarter, including two dazzling grabs made with backward dives on difficult throws by Slovis. Along with tying Robert Woods’ USC record for TD catches in a game, the junior receiver tied the FBS record for touchdowns scored in any quarter and joined Duke’s Corey Thomas in 1997 as the only players in FBS history with four touchdown catches in a quarter.

“We don’t like being away from football for so long, but I think the days away helped us get our legs back underneath us,” St. Brown said. “We had some linemen out, but we had a lot of time to get our throws in. It wasn’t too bad for (the skill-position players).”

With precise execution and big-play excellence against a depleted Washington State secondary curiously playing man-to-man coverage against one of the best receiver groups in the country, the Trojans grabbed a 35-0 lead midway through the second quarter with just 214 yards of offense.

Talanoa Hufanga and Olaijah Griffin had interceptions in the first half for USC, which dominated a game moved back two nights to allow the Trojans to clear enough players from coronavirus protocol to play.