Every good season has its signature moments — sequences, calls, plays that go down in the history books. If USC football is to have a 2018 season to remember, then the left hand of redshirt freshman defensive lineman Jay Tufele will be responsible for not just Friday’s 39-36 win over Washington State, but also for one of those moments.Who knows what would have happened had Christian Haangana — the Washington State redshirt sophomore left guard who fell while blocking for redshirt freshman punter Blake Mazza on the potential game-tying 38-yard field goal attempt — stayed upright, if Tufele hadn’t used all of his 6-foot-3 frame to deflect the kick, which would have otherwise split the uprights and forced overtime.Consider what a loss would have meant: a 1-3 start for the second time in three years, except with a true freshman quarterback and no Sam Darnold waiting in the wings. It would have meant firing up the hot seat for members of the coaching staff — members like offensive coordinator Tee Martin, if not head coach Clay Helton himself. It would have justified the boobirds who came out at the Coliseum when USC went down after two scores in the second half despite holding a massive talent edge over Washington State.For a week, those questions won’t be asked. And with USC’s next seven games coming against conference opponents, none of which are substantially better than Washington State, they may not be asked for a while.Friday’s win was reminiscent of last season’s theme, when Darnold’s magic masked the team’s many issues. This time, it was the arm of freshman quarterback JT Daniels, the athleticism of freshman wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and redshirt sophomore wide receiver Tyler Vaughns and the speed of junior wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. that bailed the Trojans out. One tell-tale sign that USC at no point had control of the game was the time of possession, which favored Washington State by more than 11 minutes. The Trojans never applied pressure to Cougar quarterback Gardner Minshew II, and on the other side of the line, didn’t give Daniels much time to operate. The run game was better than its woeful negative yardage performance in Texas, but what should be the bread-and-butter of this team was never established. Sophomore running back Stephen Carr, who exploded for 56 yards on the first two plays of the game, somehow only wound up with 77 yards on eight carries. Other problems still persisted. Minshew gashed the Trojans for 344 yards in the air, and the secondary, weakened by injury but still sporting a senior cornerback in Iman Marshall and a redshirt senior cornerback in Ajene Harris, did not look like it had a grip on coverage — three different Washington State receivers recorded six or more receptions. And there were the facepalming moments, like redshirt senior center Toa Lobendahn snapping the ball way over Daniels’ head for a 17-yard loss that ruined a promising drive in the second quarter.Some of these issues are on the players. Others are on the coaching staff not putting the players in the right position to succeed. But none of them are because of talent, and this is a recurring point of discussion with this program. Very few high school football players raise their hands to willingly spend four years in Pullman, Wash. The recruits that Washington State lands are typically the ones who were turned down by big-time programs like USC, which literally has four- and five-star recruits begging for a roster spot year after year. Considering the talent disparity on the field on Friday, Washington State had no business hanging with USC, much less being a field goal away from tying the game late in regulation.Still, the caveat: If the Trojans play the rest of the season the same way they did on Friday, they could easily wind up with an 8-1 conference record and a trip to the Pac-12 Championship. That’s how bad the Pac-12 is, and how poorly USC can play and still end up with an objectively good season. But this is only possible because of Tufele’s block, which came on a play call installed last week by special teams coach John Baxter. It was called “D-move,” according to Tufele, and it entailed going over the offensive guard if he leans forward. Prior to the kick, senior linebacker Cameron Smith noticed that Haangana was ready to lean forward, so he yelled out the play.Haangana, indeed, leaned forward. Tufele, matched up across from him, didn’t. Haangana fell and watched as Tufele, unguarded, swatted the kick away.“Right when I got in, it was just ‘one-two-three’ and I was up,” Tufele said outside the locker room after the game, speaking like a redshirt freshman in his first time in the spotlight. “I put my hands up and prayed the ball was going to hit it. I was like, ‘Game over. Checkmate.’”A smart play call, solid communication, sublime execution and a depth player contributing in a big way: These are the traits of a good team. For all the problems that flared up, for all the griping and complaining that rightfully lands on the coaching staff week after week, everything came together perfectly for one critical moment on Friday. And that moment — it just might be the spark the Trojans need. Eric He is a senior majoring in journalism. He is also the managing editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Grinding Gears,” runs Mondays.