Oregon St., despite being favored for the first time ever against USC in a game played in Corvallis, was beaten in all phases of the game for most of the game, and dropped a 31-14 decision that was the first time the Beavers have been beat before the final seconds of the game this season.
USC won the toss and deferred, as OSU likely also would have done. It looked foolish at first with Cooks burning the Trojans for a 31 yard gain, but after that the drive sputtered out and OSU attempted a 46 yard field goal and had it blocked, below.
Cody Kessler then turned around and tossed a pass on play action deep to Marquise Lee, above, who was uncovered, there was no one within 15 yards of him. Both teams traded a few punts after that, and then USC mounted a 9 play, 72 yard touchdown drive which lasted a little over four minutes, capped by the first of what would eventually be 3 touchdown runs by Javarious Allen, below, and the Trojans looked poised to take absolute control of the game with a 14-0 lead.
The Beavers looked to answer on the ensuing drive, they struck big play after big play and got down to the USC 16 on the first drive of the second quarter. Sean Mannion went back to pass, saw everything was well covered, and tried to float one to Connor Hamlett in that was picked off by USC's Josh Shaw. This would be a reoccuring event on the night.
The Beaver defense held after Mannion's mistake, forcing a three and out. The Beavs got the ball with a short field and quickly struck for a 27 yard touchdown to Brandin Cooks, above. On the next play for USC, Cody Kessler forced one into coverage, which was intercepted and then returned down the sideline by Ryan Murphy, below, who made a spectacular dive into the end zone.
The extra point tied the game at 14 apiece, but this would be the end of the Beaver scoring for the game.
At this point in the game the Trojans just started to pound the rock, in response to Murphy's touchdown they mounted a long 75 yard touchdown drive featuring 8 rushes, 7 by Silas Redd, above, and only 2 passes. The Beavs were unable to stop them and went into the half down 14-21 after Allen's 2nd scoring run. Redd would go on to be the game's leading rusher, with 140 yards on 22 carries, while Allen was close behind, adding 133 yards, and the 3 tds, on 16 carries.
The Trojans came out after halftime and launched another deep bomb, this time to Nelson Agholor who beat Rashaad Reynolds for 62 yards down to the OSU 13, above. Play action as has happened multiple times this season, prompted both Oregon St. safeties to bite hard on the fake, leaving neither safety in the over-the-top responsibility that left the huge completions that started off both halves undefendable.
It was also the first time since the 2008 Civil War that the Beavs had surrendered 2 plays from scrimmage in the same game for over 60 yards.
From there the Trojans were stuffed though, first by a botched a snap that Kessler wasn't expecting, and followed by a screen pass which fell short of the first down. It resulted in a field goal, and the Beavers looked like they still had a shot.
And the Beaver's quickshot offense would quickly move down the field, sparked by a 29 yard fly sweep by Brandin Cooks below.
But the Beavers were stymied in the red zone, which set up a 26 yard field goal attempt for Romaine. Who missed it, pushing it wide left from the right hash. The score remained 24-14.
The Trojans pressed their advantage from there on out though, and just kept running the ball at the Beaver front, who could not handle them. They ran the ball for four minutes, punted and OSU could not get anything going. They then ran it a few more times until the dam broke, and Javorius Allen busted a 52 yard run into the end zone, bringing the score to 31-14. The Beavs would get in one more decent drive, but on 1st down from the USC 5, Mannion tried to force a pass into double coverage to his tight end Tyler Perry. It was a terrible choice, and the Trojans' Dion Baily darted in front of Perry for the interception.
From there the Beavs never really threatened again. The defense would hold after getting knocked around for a few more minutes, but then two poor throws by Mannion resulted in another pick, this time by Kevon Seymour, giving Mannion, who came into the game with only 4 ints all season, three on the day.
The Trojans looked strong, fast, and tough. The Beavs just looked inept. As the game wore on, the Trojans just kept pressing their physical advantage, dominating the Oregon State front seven, sucking in the safeties and creating big plays from those situations.
Another storyline was the continued lack of tackling. I was trying to tally the yards after contact on my own, but the count was getting too high. It was somewhere around 50 yards or so from early in the second quarter to partway in the third, where keeping track only served to make me furious. The Beaver defense might miss linebackers Michael Doctor and DJ Alexander, but excuses don't deliver the W.
This was Mannion's worst game of the season. Against Stanford he took the safe passes, but generally did not make a lot mistakes besides taking too many coverage sacks. Tonight, Mannion was only sacked twice, including above by USC's Devon Kennard. But in this game he pressed, trying to avoid a repeat of last week's sack priblem, and tried to force the ball in, frequently into double coverage, and was unsuccessful. The most heinous of his passes was his forced attempt to Perry. Perry is not a great receiver and he had two Trojans on him. There was no reason for this pass, especially not on first down, the ball should have just been thrown away.
The game made me angry of course, but nothing set me off like USC playing their fight song over the Oregon State alma mater. I have taken to listening to it in order to give me a bit of catharsis, it sort of soothes the seething rage I have for these Beaver losses, but tonight the USC band just played over it. I'm sure it is a tradition to play the song right after the game, and that's well and good, but I would have appreciated some respect for the traditions of another school from the Trojans.
In the end though, the Beavers failed in every phase of the game, missing field goal points on special teams, failing to stop the run on defense, and failing to pass the ball, protect Mannion, or run the ball on offense. Every unit for the Beavers equally shoulders the blame for a performance which failed to live up to the occasion.
Oregon St.'s now 2 game losing streak dropped them to 6-3 on the season, and 4-2 in the Pac-12. The Beavers will now have 14 days off, before taking on Arizona St., 55-21 winners at Washington St. last night in Pullman, in Tempe.
USC has now won 2 in a row, and 3 of 4 under "interim" head coach Ed Orgeron since he took over after Lane Kiffen was fired after the Trojans lost 62-14 at Arizona St. The Trojans improved to 6-3, and 3-2 in the conference, as Orgeron continues to make a strong case to be more than just an interim coach. USC visits stumbling California next Saturday.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)