Defense Leads Trojans Past Oregon State
LOS ANGELES -- USC wasn't very good on offense tonight. It didn't matter. When your defense logs nine sacks, scoring a bunch of points isn't necessary.
That's exactly what the Trojans did as they dominated Oregon State 24-3 to stay alive in the Pac-10 race.
"We had a terrible week getting yelled at all week," linebacker Keith Rivers said of USC's week of practice coming off a loss to Oregon. "Somebody had to pay for it. Oregon State was the team that had to pay for it."
Pay for it they did. Oregon State never had a chance. The Beavers tallied 176 yards of total offense. They converted three of 17 third down attempts. They averaged 2.5 yards per rush and three yards per pass.
The only reason they scored was because USC quarterback John David Booty fumbled to set them up in the red zone. Even then, they couldn't punch it in the end zone. It was as thorough a defensive performance as USC has put together all season.
"We came after them early and just kept coming," USC Coach Pete Carroll said. "A lot of the guys contributed to that happening. The coverage guys on the deep end did a fantastic job tonight to keep them from throwing the football and getting rid of it on rhythm so the rest could get there. It was just an overwhelming night on defense."
Defensive end Everson Griffen was the star of the night, logging 3.5 sacks and six tackles. Brian Cushing, Kevin Ellison, Lawrence Jackson and Sedrick Ellis also logged sacks while a quarterback pressure from Kyle Moore led OSU's Sean Canfield to throw an interception to Terrell Thomas. On the night, Canfield completed 11-of-25 passes for 85 yards and took the brunt of all nine USC sacks.
The Trojans had to have the big defensive effort as their offense looked stagnant at times with Booty getting his first action since suffering a broken finger against Stanford on Oct. 6. USC made it inside Oregon State's 40 twice in the first two possessions and failed to score. Not until the USC defense started to set its offense at or near midfield did the Trojans crack the scoreboard.
But a few short fields set up by aggressive defense and turnovers was all the USC offense needed to build its lead.
"Any time you do that, we usually are known for scoring touchdowns or putting points on the board when we get great field position like we did at times tonight," Booty said.
He finished completing 19-of-33 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns while the running game generated 100 yards on 36 carries. None of those numbers are spectacular and they had some fans griping about the offensive struggles -- especially in the second half.
The Trojans didn't get good field position after halftime and often found themselves set up inside their own 20. They couldn't do anything with the ball and didn't score after halftime. But perhaps most importantly, they didn't turn the ball over. Booty's first-half fumble was the only Trojan turnover of the game. Turnovers plagued USC in both of their losses to Stanford and Oregon.
Player of the Game: This one's tough since the entire effort on defense was excellent. The game ball has to go to Griffen's breakthrough 3.5-sack effort
Play of the Game: Thomas' interception in the second quarter put the game away for the Trojans. Holding a 14-3 lead with about four minutes left in the half, Thomas put an end to the Beavers' efforts to make it close at halftime while setting USC up for an easy score to increase the lead to 24-3.
Looking Ahead: The road ahead is rocky for USC. They have a pair of tough road games at Cal and at Arizona State the next two weeks and won't win either of them if the offense doesn't perform better. Booty has to find a rhythm for the Trojans to have a shot at the Pac-10 title.
At 4-2 in conference, they stand a game behind Arizona State and Oregon in the standings and are long shots to pull ahead of both, but they're still alive.
Oregon State, meanwhile stays in the northwest for the rest of the season with a home game against Washington before heading to Washington State and Oregon. At 5-3 (3-3) in conference, they need just one more win to earn a bowl berth but can't realistically compete for the conference title.