LOS ANGELES-A Hail Mary pass. Two quarters. Three plays. Twenty-one points. That would be all the USC Trojans needed to defeat the Oregaon State Beavers in front of a sellout crowd at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Saturday, Sept. 27. It’s been two weeks since the Trojans took the field. The last time they faced an opponent, the Trojans found themselves on the short end of a 37-31 defeat to Boston College.
The Trojans’ defense must have taken that loss to heart because they upped their game big-time against a quarterback (Oregon State’s Sean Mannion), who is one of the better signal-callers in the stellar Pac-12 Conference. In holding the Beavers to less than 200 yards in total offense for the game, USC (3-1, 2-0) made a defensive statement. That statement was established early in the first quarter.
There were three plays that separated USC from the Beavers. And they all took place in the first half. While the overall outcome of the game officially states that it was a 35-10 win for the Trojans, what happened in the first two quarters is really what won the game for USC. The score suggest a rout.
On the field of play it was anything but that, at least for the first half. With the offense teetering on the verge of mediocrity in both the first and second quarters, the Trojans’ opportunistic defense did what it had to do to kick start the team’s win. Su’a Cravens stepped in front of a Oregon States would-be receiver and practically pranced into the endzone untouched on a 31-yard interception return that gave the Trojans an immediate edge.
The celebration didn’t last too long. Oregon State responded on the ensuing kickoff with a 97-yard return by Ryan Murphy to tie the game. With the exception of a Cody Kessler to Bryace Dixon touchdown pass, the rest of the half was played at a pretty ho-hum level. That’s when the two other big plays for the Trojans took place. USC was barely holding on a 14-10 lead as Oregon State drove down the field and looked every bit like they were going to punch in the score to go up by three points.
But the impact of freshman Adoree Jackson continues to be felt in each game with his big plays. This time around, Jackson deflected a pass that teammate Leon McQuay III intercepted in the endzone to take away a sure touchdown for the Beavers. If that play was a heartbreaker for Oregon State, the last play of the first half turned out to be the knockout blow for the Beavers and eliminated any chances they had to win this ballgame.
A Hail Mary pass. With time running out on the half, somehow, some way, wideout Darreus Rogers came down with the ball in his hands for a 48-yard touchdown pass from Kessler on the last play of the second quarter. Talk about having your hearts ripped out. Well, that is exactly what happened to the Beavers at the end of the first half. That was essentially the ballgame. Oh sure, there were two other quarters of football to be played, but the handwriting was clearly imprinted on the wall for the Beavers.
The message delivered by the Trojans to the Beavers was simple: Good night, and good luck.