Plug the Dam: Scondi’s USC vs. Oregon State 2017 preview

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images /

After a heartbreaking loss against Washington State, the Trojans will look to regroup as they head back home for USC vs. Oregon State.

Disclaimer: Thank you to all my readers who didn’t point out any typos on last week’s article. Either I got better at proof reading or you listened to my disclaimer. It’s most likely the latter.  

USC doesn’t have a bye week this season.

Technically they do, but only if they win their division.

The Trojans bye week will either help the team get as healthy as possible for a chance to win the conference title or give them extra time to prepare for Iowa in the Holiday Bowl.

USC could use that bye week now. The injuries for the Trojans continue to pile on. With news this week that offensive guard Viane Talamaivao is out for the year, the injury report might be able to field its own team by the time they get time to rest.

When the schedule was released early this year, fans were furious. The Pac-12 did USC no favors by scheduling their bye on the last week of the regular season. Conferences shouldn’t give teams preferential treatment. They also shouldn’t go out of their way to make the path for the consensus favorite as difficult as possible. That’s what they did for USC.

The anger around the schedule subsided a bit as the season started. The Trojans were winning every game so it didn’t matter. Then last Friday happened and the complaints came back as fast as the pitchforks and “Fire Clay Helton” signs.

This time fans were not only lamenting about the lack of a bye week, but playing an away game on Friday after previously playing an away game the week before.

It’s time to stop complaining.

It may be by chance, but USC has the easiest schedule in the Pac-12 this year. Here’s the schedules for the other top teams in the conference:

  • Washington: at Stanford, vs. Utah, vs. Washington State to end the season
  • Washington State: vs. Stanford , at Utah, at Washington to end the season
  • Stanford: at Washington State, vs. Washington back to back
  • Utah: vs. Stanford, at USC back to back and vs. Washington State, at Washington back to back

Would Trojan fans like to trade their schedule with one of these teams so they can move their bye up a few weeks?

USC had to play Stanford and Texas back-to-back and will have to play Utah and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks, but that’s not the fault of the Pac-12. The Trojans scheduled their out of conference opponents on their own.

Washington State plays five of their final seven games on the road. They wasted their home field advantage on teams like Montana State and Nevada. Not only that, but the Cougars have to play an away game on Friday after playing an away game this week. Sound familiar?

They better get all their celebrating in now because the clock is about to strike midnight and the city of Pullman is about to turn into a pumpkin.

USC fans feel like they were screwed by the Pac-12 schedule. They were. Get over it.

USC needs to adapt and find ways to create their own bye weeks. They need to use games against weaker opponents as a way to rest injured starters and fix problem areas.

What a perfect time to play Oregon State.

The Blame Game

USC’s loss last week was extremely frustrating.  Even though there were so many factors that led to the upset, the Trojans only lost by a field goal.

If USC loses again, I hope it’s a blowout. Don’t give us a chance. Leave no doubt.

Fans couldn’t wait to point fingers over who bore the responsibility for the loss on Friday. Most of them went to Clay Helton (per usual), but who is really to blame?

Sam Darnold

Sam Darnold had the worst game in his career, throwing for 164 yards and one interception. He had two rushing touchdowns, but also lost the fumble on the last drive that sealed the victory for Washington State.

This season hasn’t gone exactly as planned for Sam Darnold. He’s shown bright spots but has struggled for the most part. He hasn’t quite made the leap everyone was expecting. Every sports publication wasn’t expecting the guy on the cover of their August issue to have thrown eight interceptions in five games.

So what happened?

He got overhyped. That doesn’t mean he’s bad. It just means he wasn’t worth the summer long publicity tour. Few rarely are.

Life isn’t a video game. You don’t just level up your abilities simply because you have more time to practice. Sure, you’re able to hone some of your skills, but one offseason doesn’t mean Sam Darnold was going to come into his sophomore year with ability to jump fifty feet in the air and fire lasers out of his eyes.


Darnold didn’t perform well, but he was told to make a bomb out of banana peel and chewing gum. He’s not MacGyver.

Hell, on Friday night, he wasn’t even MacGruber.

By the end of the game, Darnold was without his blind side, his sighted side and his near-sighted side protection. Playing against Washington State’s defensive front is tough. With two freshman pass blockers? Either your back is going to get really familiar with the grass or your favorite target is going to be the first down marker on the sidelines.

It wasn’t only the offensive line that was hurt.

Keep in mind that three of the players not highlighted didn’t see the field. Practically everyone playing in the fourth quarter was either a freshman or playing through injury.

Glad Washington State opened up their broom closet for USC’s postgame press conference. That plastic table is probably still sticky from all the rounds of beer pong before the game.

This injury report is so long it feels like Helton is making up fake names and corresponding injuries by the end of it. Jordan Iosefa and Jalen Greene knocked each other out during warm up drills before the game. That’s how you know it wasn’t USC’s day. Surprised I didn’t see a black cat on the Trojan sideline.

Missed Opportunities

Fans probably didn’t realize when Nwosu picked off the ball on Washington State’s two-yard line that he probably should have tried to stay upright for the pick-six.

Immediately after the play, the broadcast started showing shots of miserable Washington State fans. They knew the floodgates were about to be opened. Except USC didn’t bother to break through the barrier. I know Trojans are supposed to be protective but it would be nice if they could penetrate the end zone from the two-yard line.

The Cougars also punted the ball less than 20 yards twice in the third quarter, giving the Trojans prime field position. They were only able to score three points off those opportunities.

Washington State gave the game to USC, but they politely decline each opportunity. I get being a hospitable guest, but this was a bit of overkill.

Play Calling

The play calling last week left Tee unsweetened after the game.

Martin put the Trojans offensive line in positions to fail. There were no roll-outs, no outside runs, and very little run-pass options. The only time Darnold left the pocket was when it was already occupied by Washington State pass rushers. Ronald Jones II and Stephen Carr thrive off breaking open-field tackles. Handing them the ball inside with three backup offensive linemen isn’t giving them a chance to succeed.

He had inexperienced players like Josh Falo and Josh Imatorbhebhe receiving targets at key moments in the game. He left their goal line running back, Vavae Malepeai, on the sidelines when the Trojans were on the two-yard line. For the first time in more than 20 years no running backs or tight ends had a pass reception.

He called too many passing plays on first down, which sunk a majority of drives before they even started. The flea flicker wasn’t a bad call, but I know for a fact that he didn’t know about that intentional grounding rule. No one did. All of America learned that on Friday. The one time Pac-12 refs do something right.

Finally, and I can’t believe I’m saying this.



Smart move by No. 3 to wear white gloves. Makes it harder for the ref to notice you’re grabbing onto Tyler Vaughns jersey the whole game.

When I played high school football I was always told that when you play on the road, you’re going against your opponent and the refs.

Then again, the officiating crew hired for the game were usually alumni of the school.

The officiating was beyond atrocious on Friday. Missed calls. Incorrect calls. All negatively affecting the Trojans.

The Aftermath Of The Loss

Despite the thousands of reasons USC should have won the game, they didn’t.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the opposing team run onto the field after beating USC. I’d consider it a badge of honor if it wasn’t so annoying.

I’ll never understand the point of burning couches after your team wins, but I’m not going to start to figure out the logic behind the decisions of a drunk college student. There aren’t any.

It’s going to suck when Cougars fans are watching their team play this Saturday on the only spot on their hardwood floor not covered in pizza boxes and spilled beer.

The lack of clothes is a staple of Woodstock. Mike Leach is describing Outside Lands.

It wouldn’t be a USC loss without controversy. After the game concluded, fans began to rush the field and one unfortunate man received the hit stick from Trojans defensive end Liam Jimmons. I know it was him because there is an ongoing investigation on a possible assault for the altercation.

The fact that Jimmons may be charged with anything is in itself, criminal. Was Kevin Moen investigated for possible assault after he pummeled a Stanford trombone player at the end of “The Play”?

If a fan runs on the field during the game and Jimmons lays him out, he goes viral and becomes a hero.

I get why it would be a little different after the game, but still it isn’t. One person is supposed to be out there and one isn’t. There’s a reason the school was fined after the fans charged the field. Because it’s not allowed.

The field should have a “Trespassers Will Be Hit” sign for fans.

Oregon State Team Preview

Note: Bill Connelly’s team preview of Oregon State was invaluable to my research for this section. He gets the credit.


The Beavers season isn’t going too well. While USC fans are panicking over one loss, Oregon State is just trying to get at least two wins by the season’s end.

The Beavers have lost to Colorado State, Minnesota, Washington State and Washington. Their lone win came against FCS opponent Portland State.


If it feels a little warmer in Corvallis than it should be in October, I have a clue where the source of that extra heat is coming from: the seat in Gary Andersen’s office.

Before coming to Oregon State, Gary Andersen coached two years at Wisconsin where he went 19-7 with two Top 25 finishes. His crowning achievement was helping Ohio State make the College Football Playoff by throwing the Big Ten championship in 2014.

In his first three years coaching the Beavers, Andersen has gone 7-22. It can be argued that it takes time to rejuvenate a struggling program like Oregon State, but it’s expected to see the team improve year after year. It doesn’t look like the Beavers have another win on their schedule.

Andersen may be able to stick around a while longer, mostly because coaches in the Pac-12 can get away with being bad a lot longer than any other conference. It’s not even halfway through his first season and LSU fans already want to fire Ed Orgeron. If only there was another program that could have warned them about this.

Oh well! Enjoy that $12 million buyout!


Oregon State runs a low-tempo, run-first offense. At least that’s what the Beavers are attempting to do.

Averaging 130.2 yards per game, Oregon State has one of the lowest ranked rushing offenses in the nation. Not for lack of trying or talent. It’s just hard to consistently run the ball when you’re down multiple scores by halftime.

Arguably their best player on the team is running back Ryan Nall who has rushed for 341 yards and four touchdowns.

Unfortunately, he’s doubtful for the game with an ankle injury. Taking his place will be a tandem of sophomore Artavis Pierce or senior Thomas Tyner. Tyner transferred from Oregon so he’s still getting adjusted to this whole losing-every-game thing. Pierce has run for 137 yards while Tyner 72 yards and one touchdown to his name.

For a team that has been down a majority of the games they play in, they should be able to pad their passing stats. With less than 200 yards per game through the air, it seems like Oregon State’s offense can’t even move the ball during garbage time.

The Beavers were led by quarterback Jake Luton who threw for 853 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions. I say “were” because Luton suffered a thoracic spine fracture against Washington State. Yes, it is as bad as it sounds.

Luton was removed on a stretcher and taken to hospital. He has since been released and his recovery time is “week to week.” That’s the same timeline Batman had after he got his back broken by Bane in “Dark Knight Rises.” Unless Luton is spending his free time fighting crime in Gotham, he’s going to be sidelined for a while.

Luton will be replaced by senior Darell Garretson. Garretson started six games last year before breaking his ankle. In his first start this year, he threw for 94 yards and one touchdown. That may seem bad, but consider Josh Allen has thrown for less than that in two games and he’s projected to go first overall in the draft.

Okay, it’s still bad.

Wide receiver Jordan Villamin has 17 receptions for 192 yards and one touchdown while Isaiah Hodgins has 17 receptions for 156 yards and one touchdowns. Tight End Noah Togiai has 14 receptions for 180 yards and one touchdown.

Oregon State’s offensive line isn’t a weakness, but it isn’t necessarily a strength either.

They return seven linemen with starting experience including honorable mention All-Conference guard Gus Lavaka, but they also lost 32 of last year’s 60 starts on the offensive line.

Oregon State can’t really move the ball, but when they get it inside their opponents 20-yard line, they’re going to score.

They’ve only gotten in the red zone nine times in five games.


If Oregon State’s offense is bad, their defense is even worse.

The Beavers rank dead last in the Pac-12 in these categories:

  • Sacks
  • Third down conversions
  • Fourth down defense
  • First down defense
  • Scoring defense
  • Pass efficiency

They are second to last in the Pac-12 in these categories:

  • Passing yards allowed
  • Rushing defense
  • Total defense

Some of these categories feel made up. Like fourth down defense. They’ve allowed so many fourth down conversions in five games that they have a stat for it? Oregon State fans don’t need all these numbers to show how badly they are performing on the defensive side of the ball. They can see it with their own eyes.

The Beavers defense leads the Pac-12 in one category: Yards per sack. They don’t get to the quarterback often, but when they do, he’s really far away from the line of scrimmage.

Gary Andersen was known for his defense in Wisconsin. It’s clear that his vision isn’t exactly coming to fruition this year. So what was it supposed to look like?

A 3-4 defense with big bodies on the defensive line standing up blockers to allow for the linebackers to swarm to the ball.

The Beavers have the size on the defensive line and the talent and experience at linebacker but they can’t seem to stop the running game or attack the passer. That’s extremely unfortunate for Oregon State as they have a lot of youth in the secondary this year. True freshman safety David Morris is second in tackles.

Special Teams

I know what you’re thinking. They have to be good at something? Anything? Maybe special teams?


Their place kicker Jordan Choukair has made two of his four field goal attempts. Punter Nick Porebski averages 39.5 yards a punt. Neither are good.

Since every section seems to have a silver lining, here’s one for the special teams: Oregon State has only allowed four returns on punts this season. Maybe they are really good at covering the ball? Or maybe their punter muffs every kick out-of-bounds? Who knows. No one watches their games.

On the return side, Oregon State can’t seem to find a returner as they’ve had six players return kickoffs this season. It makes sense when you realize their opponents are scoring so much.

There’s been only one punt return for the Beavers this year.

Does that mean they’ve only forced a punt once this year? Because from researching the team, that isn’t out of the spectrum of possibilities.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go

This is a 1:00 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network in which USC is currently favored by 34 points. There are better ways to spent your Saturday afternoon. Literally doing anything else, for instance.

The only issue with no one going to this home game this week is the potential memes. I can already see the photos of the stadium at kickoff with snarky comments about how Los Angeles is full of fair weather fans. It mean it’s true, but not in this context.

Anyone that goes to this game is a true fan. I’ll be at Fleet Week in San Francisco watching the Blue Angels. Going to be a better air attack than Oregon State has, that’s for sure.


Despite what every fan has decided, the season is in fact, not over. USC can still win their division. They can still win the Pac-12. They can still make the College Football Playoff. Just because your confidence in that happening has weakened, doesn’t mean it isn’t impossible.

Before the season, every fan would have been more than happy to go 4-1 in September. In fact, most USC writers predicted this record through five games. I don’t know why everyone thinks the sky is falling, but eventually I should reside in the fact that USC fans will always be delusional no matter how good or how bad the team is.

Fans should follow the coaching staffs lead and calm down. The Trojans have problems on offense, but there’s still time to figure it out before season’s end. It took until about half way through the season last year for the Trojans to hit their stride.

SEE MORE: Why USC Still Controls Their Own Destiny

One positive from last week is the emergence of Tyler Vaughns at wide receiver. With Deontay Burnett and Steven Mitchell both on the mend,  Darnold has several targets he has shown he feels comfortable throwing to.

Austin Jackson and Andrew Vorhees got thrown into the fire last week. They didn’t exactly hold their own against Washington State, but they will have an opportunity to build up their confidence this week. The playing environment in the Coliseum will be a lot less hostile than under the lights in Pullman.

More from Reign of Troy

Darnold will figure it out. Unless he doesn’t. In that case he will turn into a more mobile Cody Kessler. A couple checkdowns could make up for the lack of receptions the running backs had last week anyway.

The running game needs to reestablish what they had against Stanford. I don’t know what happened that game, but USC needs to figure out how to get it back. It couldn’t have been a fluke. No way the Cardinal turned into a typical Pac-12 program.

The Trojans will have to do it without Carr though. I guess that means Vavae Malepeai or Aca’Cedric Ware will see the field for the first time in two weeks.

The defense will be fine. They’ve carried this team for the last three weeks and show no sign of stopping that trend.

USC is 12-0 at home since Clay Helton became head coach. Oregon State hasn’t won in Los Angeles since 1960. USC will win. The question is by how much. If the Trojans squeak by with a narrow victory, everyone’s concerns should be validated. If both sides of the ball look back to normal, and USC covers the outrageously large spread, then assume that all of USC’s leaks have been plugged.

USC 42, Oregon State 14