Saturday night’s USC vs. Oregon State score in Corvallis went in favor of the Trojans, who covered the spread for the third time in 2018.
The lowdown: The Trojans jumped out to a 21-0 lead in Corvallis on the back of a strong run game and a more efficient passing game with quarterback JT Daniels, who was back after missing last week’s game due to concussion protocol. USC got ground scores from Stephen Carr and Aca’Cedric Ware, while true freshman receiver Devon Williams put himself in the stat book with his first-ever touchdown catch on a deep ball from Daniels.
True to form however, USC couldn’t put the Beavers away. Despite OSU rushing for negative-9 yards in the first half, quarterback Jake Luton led Oregon State on two gashing drives through the air. He capped them off with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Noah Togiai to pull within a touchdown at halftime, 21-14.
After the Trojans and Beavers exchanged scores in the third quarter, the biggest play of the game came early in the fourth. Up 28-21, USC running back Vavae Malapeai was tackled at the 37-yard line by Mathew Tago. He was originally ruled down with possession of the ball, despite fumbling and an Oregon State defender picking it up and taking it into the end zone. A review awarded OSU with the ball, but by rule, they weren’t given the points.
USC’s defense rose to the occasion to force a four-and-out after an Ajene Harris pass deflection, before Ware put the game away with a 62-yard touchdown run on the ensuing play.
Michael Brown would add a field goal later to give the Trojans 38-21 lead and victory, on a night in which they totaled 509 yards of total offense, including a season-high 332 yards rushing.
Takeaway: USC’s performance in Corvallis is all about perspective and what you were looking to get out of the game.
If Saturday night was strictly about jumpstarting the offense after Clay Helton’s swiping of Neil Callaway’s job and Tee Martin’s play sheet, then scoring 38 points and gaining 509 yards make it a successful one. If it was about stopping the Pac-12’s leading rusher, then holding Jermar Jefferson to 58 rushing yards and Oregon State to just 31 as a team was a success.
But the Helton Era has been defined by the journey than the results, and it was yet another rocky ride for USC. They nearly blew a 21-0 lead, allowed three-straight touchdown drives on defense and back-to-back third quarter three-and-outs could’ve been disastrous in a stadium where the Trojans have been known to stumble.
Despite Arizona State giving USC life in the Pac-12 South with a win over Utah, those things need to stop happening before anyone will take their now-growing chances to get to the Rose Bowl seriously.
At the end of the day, they took care of business and covered a 15-point spread against Oregon State. That’s what they were supposed to do. With a three-game “homestand” coming up against rivals Cal, UCLA and Notre Dame, they’ll just need to consistently repeat the feel-good improvements from their game in order to build up good will from their performance.
Player of the game: Senior running back Aca’Cedric Ware had a career night for the Trojans, scoring three touchdowns and surpassing the 100-yard mark for the sixth time in his career. The Texas native finished with a personal best 205 rushing yards on 17 carries.
Stat of the game: Oregon State, holders of the Pac-12’s third-best rushing attack, were held to a season-low 31 rushing yards against USC, their fewest since a 12-yard night at Stanford in 2014. Jermar Jefferson, who entered as the nation’s No. 1 freshman rusher, had just 58 yards on 18 carries, while six Trojan sacks of Jake Luton set OSU back 42 yards.
Next on tap: The Trojans will return to the Coliseum for homecoming, in what will also be former USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox’s homecoming. His California Golden Bears haven’t beaten Troy in 15 years.