USC football: Defensive grades in wild last-minute win at Oregon State

Mekhi Blackmon, Solomon Byrd, USC Football, USC Trojans
Mekhi Blackmon, Solomon Byrd, USC Football, USC Trojans / Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

USC football's defense stole the show against Oregon State, in their defensive masterclass of a 17-14 win. The offense struggled, but that wasn't only it. The defense played out of their minds--absolutely silencing tons and tons of critics within college football media. SC is now allowing just 18.25 points per game.

Grading the defense is actually not too tough. It's clear which position groups were most important. All three of them, however, had their moments. It truly was a team effort on D during the Pac-12 Week 4 matchup, and one that many fans could end up pointing to come season's end as a defining moment of this program's 2022 campaign.

Defensive grades in USC football's wild last-minute win over Oregon State Beavers

Every position group on defense played well Saturday, but one wasn't quite as good as the others. A position group that had been outstanding all season, it was surprising, but understandable to not see them be perfect when the other two groups were playing at such a high level.

Grading USC Football Defensive Line in USC football's win over Oregon State Beavers: B

USC Football's Defensive Line actually didn't record a single sack in their contest against Oregon State. It was rather surprising, because they were tied for second in America in sacks coming into the contest. They had been so good at getting to the quarterback that they're still tied for the top five in most sacks this season despite not having one on Saturday.

They only had 2.5 tackles for loss too (SC had a total of three). They came into the game averaging 8.67 per game. That being said, they still put pressure on the QB in some big spots (three QB hurries), and of course did enough to win the game. The personnel has to be respected, and even when Oregon State did respect it and game plan for it well, it wasn't enough to win the game.

Grading USC Football Linebackers in USC football's win over Oregon State Beavers: A-

USC Football's Linebackers weren't perfect on Saturday, but they were very impressive. Only one had nine or more tackles, which was Shane Lee with 12. That doesn't tell the story of the day, though, for the backers. Eric Gentry was unreal, picking off a pass, and tipping one at the end of the game that led to the game-sealing interception from Max Williams.

Gentry had tipped a pass shortly before that, too, coming up clutch for the Trojans all night. He forced a QB hurry too, and shared half a tackle for loss with DL Brandon Pili. While SC didn't get much from the backers not named Lee or Gentry, their two performances were most certainly good enough to boost the crew up to the A range.

Grading USC Football Defensive Backs in USC football's win over Oregon State Beavers: A+

USC Football's Defensive Backs were outstanding in their win against the Beavers. They picked off three passes. One went to Williams, one went to Mekhi Blackmon, and one went to Ceyair Wright. Blackmon also had a PD. USC held OSU QB Chance Nolan to just 17 completions on 29 pass attempts.

He completed just 5.8 yards per attempt for 167 total yards. He didn't find the end zone once. The passing game was non-existent for Oregon State. SC's defense didn't give their receivers any space, and when Nolan had to drive down the field, he had a tough time and ended up just throwing a game-losing interception.

Next. Game-by-game predictions for USC in 2022. dark

The defense catapulted this team to a win on Saturday. That's no secret, as while the offense did orchestrate a magnificent game-winning drive at the end of the game, the defense was the one that kept them in the game and sealed the game with Williams' INT. They answered many critics on Saturday, and will look to continue that success moving forward.