LOS ANGELES -- After having two weeks to mull over the disappointing loss to Boston College, the USC Trojans (3-1, 2-0) got back in the win column with a 35-10 thumping of the Oregon State Beavers (3-1, 0-1).
Cody Kessler threw for 261 yards and two touchdowns, including a 48-yard hail mary to Darreus Rogers to end the first half, while the USC rushing attack got back on track pounding out 200 yards on the ground. Buck Allen led the way with 115 yards on 20 carries and Justin Davis got back in the groove with 82 yards on 15 carries.
Both running backs scored touchdowns in the fourth quarter as the Trojans' young offensive line grinded the game away in the second half. Allen scored on a 17-yard run just 30 seconds into the fourth quarter and Davis punctuated the victory with a 21-yard run with 5:02 remaining.
"I was proud of those guys," USC head coach Steve Sarkisian said of the offensive line. "They bounced back. They're getting better and improving."
The USC defense pitched a shutout in the second half and nearly pitched one for the entire game, allowing just a second quarter field goal.
Neither offense could get in sync in the first quarter, but the Trojans defense provided the first points of the game. Su'a Cravens made a beautiful read on a Sean Mannion pass in the flats, intercepting the throw and taking it to the house for a 31-yard interception return.
"The crazy thing is, I told Gerald Bowman. Me and Gerald said we were going to get interceptions today, and I said, 'I'm going to take it to the house. I'm not stepping out of bounds,'" Cravens said referencing Bowman's interception against Fresno State in the season opener.
USC's 7-0 lead was short lived as Ryan Murphy took the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a game-tying touchdown. It proved to be the Beavers' only score of the night. After the Beavers took a 10-7 lead, Cody Kessler led the offense on a eight-play, 65-yard touchdown drive, capped with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Justin Davis.
Kessler was a perfect 6-for-6 for 63 yards on the drive and made a clutch throw on a third-and-9 play, hitting Bryce Dixon on a seam route for 31 yards. Dixon was covered by two defenders, but leaped up and made a tremendous catch to keep the drive alive.
From there, it was all defense for the Trojans. USC's front seven shut down the OSU running game, allowing just 58 yards on 21 carries. They also got a lot of pressure on senior quarterback Sean Mannion, forcing him to throw under duress all night.
Along with Cravens' pick six, Leon McQuay III also had an interception that killed a promising Oregon State drive in the end zone. Mannion tried to throw a fade to Jordan Villamin in the left corner, but Adoree' Jackson made a tremendous play to get a hand on the ball and bat the pass away. McQuay III, coming across from his safety position snatched the deflection out of the air and tapped both feet inbounds before going out of the end zone for a touchback.
But Cravens was the star of the show on defense. Playing as an outside linebacker, he was all over the field. In what he called his most complete performance in a USC uniform, Cravens finished with the interception, a sack and a team-high six tackles, including two for a loss.
"Su'a made some unbelievable plays tonight with a sack, the pick 6 and tackle for loss," Steve Sarkisian said.
With the win, USC moves to 2-0 in conference play for the first time since 2007. The Trojans will host Arizona State next Saturday, likely at 4:30 (time to be announced Sunday), in a huge Pac-12 South tilt.
I want to dedicate this game to the great Sean Taylor RIP! Watched his documentary and had to represent! Fight on! pic.twitter.com/ZhjfMqePqI— Su'a Cravens (@ovo_suu) September 28, 2014