The USC Trojans held firm in Corvallis to secure a gutsy road win against the Oregon State Beavers, which puts them at the No. 2 spot in the Pac-12 South race. After a game filled with a refreshing USC offense and and a defense that stood tall when it mattered most, here are three takeaways from the Trojans’ fourth conference win.
Play calling under Clay Helton was improved
Head coach Clay Helton took the reins from offensive coordinator Tee Martin after USC’s loss to Arizona State last week. With Helton calling the shots, fans saw plays that helped the Trojans gain consistent yardage throughout the night. USC managed to get into the end zone in all four quarters.
Helton combined explosive deep balls with methodical ground gains to convert on third down and establish a rhythm with the offense that fans haven’t seen in awhile. Before halftime, USC was 6-of-9 on third down and 2-of-2 on fourth down conversions, a major improvement. USC had converted only 33 percent of its third downs before last night’s game.
Helton took advantage of USC’s new and improved explosive run game, with both Aca’Cedric Ware and Vavae Malepeai having the best games of their careers. Ware recorded a career best of 201 yards and three touchdowns, while Malepeai recorded 101 yards.
This was the first time all season that USC’s offense did not seem forced, good play calling and solid execution made it smooth sailing for true freshman quarterback JT Daniels who had 177 yards and a 41-yard touchdown pass to fellow true freshman Devon Williams.
USC’s defense is still hit or miss
Even with a 21 point lead, the Trojan defense could not stop the Beavers from attempting a comeback. While USC’s defense is decimated by injuries, they still should have put away a 2-6 Oregon State team who sits last in the Pac-12 long before the fourth quarter. Riding on a short passing game, the Beavers were able to climb back into contention in the second quarter, making it 21-14 at halftime.
The Trojan defense struggled with the Beavers’ air attack, allowing quarterback Jake Luton to throw for 301 yards with a 68.9 completion percentage. However USC shone in their rush defense and pass rush attack. The Trojans were able to hold Beavers star running back Jermar Jefferson to only 58 yards and no touchdowns. Coming into the game, Jefferson had 1,034 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season.
USC also tied their season high sack record with six, after a phenomenal performance by its defensive line led by redshirt junior Christian Rector and redshirt freshman Jay Tufele. Rector recorded nine tackles and 2.5 sacks, while Tufele recorded five tackles and two sacks of his own.
While the Trojans’ defensive performance was at times worrying, they came alive when it mattered most in the fourth quarter.
USC still has a shot at the Pac-12 title game
Yes you read that right, the USC Trojans still have a chance of winning the Pac-12 South and launching themselves to the Pac-12 Championship. With the South playing so abysmal this year...here is what needs to happen for USC to beat the odds:
- USC needs to win the final two conference games against Cal and UCLA.
- Utah and Arizona State who would hold the tie-breaker over USC, need to lose a game. Utah’s starting quarterback Tyler Hutley is out for the season with a broken collarbone, and it has Oregon and Colorado left on its conference schedule. Arizona State has UCLA, Oregon, and Arizona left to play on its schedule.
So yes Trojan Family, there is a very strong chance that USC can pull off a trip to Levi Stadium on November 30.