Going into the USC Trojans’ road game against Oregon State, the pressure was definitely on coach Clay Helton after the team dropped two straight contests, first against Utah and then against Arizona State. Even though the Trojans let an early 21-point lead slip away, they managed to ease some of that pressure by holding on to defeat the Beavers in Corvallis by a score of 38-21. Here are some hits and misses from USC’s fifth win of the season.
Clay Helton’s Play Calling
Helton made some headlines this week when he announced that he would take over the offensive play calling duties from offensive coordinator Tee Martin. Making that type of move obviously draws a lot of attention but fortunately for Helton, he put together a solid plan of attack. Helton made a lot of Trojans fans happy by running the ball 44 times and calling short and easy intermediate routes for quarterback JT Daniels. Overall, it was a solid day for USC’s offense, who continued to move the ball down the field even though receiver Michael Pittman went down with an injury in the first half. In the end, it was a productive night for Helton handling the play calling but he’ll face a much tougher task next week against a Cal defense that held both Washington and Washington State to less than 20 points.
It was a career night for USC senior running back Aca’Cedric Ware. The Desoto, Texas native rushed for a career-high 205 yards and hit pay dirt three times against the Beavers.
His 62-yard touchdown run in the third quarter put the Trojans up two touchdowns and essentially put the game away for USC, who did not let its lead dip below that number the rest of the way. Ware and running back Vavae Malepeai carried the load, especially after Stephen Carr went down with a foot injury, but ultimately it was the senior who received most of the carries late in the game and helped USC run out the clock. If the Trojans hope to come out victorious against Cal, it’ll need Ware to ride this momentous run into next week.
The Trojans led 21-0 early into the second quarter, appearing to be well on their way to an easy victory over Oregon State. That three touchdown lead was quickly erased by a 14-point outburst by the Beavers in the quarter. What probably should have been a routine victory in Corvallis turned out to be a competitive game going into the third quarter. A major culprit for the Trojans during Oregon State’s 14-point run was their secondary.
Beavers quarterback Jake Luton threw for 301 yards and a touchdown last night against USC. It was clear that he found a soft spot in USC’s secondary. Although the unit did force the Beavers off the field on a key fourth-down stop, when Ajene Harris batted down one of Luton’s passes in the second half, Oregon State receiver Timmy Harris was wide open. The secondary did not surrender a score the rest of the way but the unit continues to be a major cause of concern for Trojans fans.
USC’s Ability to Close Out
The struggle to finish opponents off continues to be an issue for USC. As mentioned before, the Trojans jumped out to a three-touchdown lead but as they’ve done before this season, they allowed their opponent, Luton and the Beavers, to climb back into it. It’s been a recurring theme for USC over the last couple of years and doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. Whether it’s a lack of a killer instinct or bad management by the coaching staff, the Trojans seem to like playing down to the level of their opponents.