It’s interesting how a strong defense that dominates a football game offsets an offense with walk-ons playing at wide receiver and other positions because of numerous injuries throughout the team.
But that’s exactly how USC won its battle with the Utah Utes on Saturday afternoon at the Coliseum, as 64,715 die-hard Trojan fans saw their team use a swarming, lights-out defense and four field goals in a 19-3 victory, giving undeniable proof to the saying “Defense Wins Games”.
Nelson Agholor‘s 30-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter was all the scoring that ‘SC really needed, as the defense gave up a mere 201 total yards while forcing four turnovers, which included three interceptions, Josh Shaw and freshmen Leon McCray and Su’a Cravens doing the honors.
They also picked up six sacks on Utah’s two quarterbacks, Travis Wilson and Adam Schulz, who went a combined 12-for-31 for 130 yards as coach Kyle Wittingham went back-and-forth between the two, trying to find some effectiveness out of the Ute offense.
Which obviously failed to work as although the Trojan defense had much to do with it, it’s safe to say that Wilson and Schulz were the goats of this game.
Though I still feel that Utah is a tough team after they upset Stanford and nearly beat UCLA, their record fell to 4-4 and a nearly cellar-dwelling 1-4 in the conference.
Meanwhile, SC’s offense wasn’t exactly wonderful, either, generating just 260 yards with Cody Kessler – who was sacked five times – accounting for 230 of them while completing 21 of his 32 passes, plus that score to Agholor, who had the only big day among the two teams’ skill players with his six catches for 97 yards.
The big hero of the game for the now 5-3 (2-2 in the Pac-12) Trojans, the one that I reckon everyone was just as happy with as far as performance as they were with the defense, was kicker Andre Heidari as he shook off his two misses at Notre Dame with field goals from 35, 38, 28, and 40 yards, all while having to re-earn his job at practice.
“We were ready to put in another kicker if he didn’t make (his attempts),” USC interim head coach Ed Orgeron said. ” …but he responded great.”
Tre Madden led all rushers with 60 yards on 12 carries, illustrating the defensive struggle that the game turned out being.
The Trojans certainly don’t get any style points for this win.
In fact, I’ll be blunt and say that it was downright ugly.
But I really don’t think that any of the USC players – or anyone in the Trojan Family for that matter, from the fans with no ties to the school to the students to the well-heeled alumni boosters – care one iota about how this triumph looked as running back Silas Redd stated afterward:
“We just have to keep winning…No matter how ugly it is, we just have to keep fighting and keep battling on and we’ll be all right.”
Oregon State Beavers (6-2, 4-1 in the Pac-12)
PLACE: Reser Stadium, Corvallis, OR
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 1, 6:00 p.m. PT
LAST MEETING: Oregon State won, 36-7, in 2010
ALL-TIME SERIES: USC leads, 59-11-4
Forget their 20-13 loss to 6th-ranked Stanford on Saturday night – this is a team that these Trojans need to worry about.
Particularly in the Beavers’ home at Reser Stadium, where ‘SC hasn’t won since the Matt Leinart/Reggie Bush days in 2004.
And especially since this Oregon State program has a quarterback in Sean Gannon – who had to fight hard for his spot as he wasn’t named the starting QB until a few days before the first game – who hasn’t done that much as he is merely the nation’s leading passer, accumulating over 3,200 yards in the air with 30 touchdown passes and only three interceptions on a nearly 70% completion rate.
And this with a third of the season still ahead of him!
Mannion’s passing has made Brandin Cooks look great, the receiver leading the Beavers (and is among the country’s leaders, if not the leader) with his 85 catches for over 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Scott Crichton’s 11 tacles for loss and 3.5 sacks has shown that Oregon State is no slouch on defense, either.
Plus there’s this to consider:
After losing to Stanford, this will be a very angry Oregon State team and fan base that gets jacked to way above the ceiling for these Trojans, anyway; ‘SC should be ready for some major hostility among the fans in Corvallis on Friday night.
And while I won’t say that the odds are completely against USC, as their defense is perfectly capable of shutting down Mannion if they pressure and blitz him, the odds aren’t very good, either.
As always, we’ll see how things unfold.