After what happened in Corvallis, OR on Friday night, I think the rest of the Pac-12 Conference, particularly the four opponents that USC has yet to play (California, Stanford, Colorado, and crosstown rival UCLA), have been put on notice.
Led by an extremely stout defense who gave up just 92 rushing yards to Oregon State, held them to two out of 11 on third down, and intercepted quarterback Sean Mannion, who was the leading passer in the NCAA, three times, the Trojans also used big plays and a lot of enthusiasm, swagger, and (according to some) arrogance to rout the Beavers, 31-14, winning at Reser Stadium for the first time since 2004.
‘SC moved to within one game of bowl eligibility due to them having a 13-game schedule rather than twelve, which necessitates winning seven games to be considered for the postseason.
They are now in the thick of the Pac-12 South race as they won their third straight, sitting in second place at the moment with a 3-2 record in the conference and 6-3 overall.
Interim coach Ed Orgeron made sure to make a strong statement early when on the Trojans’ very first play, Marqise Lee returned from a knee injury with a vengeance, catching a 71-yard touchdown pass to put his team up 7-0.
The reigning Biletnikoff Award winner, given to the nation’s top receiver, returned to his old dominant self with his 105 yards on five catches.
I’m sure that Cody Kessler was ecstatic that Lee returned as the quarterback threw for 277 yards on 17-of-21 passing.
But it was USC’s running backs that earned the co-players-of-the-game award, especially Javorius “Buck” Allen as the redshirt sophomore had his greatest day as a Trojan, rushing for 133 yards on just 16 carries and scoring three touchdowns from nine, 18, and 52 yards.
Silas Redd provided an excellent one-two punch for ‘SC as the senior ran for 140 yards. It was the 12th time that he has rushed for at least 100 yards in his college career.
For the game, USC pushed Oregon State’s front seven around for a total of 242 yards on the ground – which I’m positive will worry the remaining opponents on the schedule.
The impressive thing about this win was the way the Trojans scored the game’s last 17 points after the Beavers’ Ryan Murphy ran an interception back 41 yards for a touchdown to tie the contest at 14 in the second quarter and excite the orange-clad Oregon State faithful.
Allen quieted the crowd with an 18-yard run with under five minutes left in the half, then on the first play in the third quarter Nelson Agholor hauled in a 62-yard catch, which led to Allen doing the honors again with a nine-yard score.
After Allen’s 52-yard romp, it was pretty much over as OSU couldn’t get anything going on the ground or in the air thanks to USC’s defense pinning back their ears and forcing Mannion into mistakes as he doubled his interception total from three to six.
I’ll bet anything that Trojan fans are happily looking forward to next week as they travel to the Bay Area to face a team that, at this point, gets the dubious distinction of being the worst in the conference, a team whose season is essentially over as they are getting weaker by the week:
California Golden Bears (1-8, 0-6 in the Pac-12 Conference)
PLACE: Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, CA
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 9, 12:00 noon
TV: Fox Networks (Channel 11 in the Los Angeles area)
LAST MEETING: USC won, 27-9
ALL-TIME SERIES: USC leads, 65-30-5
These two flagship schools in the state of California have played football against each other exactly 100 times.
As they have won two-thirds of those games, this series has obviously gone the Trojans’ way.
That has especially been the case in the 21st century as ‘SC has won the last nine games against their Golden Bear counterparts from Berkeley, Cal’s last win coming in 2003 – and they had to go to triple overtime to accomplish that!
Considering the fact that the Trojans are currently getting stronger while the Bears have been a victim of Murphy’s Law in Sonny Dykes’ first season as coach, I – and what I’m sure will be absolutely everyone else save for the most die-hard Cal fans – predict that USC will win its tenth in a row over their NorCal rivals.
And it will likely turn ugly in the process as though Cal has a good passing offense led by freshman quarterback Jared Goff, due to some devastating injuries the defense is down to playing 3rd-stringers and walk-ons.
Which I know has Coach Orgeron, Lee, Kessler, Redd, and the rest of the Trojan offense salivating and licking their chops like a starving mountain lion eyeing an unsuspecting deer in the forest.
The game plan for ‘SC should be to have their scrubs playing by the fourth quarter; the game may well get that much out of hand.
And the only hope for a flailing Cal squad, I regret to say, is that the Trojans take their team lightly and are arrogantly overconfident.
Whether or not that hope will materialize will be seen on the ninth.