Shane Foley’s USC-Oregon State Preview


Former USC Quarterback (1986-1990) Shane Foley previews the Trojans’ first conference match-up of the season, against Oregon State (3-0, 0-0).

Trojans Looking to Rebound

The Trojans will be looking to rebound from their lackluster performance against Boston College two weeks ago.  USC was out-played, out-coached, and out-worked in all phases of the game. It is hard to imagine that a week five matchup could have ‘make or break’ implications but their dismal performance in Beantown created questions that will need to be answered.

The USC defense lost defensive tackle Kenny Bigelow before the season started and outside linebacker Jabari Ruffin in week one but the front seven was still supposed to be the strength of this football team.  Boston College rolled up 452 yards rushing and the Trojans plummeted to 116th nationally in run defense.  With a new defensive scheme, the Trojans failed their first test against the read option and a running quarterback and the loss did exploit the way to beat a thin defense.  Boston College pounded the football with a big, strong back and then they ran the Trojan defense ragged by continually breaking contain and getting to the perimeter.

Sep 13, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston College Eagles quarterback Tyler Murphy (2) carries the ball on his way to a touchdown during the fourth quarter at Alumni Stadium. The Boston College Eagles won 37-31. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The USC running game also went into reverse back in Boston finishing with an anemic 20 net yards rushing and they also gave up an abysmal five sacks.  There was also talk last week about not having the right mind set entering the Boston College game which is particularly alarming when you consider that their crippling NCAA sanctions came to an end this past spring as well as multiple off-the-field distractions that surfaced at the beginning of the season.  USC is 2-1 and ranked #18 in the AP top 25 but they will have to make monumental strides to prove that they belong.

USC leads in the series with an overall record of 60-11-4 and the Trojans reversed three straight away losses dating back to 2008 last year with their 31-14 win in Corvallis. Oregon State has not beaten USC at the Coliseum since 1960 which equates to 22 consecutive wins at home against the Beavers.  Oregon State is 3-0 on the season and 6-5, 227 lb. senior quarterback Sean Mannion is a pro-style quarterback that has thrown for 903 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions on the season.  He is already the Beavers’ all-time leading passer with 11,339 career yards passing and he only has Carson Palmer with 11,818 and Matt Barkley with 12,327 total yards ahead of him.

Sep 20, 2014; Corvallis, OR, USA; Oregon State Beavers quarterback Sean Mannion (4) throws in the fourth quarter against the San Diego State Aztecs at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Susan Ragan-USA TODAY Sports

Mannion was picked off three times in last year’s matchup and the Beavers are 2-10 when he is intercepted more than once. Oregon State will not have the service of leading receiver Victor Bolden who is out with a dislocated finger.  Beaver Head Coach Mike Riley is an excellent play caller and they will utilize play action and they can stretch the field.  Oregon State on offense will feature two running backs: 5-7, 201 lb. senior Terron Ward has rushed for 212 yards and 6-0, 212 lb. junior Storm Woods also has gained  212 yards.

The Beavers defense is 18th in the country in points allowed giving up 17 per game and their defense returns seven starters.  The defense is led by 6-3, 213 lb. Ryan Murphy who is a playmaker in the defensive backfield and senior cornerback Steven Nelson who had six interceptions last season.

The Trojans have a lot of areas to improve in. They must reestablish the running game that was effective the first two weeks of the season before being non-existent in week three.  USC sputtered on offense for long stretches against Boston College and they punted on eight consecutive possessions in the 2nd half. The defense was gassed and on its heels after the first quarter and they must focus on stopping the run at the point of attack.  They must also play with more discipline, keep contain and tackle better.  The Trojans will have to play more physically in the trenches on both sides of the ball and they will need to win the turnover battle.

Cody Kessler has been efficient this season but his decision making was deliberate at times against Boston College and he must have more urgency in the pocket. Coach Sarkisian has talked about finding an identity on this team and they will need to in a hurry after it disappeared only three weeks into the season. They must get back to attacking on both sides of the ball and they need to dictate the pace and tempo of the football game.  Look for the Trojans to pass more on 1st and 2nd down against the Beavers which should open up some running lanes. Tre Madden is expected to see some action which is good news as conference play gets underway.

Sep 13, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler (6) makes a pass during the fourth quarter against the Boston College Eagles at Alumni Stadium. The Boston College Eagles won 37-31. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Trojan defense must also be able to get stops when they are needed.  Great teams find ways to win even when they are not playing great.  There is a lot of season left to play and there does not need to be any talk about being great, current poll position or where the Trojans will finish. It is about one taking one game at a time and playing with focus, discipline and energy. There have already been too many distractions this season with the latest being junior receiver Victor Blackwell not practicing due to lack of playing time.  There can be a fine line with being a player’s coach but it is time to eliminate the guys that don’t want to buy in. It is time to develop toughness and to punch back when you get punched in the mouth. It is time to overcome the critics and naysayers. As a Trojan, you must walk with class, stay humble, and always Fight On!