Three and Out: USC wins at Oregon State for first time since 2004
Oregon State debuted some all-orange uniforms Friday night, and after the team's performance in a 31-14 loss to USC, the Beavers might be wishing they wore something a bit more inconspicuous. The Beavers gave up a 71-yard score to Marqise Lee fewer than three minutes into the game and allowed another score with 1:07 to play in the first quarter. For how much emotion the Beavers threw into the close loss to Stanford last Saturday, a flat performance wasn't unexpected, and there was a real question of how much energy Oregon State would have left to mount a comeback at home against the Trojans.
A 27-yard touchdown reception from Brandin Cooks (six catches, 88 yards, one TD, 40 rush yards) and a timely interception for a score by Ryan Murphy tied the game at 14, but USC rallied to score the next 17 points and put the game away.
The Trojans are now 3-1 under interim head coach Ed Orgeron. Every week is a de facto job interview for Orgeron, and odds are he's not the permanent or longterm solution. That said, he's rejuvenated the program somewhat, and the team has responded enough to at least make the Trojans watchable again. There's no question a stabilized USC is still one of the best jobs in college football, and Orgeron might be coaching his way into a head gig for some other team in 2014.
Here are three quick thoughts from the Trojans' win over the Beavers.
• Welcome back, Marqise Lee: One of the nation's best wide receivers has been slowed by injuries all year, but he looked close to 100 percent against the Beavers. Lee made his impact felt early on with that long touchdown catch, and he finished the game with five catches for 105 yards and the score. He had another big reception overturned in the third quarter. USC is a completely different team with its big play threat on the field, and he keeps teams from keying in on the run or throwing too much pressure at quarterback Cody Kessler. If Lee can make it through the rest of the season unscathed, the Trojans might be able to salvage a few more wins.
• Where is the run?: The Beavers have been unable to establish the run all season long, which led to such big numbers from quarterback Sean Mannion and Cooks early this season, but teams have wised up to the fact Oregon State isn't able to move the football on the ground. With additional pressure coming from opposing defenses and some different looks, Mannion hasn't been as sharp the past two weeks, and the offensive line has crumbled. The OSU quarterback tried too hard to force things and threw three interceptions (he easily could have thrown one or two more), and the Beavers rushed for just 92 yards on the night.
For USC, the run game was the story. A week after Oregon State allowed 185 rushing yards to the Cardinal, the Trojans were able to gash the Beavers for 242 yards and three touchdowns. The pair of Silas Redd and Javorius Allen each had more than 100 yards on the ground, and Oregon State seemed to wear down as the game went on. • Breaking the Corvallis curse: USC came into this game having lost three straight at Oregon State. Before tonight, the last time the Trojans prevailed in Corvallis was Nov. 6, 2004, when they won 28-20 during the team's 13-0 season in which they vacated the 2005 national championship. In that game, Reggie Bush had one of his many electric plays on a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown. Maybe Friday wasn't the best time to mess with a good thing and introduce those orange uniforms for the Beavers, even if they looked great and extra festive post-Halloween.