Pete Carroll and the USC Trojans have a bad case of déjà vu going on right now. Two years ago the Trojans traveled to Corvallis and were shocked by an unranked Oregon State team that knocked them out of the top five.
On Thursday night, the Beavers shocked the world once again, beating top ranked USC 27-21 on the strength of freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers, who finished with 186 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries.
At 5’6” and180 pounds, Rodgers proved to be quite a handful for USC’s defense, a unit highly recognized as one of the best in the nation. The Trojans simply couldn’t get good leverage on the smallish Rodgers, who constantly broke tackles all night long. USC defenders often came in too high while trying to bring Rodgers down and the frosh back made them pay.
Offensively for USC, quarterback Mark Sanchez finished with solid numbers (18/29, 227 yards, 3 TDs), but was highly inaccurate on a drive when the Trojans were backed up late in the fourth quarter and needed one score to tie the game at 21. Then on a 1st and 10-play from USC’s 14-yard line, Sanchez overthrew one of his receivers and was picked off by Greg Laybourn, who took the gift back to the Trojans’ 2-yard line. On the first play after the turnover, Rodgers scored his second touchdown of the game, pushing the Beavers’ lead to 27-14 with less than three minutes remaining.
After a 50-yard kickoff return by Ronald Johnson set the Trojans up with a 1st and 10 from the Oregon State 40-yard line, Sanchez drove USC the rest of the field and connected with Patrick Turner to cut the Beavers’ lead to 27-21. But the ensuing onsides kick failed and Oregon State was able to run out the clock.
It was an amazing upset. The Beavers were more aggressive, made bigger plays and kept the high-powered Trojans’ offense off the field. USC also shot itself in the foot with stupid penalties, including one that cost them a touchdown at the end of the first half. The Trojans’ defense just couldn’t get off the field all night and the loss will cost them big in the polls.
Given how they had a full two weeks to prepare for this game after their big win over Ohio State, a loss like this is inexcusable, really. I know that sounds harsh, but I don’t mean it to be. It’s just rather staggering when a talented team like USC has an entire off week to rest and game plan for Oregon State and they lose. But this is college football and upsets are part of the game. And part of the fun.