Pete Carroll remembers the second-to-last time his team lost. How could he forget it?
It was only 13 months ago that USC was stunned on a sleepy Thursday night in September by an Oregon State team that jumped all over the Trojans from the outset. Coming off a big win against Ohio State, the Trojans saw their national title hopes dashed when they couldn’t complete a comeback at Reser Stadium and lost, 27-21.
Although the Beavers have taken two of the last three contests against the Trojans, Oregon State has not won in the Coliseum since 1960. USC will look to keep that streak alive Saturday when it takes on a surging Oregon State team at 5 p.m. at the Coliseum to push into the second half of the season.
“We’ve been road warriors and out and about,” Carroll said. “We’ve had a great time on the trips, and we’ve grown from it. It’s wonderful to be back and playing in front of our home crowd.”
Four of the Trojans’ last six games are at home, a welcome return for a road-weary squad. A sellout crowd is expected for the first time in the Coliseum this season for the highly anticipated revenge match.
Oregon State has given USC more trouble than any other team in the Pac-10 and is the only conference foe to have multiple victories against the Trojans since 2002. Carroll credited Oregon State coach Mike Riley for being well-prepared and jumping ahead of the Trojans early in games.
“They’ve been really effective against us on both sides of the ball,” Carroll said. “They’ve been able to give us problems, and they’ve had good fortune at their place two of the three times.
Last year’s game served as the national introduction to Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers. Then only a freshman, the 5-foot-7 Rodgers repeatedly slipped through the arms of USC tacklers to keep the Beavers’ offense moving downfield. The tailback finished the evening with 186 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries against a defense that Carroll said might have been his best by season’s end.
After being held to less than 100 yards rushing in each of his previous three games, Rodgers broke out in his last game against Stanford for 189 yards and four touchdowns.
“He’s the style of runner that really demands it of your defense,” Carroll said. “You give him a crack, he can take it. If you make a mistake, he’s going to take advantage of it.”
But the diminutive Rodgers won’t be anonymous to USC coming into Saturday’s game. Despite having to replace a bulk of its starters, the Trojans are fourth in the nation in rushing defense, giving up less than 68 yards per game.
With USC’s defense also leading the country in sacks, Riley pointed out that stopping the Trojans at the line of scrimmage will be essential for his team.
“I’m very impressed with their front — they don’t give people many breaks,” Riley said. “They’re high-energy and really hard to block, and that’s going to be a key factor in the game.”
Saturday’s game will also be an opportunity for retribution for Oregon State quarterback Sean Canfield, who tore cartilage in his throwing shoulder in the 2007 game in Los Angeles. Canfield was trying to slide after a scramble but was hit by then-sophomore USC safety Will Harris and had to sit out for the remainder of the season.
After serving as a backup to Lyle Moevao in 2008, Canfield is taking advantage of his senior season by completing 68 percent of his passes en route to becoming one of the conference’s established veterans.
Earlier in the week, Canfield said that despite Oregon State’s recent success against USC, the Beavers know they will be facing an uphill battle on Saturday.
“We don’t back down, we’re in attack mode just like every other team we’ve faced,” he said. “I think considering that we’ve taken them down twice in the last three years, they’re going to want to win.”