Podcast: Can the Trojans break their cold-streak in the State of Oregon?
In 2005, the Trojans left Eugene, Ore., satisfied after delivering a hearty 45-13 thumping to the Ducks.
Since then, USC has found no joy playing in the state of Oregon, losing alternatively to Oregon State and the Ducks for four consecutive years.
The No. 20 Trojans look to finally snap that mysterious streak Saturday when they travel to Corvallis to face the Beavers. Kickoff is at 5 p.m.
The Beavers, who were ranked No. 24 in the AP at a few different points this season, suffered their fifth loss this season in embarrassing fashion last week at home against Washington State, which had not won a Pac-10 contest in 16 tries.
But the Beavers still have elusive running back Jacquizz Rodgers, who infamously ran for 186 yards and two touchdowns in the 2008 upset of the No. 1 Trojans. That game, of course, was played at Reser Stadium.
The 5-foot-7, 191-pound Rodgers is third in the Pac-10 with 99.2 yards per game behind Oregon’s LaMichael James and Cal’s Shane Vereen.
“He’s a lot like LaMichael James,” redshirt junior linebacker Chris Galippo said.
The Trojans have been tackling at practice during the last three weeks, something USC coach Lane Kiffin was reluctant to do early in the season because of the risk of injury. Galippo said there has been a measurable improvement as a result of the change.
“Absolutely, especially in the games,” Galippo said. “It’s been incredible how low that missed tackle ratio has gotten in games ever since we started doing those drills.”
Improved defense and the continued stellar play of the offense have put the Trojans on an upward swing. They have won back-to-back games for the first time since opening the season 4-0.
But Kiffin said the Trojans must be wary of overconfidence, which seems to have seeped into the team’s practice mentality this week.
Kiffin said there was a “disappointing” lack of intensity in practice at the beginning of the week, something the Trojans could not afford heading into their final true road trip of the year.
“This is the time of year that this happens to some teams as you get close to finals and everything, and you’ve been going for a long time,” Kiffin said. “These guys have been out here for a lot of weeks in a row. It’s a challenge and one that we’re going to have to figure out before Saturday.”
To add injury to insult, freshman tailback Dillon Baxter was hospitalized Thursday for unspecified reasons.
Another thing the Trojans might have going against them is the weather. The forecast for Saturday calls for temperatures in the 30s and a 60 percent chance of rain in Corvallis. USC practiced with a wet ball this week to prepare for the potential inclement weather.
The Trojans should have the advantage up front, however, especially when the Beavers have the ball. The Oregon State offensive line gives up almost three sacks a game and starts mostly walk-ons or former walk-ons.
USC is seventh in the conference in sacks, but the defensive line has been hampered by injuries. Redshirt sophomore defensive ends Nick Perry (ankle) and Wes Horton (back) haven’t been at full strength all season.
Still, Saturday could present the right matchups for a breakout performance.
“I think the big issues for us are handling their defensive line,” said Oregon State coach Mike Riley. “Whatever we’re going to try to do, it’s going to be very important that we can block.”
The USC offensive line has hit its stride the last few games, opening up holes for redshirt junior tailback Marc Tyler. Though Tyler complained of soreness earlier in the week, he is on track to start against the Beavers. Tyler has rushed for 279 yards on 43 carries in his last two games.