USC faces a new challenge this week as it travels to Corvallis, Ore. to take on Oregon State in its third Friday night game since 1999.
The Beavers (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12) just dropped out of the top 25 after a 20-12 loss to then-No. 6 Stanford, but boast the No. 1 passing offense in the country behind junior quarterback Sean Mannion.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler is coming off one of his best performances of the year with 230 yards, one touchdown and no turnovers against Utah. But Kessler has yet to put up numbers anywhere close to Mannion’s.
Mannion leads the nation with 407.9 yards per game, with 30 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions.
Conditions in Corvallis
Much has been made of the hostile atmosphere of Oregon State’s Reser Stadium. Last time USC traveled to Corvallis in what ended up being the most recent of three straight losses at Oregon State, the Trojans fell 36-7 after backup Mitch Mustain replaced an injured Matt Barkley.
Though the players insist they’re not focusing on the recent record against the Beavers, the team is doing everything it can to prepare for the atmosphere, especially considering the result of its last away game: a 14-10 loss at Notre Dame.
“We’re gonna address some of the mistakes on the road against Notre Dame,” interim head coach Ed Orgeron said. “Maybe the crowd affected us. Maybe it didn’t. But I’m gonna do a better job as head coach of simulating some of that in practice.”
Orgeron was true to his word, as chainsaw noises rung from the speakers at Monday’s practice, mimicking Oregon State’s common celebratory sound.
Some of the Trojans who have never traveled to Corvallis before have been greatly anticipating this game.
“I’ve heard a lot of things [about playing at Reser Stadium]: Loud. Crazy,” redshirt junior tight end Xavier Grimble said. “But that’s what I came to college football to do is play in those type of environments … That’s what makes the game fun for me.”
Against Utah, several Trojans were forced to replace the bevy of injured first-team players.
Junior defensive end J.R. Tavai filled in admirably for the injured senior linebacker Morgan Breslin, leading the team with six tackles and two sacks. Tavai will need to step up again this Friday, as Orgeron announced at Monday’s practice that Breslin would be out again this week with a hip injury.
Also out for the Trojans this Friday are redshirt junior cornerback Anthony Brown and redshirt junior tight end Randall Telfer.
Injuries at the tight end and wide receiver positions have allowed a number of new Trojans to make catches in the past few weeks.
Against the Utes, redshirt senior wide receiver De’Von Flournoy hauled in a 31-yard pass, the longest of his career. Entering his season, Flournoy only had one catch as a Trojan, so he has greatly appreciated his recent success.
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Flournoy said. “You have your parents in the stands and you actually get on the field and make plays for your team. It’s a great feeling.”
With both Grimble and Telfer out against Utah, sophomore tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick and redshirt junior Chris Willson, who switched from quarterback to tight end, were forced to make some big plays. Though Orgeron listed Grimble as questionable, Grimble said he expects to play on Friday. Cope-Fitzpatrick was also injured against Utah and is questionable for the Oregon State game, but Grimble promised the tight ends will not disappoint.
“We have one big tight end family and we’ve got a lot of talented guys in the room,” Grimble said.
Other players Orgeron listed as questionable include freshman safety Su’a Cravens (groin), redshirt senior offensive lineman Kevin Graf (ankle) and junior wide receiver Marqise Lee (knee).
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