Redshirt sophomore running back Javorius “Buck” Allen rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns, and USC’s defense shut out Oregon State in the second half as the Trojans knocked off the Beavers 31-14 on Friday in Corvallis, Ore.
“I’m just really happy for our football family,” interim head coach Ed Orgeron said. “I’m really happy for our young men. It was a great job of coming to a hostile environment and really not letting it affect us as much as it has done in the past.”
The victory was USC’s first win in Corvallis since 2004, snapping a three-game losing streak at Reser Stadium.
The Trojans’ defense held the Beavers to just 369 yards of total offense. OSU quarterback Sean Mannion, who entered the game leading the nation in passing yards and touchdowns, completed just 26 of 45 pass attempts for 277 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler completed 17 of 21 passes for 247 yards with one touchdown and one interception that was returned for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Though the defense dominated and the offense was balanced and efficient throughout the game, the night belonged to Allen, who, after two years of little to no playing time, had by far the biggest game of his career.
“I just want to give thanks to my O-linemen, and my coaching staff for believing in me and trusting me,” Allen said. “Like Coach Orgeron said, when you’re having fun with the game, then everything else will flow. I just want to thank my O-linemen and fullbacks for doing a great job.”
Allen had been buried on the depth chart during his first two seasons at USC, but had a strong preseason and finally got his opportunity when injuries depleted the Trojans’ depth at tailback.
Redshirt sophomore tailback Tre Madden left Friday’s game after re-aggravating a nagging hamstring injury, and with freshman Justin Davis already ruled out for the season with an ankle injury, it was Allen who got the call.
“We knew what he could do, and now it’s time for the world to know what he can do,” senior running back Silas Redd said. “I’m just proud of him because he works so hard.”
Though Allen stole the headlines with his three-touchdown performance, it was Redd who paced the Trojans on offense. Redd tallied 140 yards on 22 carries, serving as the “Thunder” to Allen’s “Lightning” and picking up several crucial first downs.
“It’s fun to be out there playing with these guys,” Redd said. “We really feed off the defense when they’re on the sideline, and in the midst of the game you could hear them cheering us on. There is just such passion involved out there and that makes it 10 times better.”
Friday was the first time since USC’s 62-41 loss to Arizona State that the Trojans had two players each eclipse 100 yards rushing in the same game. Against ASU, Madden had 128 yards, while Davis finished with 122.
In the Trojans’ loss to ASU, the game swung in the Sun Devils’ favor after Kessler threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, igniting the ASU crowd. On Friday, Kessler threw another pick-six, this one tying the score at 14-14, but this time, the team’s response was different.
“No one turned on each other,” redshirt junior safety Dion Bailey said. “Everybody just leaned together, going up to Cody and just saying, ‘Hey man, don’t worry about it.’ We knew we had [OSU’s] offense taken care of. We just wanted to go back out there, get [USC’s offense’s] confidence going and score some points.”
Kessler felt the support of his teammates after his costly mistake, and said he believes the team grew stronger because of the positive response.
“The best part was that the [defensive] guys came up to me too and said, ‘Cody, you got this, you’re doing great,’” Kessler said. “When you know your guys are behind you like that, it just helps you so much. I blocked it out like it didn’t even happen and played the rest of the game positive and played with a great attitude.”
Following the interception, the USC offense went on a 10 play, 75-yard scoring drive that swung the momentum back in its favor. Though the drive was capped by Allen’s second touchdown of the night, Redd was the focal point, with seven rushes for 46 yards and four first downs.
“It felt awesome,” Redd said of the drive. “Whenever they call my number, when they need me, I’m ready. Whatever situation, whatever time in the game, I’m ready.”
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of Friday’s win was the return of junior wide receiver Marqise Lee. After injuring his knee against Arizona State, Lee missed two of the past three games, and left the Notre Dame game at halftime.
But against OSU, the Trojans leaned on Lee from start, with Kessler and Lee connecting on a 71-yard touchdown pass on USC’s first offensive snap.
“It was nice to come out and establish the deep ball,” Kessler said. “That’s what I love about [offensive coordinator Clay] Helton’s playcalling — he loves to take shots.”
Lee finished with five catches for 105 yards — a season-high — and one touchdown.
Entering Friday’s game, Mannion was generating buzz as a dark horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy. The USC defense, though, made Mannion uncomfortable all night.
“He’s a very good player,” Orgeron said. “I thought we did an overall great game plan of creating an atmosphere that they are not going to throw the deep ball on us. We knew if they didn’t throw the deep ball on us, we had a chance.”
Mannion entered the game with only three interceptions this season, but threw three on Friday and was sacked twice. The USC secondary also held OSU’s star receiver Brandin Cooks to 88 yards on six catches, his lowest reception total of the season and second-lowest receiving yards total.
With all the attention given to USC’s three-game losing streak in Corvallis, the team admitted that there was an extra motivation to silence the Reser Stadium crowd.
“We heard a lot about coming here and not being successful,” Orgeron said. “Our whole goal was to win the game and see the stands empty.”
USC players relished the sight of OSU fans heading for the exits early, even more so because Friday served as the team’s first road victory since USC beat Hawai’i in the first game of the season.
“When their fans start emptying their stadium, and they’re not in a good mood, you’ve done something right,” Kessler said. “It’s a good feeling when their fans are gone and your fans are still here.”
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