USC finds offensive groove in win over Oregon State

Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Tyler Vaughns corrals the ball after catching a punt. (Photo courtesy of Daily Barometer)

Senior running back Aca’Cedric Ware couldn’t be stopped in his route without three defenders dragging him down. Whether it was a 62-yard rush for a touchdown or just two yards to find the end zone, he kept firing until there was no field remaining.

USC’s offense totalled 509 yards, with the running game responsible for 332, the most rushing yards in any game for USC this season. Ware himself had 205 of those yards and three touchdowns – both career highs – in USC’s 38-21 win over Oregon State at Reser Stadium in Corvallis on Saturday night.

After running through the entire OSU defense untouched in the fourth quarter for his third score of the night,Ware deservingly danced in the end zone to celebrate, earning an excessive celebration foul.

“It feels good,” Ware said.

“It must feel real good, because you started dancing in the end zone,” head coach Clay Helton responded.

On USC’s second drive of the game, Ware broke through and ran 57 yards for a touchdown. The running game’s success was a testament to the improved play of USC’s offensive line that recently switched leadership to running backs coach Tim Drevno after former offensive line coach Neil Callaway was fired.

“The [offensive line] did their thing today,” Ware said. “Every time the running game was going good, it was because of them. I give them all the praise.”

Helton also took over the offensive play-calling last week, taking over duties from offensive coordinator Tee Martin.

“It is something that’s natural [for me],” Helton said. “I’ve done it a bunch over my career.”

After USC jumped out to a 21-0 lead with three consecutive touchdowns, OSU sandwiched its first stop between two quick touchdowns at the end of the second quarter to draw within a touchdown thanks toan 85-yard, one-minute drive in eight plays.

But USC opened the third quarter by stretching its lead to 28-14 after a 29-yard pass to freshman wide receiver Devon Williams, a short drive closed by Ware’s 2-yard fight to bring it home.

To end the third quarter, freshman running back Jermar Jefferson rushed all of the 62 yards that would complete a 10-play drive. The momentum could have shifted, but USC stopped Oregon State to make way for Ware’s 62-yard touchdown that would extend the lead to 35-21 early in the fourth quarter.

“When that running game is going, it makes it so much easier,” Helton said.

USC’s first drive of the game, and Helton’s first drive calling plays, moved the chains downfield to end with an 8-yard rush from sophomore running back Carr into the end zone. It was all about getting freshman quarterback JT Daniels comfortable again, relying on the years of chemistry built in high school with freshman receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown for Daniels’ first complete pass of the night. This time, when the Trojans faced fourth-and-1, redshirt sophomore running back Vavae Malepeai found the yard.

Daniels threw for 177 yards and one touchdown with 53 percent completion rate.

It wasn’t until there was under two minutes left in the first half that OSU stopped the Trojans from finding the end zone on an offensive drive.  In addition to the consistency from the running backs, Williams picked up his first career touchdown on a 41-yard reception from Daniels.

“I thought there was great communication about what was going on, what we’re getting to next and a great sense of poise,” Helton said. “[The players] were feeding off each other.”

USC’s defense forced OSU to wait until midway through the second quarter to put themselves on the board. Rector had 2.5 sacks, and his nine total tackles tied with senior cornerback Isaiah Langley for most on the night. Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Jay Tufele added two sacks to the team’s total of six, tying a season-high.

According to Rector, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast established the defense’s goal of holding OSU to under 75 yards. When they checked on their progress at half time, the Beavers had negative rushing yards.

After a stressful week, the entire USC team expressed their emotion in one simple moment.

“In that locker room, we all let out a huge scream, all together, just let out a bunch of frustration,” Helton said.

The Trojans will return home to face Cal in their homecoming game Saturday at the Coliseum.