A look at the positives and negatives from USC’s 31-14 victory over Oregon State on Friday night.
1. USC rushing offense: In a game filled with highlights for the Trojans, the production of the USC ground attack, and in particular tailback Javorius Allen, just might be the biggest storyline of all. The third-year sophomore has spent the majority of his career buried on the depth chart, but after giving glimpses of his ability earlier this season, he erupted for 133 yards and three touchdowns against the Beavers. Silas Redd ran for 140 yards of his own, and as a whole USC accumulated 242 rushing yards. Credit also needs to be given to a Trojans offensive line that was solid up front.
2. USC defense: Thanks to a strong outing by the secondary for the second consecutive week, as well as another dominant effort by the USC defensive line, the Trojans limited an Oregon State passing attack that entered Friday averaging a nation-best 420.8 passing yards per game to 277 yards. Beavers quarterback Sean Mannion entered the matchup having been picked off only three times through eight game, but the Trojans were able to match that number Friday, with two of those turnovers coming in the USC red zone. Brandin Cooks, the nation’s leading receiver, was held to six catches for 88 yards and one touchdown.
3. Marqise Lee: Returning to action after missing last Saturday's matchup with Utah because of a knee injury, Lee made a huge statement on the game’s opening play with a beautiful 71-yard touchdown grab. For the first time perhaps all season, he resembled the star receiver everyone remembers from 2012. Ultimately finishing with a final stat line of five receptions for 105 yards and one touchdown, his performance was certainly aided by the precision passing of USC quarterback Cody Kessler, who completed 17 of 21 throws for 249 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
1. Offensive game management and execution: While the offense certainly had a night to remember, there were still moments, due to what appeared to be a lack of communication, when the Trojans had difficulty getting snaps off on time. USC had to burn two timeouts with the play clock winding down in the first half, and Kessler and the offensive backfield were in a complete state of disarray in the third quarter when center Marcus Martin’s snap flew back to no one in particular. The play, which resulted in a 13-yard loss, killed a potential touchdown drive, although Andre Heidari was able to convert a field goal.
2. Penalties: After showing improvement in this area against Utah, the Trojans were penalized nine times for 68 yards compared to just one for 15 yards for the Beavers. Several of USC’s infractions were damaging, most notably Martin’s illegal-use-of-hands penalty on a third-and-1 play in the third quarter. Safety Leon McQuay’s head-butting personal foul deep in USC territory was certainly the most avoidable, but the freshman was bailed out by a Dion Bailey interception one play later.
3. Second-quarter lapse: After jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, the Trojans successfully took the raucous Oregon State crowd out of the game and appeared set to run away with an easy victory, but the Beavers had other plans. Striking first on a Mannion-to-Cooks 27-yard touchdown pass, Oregon State scored again just 14 seconds later when Ryan Murphy returned a Kessler interception 41 yards for a touchdown. Fortunately for USC head coach Ed Orgeron, the Trojans rebounded from their momentary lapse and once again pull away, but Mike Riley’s squad certainly made it interesting … for a short time at least.