The “Buck” doesn’t stop here.
And now, all of a sudden, maybe Ed Orgeron doesn’t, either.
Javorius “Buck” Allen, the sophomore who’d been the forgotten tailback in the first few weeks of this weird, emotional season, rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns to lead USC to its most impressive and complete victory in at least two years on Friday night.
Allen and Silas Redd rumbled through Oregon State’s bright orange at will, Marqise Lee returned to revitalize the passing game and Devon Kennard and the defense shut down Sean Mannion and one of the country’s most prolific passing attacks on their way to a 31-14 upset over the Beavers.
So much for the pit that Reser Stadium is supposed to be, huh?
Give most of the credit to Orgeron, the huge, teddy bear of an interim head coach who is doing everything in his power to wipe the word ‘interim’ off his title. He has re-energized a team that was spiraling down the depths toward a full-blown depression after Arizona State dropped 62 in what turned out to be Lane Kiffin’s last game.
Look around, the Trojans are having fun again. They’re playing loose on the field and flashing some frisky dance moves on the sidelines.
They’ve earned the right. And maybe Orgeron is earning something, too. He is 3-1 since taking over, only a couple of makeable field goals against Notre Dame away from being 4-0. He is 3-0 in the Pac-12 and, suddenly, USC (6-3 overall, 3-2 Pac-12) is a legitimate contender to win the South Division and get to the conference title game.
The 6-3 Trojans have undermanned California and shaky Colorado still left on the schedule. Oh yeah, then there are those two home games against Stanford and UCLA.
Well, let’s say Orgeron wins the two games in which he’ll be heavily favored and somehow manages to split the Stanford/UCLA duo. Considering the circumstances, that would give USC a more than respectable 9-4 record and mean that “Coach O,” as the kids like to call him, would be 6-2 as the head guy.
If you’re a real Trojans optimist and want to fantasize victories over both Stanford and UCLA, then suddenly the record gets to 10-3, 7-1 for Orgeron.
If that somehow happened, USC athletic director Pat Haden would be hard pressed to overlook Orgeron for the full-time job, even over a coach with a more glamorous name.
What about that first scenario? If the Trojans win three out of the next four and finish 9-4? Well, then it becomes more difficult, although you can bet than Orgeron will have a good part of the Coliseum faithful pulling for him.
Whatever happens, you have to admire this metamorphosis “Coach O” has produced.
He’s proved you can succeed by using BOTH Lee and Nelson Agholor, a pair of wide receivers who might be as good as any in the country when healthy. Lee came back to set the tone with a 71-yard TD catch on a Cody Kessler pass on the game’s first play from scrimmage. Agholor opened the second half with a 62-yard gain that set up an important field goal.
Orgeron also has demonstrated he’ll give everyone a chance. That’s why Allen has emerged from the Cardinal and Gold shadows to look like a star of the future.
A lot of us in the media noticed “Buck” running with power and speed in the spring while subbing for Tre Madden and some of the injured Trojans tailbacks. I remember writing that Allen should be utilized more, especially down near the goal line, where his brute power was even more noticeable.
But when fall rolled around, Kiffin ignored him until more injuries piled up, and even then, when Allen would get into the game and impress people -- including another more famous Allen named Marcus -- “Buck” would soon disappear into the crowd on the sideline.
He’s not likely to be disappearing anymore. Not after those three TDs, including a 52-yard gamebreaker. At 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, he’s that large, jumbo kind of runner the Trojans have been lacking on a regular basis since, oh, maybe all the way back to the late Ricky Bell.
Allen Bradford, another overlooked tailback now playing linebacker in the NFL, filled that role briefly for Pete Carroll. But with two more years of eligibility remaining and the ever-reliable Redd a senior, it looks like the “Buck” and Tre Show in 2014.
That’s jumping the gun, though. The rest of 2013 is now considerably more interesting, especially if the offensive line blocks more the way it did against Oregon State and less the way it functioned against Utah.
Sure, the list of available scholarship players at USC is thin, but the magic Orgeron has created allows this team to use that as motivation.
“You have to keep playing like Trojans,” he has barked.
And all of a sudden they are again.