Oregon State comes full circle in one week

CORVALLIS — Fans celebrated on the field, Oregon Sate students lifted mascot Benny Beaver onto their shoulders, and there were smiles all around as the clock hit :00 at Reser Stadium Saturday evening, completing the Beavers' 36-7 Pacific-10 football win over Southern California.

What a difference a week makes.

Seven days earlier, a glum group of OSU football players and coaches had traipsed off the field following a desultory loss to Pacific-10 bottom-feeder Washington State; the stands had emptied then, as well, but that exodus had come during the second half as the Beavers showed little sign of making a comeback against the Cougars.

That left the Beavers hearing a number of uncomfortable questions.

How had a team with such high preseason expectations been so lackluster in losses to UCLA and WSU? Why had the late-season surge that had become typical of Mike Riley-coached teams turned into a November swoon?

And, perhaps the biggest question of all — had the Beavers' passion to play gone missing?

"We had a lot of criticism over the week and I think we saw it all," OSU center Alex Linnenkohl said. "But coach Riley told us after the loss that we had to stick together, that that's going to be the most important thing.

"He said he's been there and that teams that stick together can still bring it around, and that's exactly what we did."

Riley took pride in the Beavers' ability to bounce back with a convincing victory.

"The guys went back to work and got ready for a game," Riley said. "That's what we asked everybody to do — get ready for a game.

"Don't worry about what happened, what's going to come in the future; don't worry about it. Take advantage of Tuesday's practice and Wednesday's practice and get ready for the game "… they really did a great job of overcoming a lot to get to that performance."


MOMENTUM BUILDERS: A series of events early in the game helped Oregon State build momentum and wash away the taste of the two previous frustrating weeks.

The first came on USC's first possession of the game. The Trojans had a fourth-and-two from the Beaver 26 and running back Marc Tyler appeared to be brought down just inside the 25-yard line but the ball was marked at the 25 and the measurement showed a USC first down.

However, the play was reviewed on video and the ball was moved back about two feet, turning the ball over to Oregon State with the game still scoreless.

Late in the first quarter, the Beavers drove as far as the USC 11 before being moved back to the 17. Justin Kahut, who had missed his last two field goal attempts — and had tried just two in the past four weeks — nailed a 34-yarder to put OSU in front.

A good kickoff return set the Trojans up in OSU territory but moments later Beaver cornerback Justin Poyer picked off a Matt Barkley pass and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown to give OSU a 10-0 lead.

"That was the turning point of the game today," OSU running back Jacquizz Rodgers said of Poyer's touchdown. "After that, everything just got rolling."


STILL KICKING: Kahut has struggled this season, going 3-for-7 on field goals prior to Saturday. Against USC, he was a perfect 3-for-3 from 34, 38 and 35 yards.

"He had big kicks, a couple into the wind," Riley said of Kahut. "I thought our protection was good. These guys have blocked a total of five kicks during the year, so we were all concerned about that."

After his first field goal, Kahut made the tackle on the ensuing kickoff, getting bowled over by USC returner Robert Woods in the process.

"It took a little bit to see him shake the cobwebs out," Riley said. "I went over to check on him, because that was a heck of a collision. He stuck it right in there; that was impressive."

Kahut nearly had a shot at a fourth field goal late in the third quarter, lining up to try a kick from 40 yards. However, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushed the ball back 15 yards and OSU opted to punt.

Riley had drawn the penalty for throwing his headset to the ground after the replay screen showed what he felt was pass interference on the previous play, which would have given the Beavers a first down.

"I don't remember one," Riley said of drawing any previous penalties. "I remember being fired up, but I don't really think I should have been called for a penalty."


GOING FOURTH: Riley had talked about the Beavers' need to create better results on third-down conversions, both on offense and defense. OSU limited the Trojans to a 4-for-16 mark on third-down conversions, and perhaps more importantly a 2-for-6 number on fourth-down conversions.

"That's a big plus, because it was in our territory, and we did a big job of stopping them today," OSU defensive tackle Stephen Paea said. "We get mad, as far as the defensive linemen — it's an insult for them to go."


HAPPY TOGETHER: During the loss to WSU, Rodgers could be seen trying to verbally motivate his linemen. By the end of Saturday's victory, Rodgers and his linemen were exchanging a celebratory high-five on the Beaver bench.

"I'm going to roll with my line," Rodgers said. "It doesn't matter if we have a good time or a bad time. People might talk bad about them, but I let them know before the game that I'm going to stick with y'all no matter what, because they're the key to our success on offense."


EXTRA POINTS: Oregon State's 29-point margin of victory was the Beavers' second-largest ever over the Trojans. The only time OSU had beaten USC by more points came in 1914, in a 38-6 victory played in Tacoma as a fundraiser to benefit Belgian war refugees. That was the first game ever between the two teams "… With his 128 yards rushing Saturday, Rodgers moved into third place on OSU's list of career rushing leaders with 3,714 yards, trailing only Ken Simonton (5,044 yards, 1998-2001) and Yvenson Bernard (3,862 yards, 2004-07) "… Johnny Hecker's 74-yard punt in third quarter was the second longest in OSU history, trailing only an 80-yarder by Coquille Thompson against Washington State in 1930.

Share This Story