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October 25, 2009In a year filled with heart-stopping moments, USC's game with Oregon State Saturday night at the Coliseum didn't seem like anything new.
The two teams put on an offensive shootout that lasted until the game's final minutes.
"There's been so much drama this year," cornerback Kevin Thomas said.
But unlike last Saturday at Notre Dame, there was no last-second tension as USC, clinging to a six-point lead, ran out the clock over the final 5:41 to secure a 42-36 win.
"It is terrific to win," USC head coach Pete Carroll said. "This was a different game than we hoped to have on defense. We were scrambling.
"The offense carried us because we challenged them to win this game."
Oregon State steadily moved the ball down the field, marching towards the goal line for most of the second half. The Trojans, on the other hand, sprinted their way to pay dirt. Ronald Johnson, Allen Bradford and Damian Williams all broke huge plays helping the Trojans outscore Oregon State.
"The offense won this game for us," defensive tackle Armond Armstead said. "We don't need them to do that a lot, but they really stepped up."
Johnson caught six passes for 99 yards and a score, and Bradford rushed for a career-high 147 yards on 15 carries. Bradford also found the end zone twice.
USC quarterback Matt Barkley struggled some, throwing two interceptions and having a third overturned after a penalty. He finished 15-of-25 for 202 yards and two touchdowns.
Still, the Trojan offense did whatever it wanted offensively.
"I felt like we moved the ball well," Williams said. "We moved kind of freely, actually. Except for the turnovers and the first drive, we were pretty much moving the ball at will. We showed what we're capable of."
But in the second half, for every USC score, the Beavers had an answer.
The Trojans took a 19-point lead after Williams returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, but that didn't keep Oregon State from clawing back into the game.
"We couldn't separate," Carroll said. "We had so much momentum on offense, and then there was the punt return, but we just couldn't stop them. It just made for a frustrating night. We couldn't get them off the field."
Oregon State scored two consecutive touchdowns to make the game a one-score possession before Barkley and the offense ran out the clock.
"I'm very proud of our team for their effort," Oregon State head coach Mike Riley said. "Nobody blinked. A lot of times, it looked like when USC scored, it would be hard to get back into the game, but we always kept trying...
"USC is very impressive."
Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass despite an ankle injury, and his brother, James Rodgers, gained 194 all-purpose yards and scored on a seven-yard pass. Beaver quarterback Sean Canfield completed 30-of-43 passes for 329 yards and three scores in the losing effort.
"They had the running game and the passing game," Michael Morgan said. "We knew they were good."
But in the beginning, it was hard to tell just how good Oregon State was going to be.
The Trojan defense showed a good amount of bend in the first half, but the group managed to keep from breaking, as USC built a 21-9 halftime lead.
The Trojans allowed three Oregon State scoring drives, and the Beavers had a chance on another but missed on a 22-yard attempt.
Despite the Beavers' ability to move the football (230 yards and 10 first downs in the half), the Trojan defense clamped down as Oregon State moved towards the Trojan end zone.
USC forced Oregon State to try four field goals in the first half, and the Beavers' kicker, Justin Kahut, connected on three, including a pair from 48 yards out.
But while Oregon State was kicking field goals, the Trojans were scoring touchdowns.
Early in the game, Barkley found a wide-open Anthony McCoy for an easy eight-yard score. Later in the second quarter, Barkley hooked up with a diving Ronald Johnson for a spectacular 22-yard score. Finally, Barkley snuck in from a yard out for USC's third touchdown of the half and the first of his young career.
After a brief return to the Coliseum, USC now heads back onto the road. Saturday, USC travels to Eugene, Ore. to face the Oregon Ducks in a game with Pac-10 title implications.
"We know it's going to be a big game," Bradford said. "We know we have to play as one. We can't go out there expecting them to not play hard because they're on their home field, and they last time we were there, they beat us.
"We're going to prepare this week, look at them and get to work."