From the start to the finish, the USC Trojans‘ 17-14 squeaker over the Oregon State Beavers was an absolute dog fight. Dare I say, maybe even a trap game? The Beavers came out with a plan on defense that was nearly good enough to defeat Lincoln Riley’s premier offense.
Starting games fast has been a staple of the USC offense. In fact, they have scored on three straight possessions to open the game in every contest. But, for the first time this season, they had to play from behind.
For nearly 43 minutes of football, the Trojans’ offensive outpour was effectively dammed up. They were convincingly stuck in the muck, with no explanation for what the Beavers were doing.
Quarterback Caleb Williams had his most challenging game as a Trojan, completing 16 of 36 passes for 180 yards, one touchdown, and a QBR of 55.4. Williams looked like a redshirt freshman at spring ball for most of the game. Largely inaccurate and just not playing like himself, he was riding the struggle bus. The Beavers’ pass rush was constantly hounding him. Constantly escaping pressure, he took what he could get, got a couple of yards, and went off the field for a punt. He couldn’t find his favorite targets for most of the game.
Jordan Addison didn’t touch the football for nearly a half. The Beavers’ defense neutralized him in a number of different ways, not only by relying on the corners and safeties to play man and/or pass rush, but also by forcing Williams away from him to the point where he wasn’t going to attempt a crossbody throw into the middle or backside of the field. Addison would ultimately battle through the sticky web of coverage surrounding him and be the one to give the Trojans the final go-ahead.
Fighting Through Adversity
No matter how bleak things looked for the offense, the Trojans defense stood tall behind Shane Lee and his 12 total tackles. Turnovers continue to be the story of defensive coordinator Alex Grinch’s unit. posting another impressive four turnovers, all courtesy of interceptions. Bringing the turnover total to 14 on the season.
The run defense continues to tighten up and is getting better and better as the season progresses. The Beavers took it to the Trojans on the ground, scoring two touchdowns with 153 yards on 31 carries. But it was all they could muster. The Beavers’ passing game just never got going due to Chance Nolan‘s four interceptions as the defense kept them in it until the offense sprang to life.
Scoring at nearly the end of the third quarter, the Trojans didn’t have the lead for long. The Beavers answered and forced Williams and the offense to be great. The final drive was 11 plays and 82 yards, with the exclamation point being the 21-yard strike to Addison for a touchdown.
What Have We Learned?
As mighty as the Trojans’ offense has been, the defense has been the most impactful unit of the season. As insane as it may sound, the turnover margin is the best in the nation because the offense doesn’t turn it over and the defense has forced them in bunches. No defense is perfect, but the deficiencies on the run are supremely masked and deodorized by a dynamic offense and turnovers. What that means for the Trojans moving forward is that they are currently built for the big time.
Everyone knew how good the offense could be, but after four games into the season, the defense has shown just how good they can be. The offense is capable of carrying the day in any and every circumstance. Mixing multiple opportunities with explosive potential is going to win nearly every Saturday against any team.