Beavers stop Southern Cal's 27-game winning streak
CORVALLIS - Oregon State brought down the Pac-10's invincible Saturday at Reser Stadium - but just barely.
The Beavers seized a 33-10 third-quarter lead, then held on to beat third-ranked Southern Cal 33-31, giving those in the crowd of 42,871 a day to remember.
'That is a great win, a big-time win,' Mike Riley said about the biggest regular-season victory during his six-year reign as Oregon State coach. 'Because that team (Southern Cal) is good.'
And hallowed. The four-time defending Pac-10 champions (6-1 overall, 4-1 in Pac-10 play) invaded Reser with a 27-game Pac-10 win streak. The Trojans had won 18 in a row on the road and had prevailed in 51 of their last 53 games.
Oregon State (5-3, 3-2) had just enough to send the mighty visitors to defeat for only the second time in the last 32 meetings between the schools.
'Put aside all my personal pleasure - me being from L.A., a former (UCLA) Bruin, beating the nation's No. 3 team,' said Oregon State QB Matt Moore, who threw for 262 yards and a touchdown, ran for a second score and had no interceptions. 'I'm just happy for the guys and the coaches here, the people I'm surrounded by in the Oregon State program. It's such a huge win for all of us. I'm just stoked right now.'
Victory wasn't secure until the closing seconds, after the Trojans stormed back from the 23-point deficit to draw within two on a two-yard TD pass from John David Booty to Steve Smith with seven seconds to play.
SC lined up for the two-point conversion with a chance to tie and send the game in overtime. Beaver Nation held its collective breath, then exploded when Booty's pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage by OSU defensive end Jeff Van Orsow.
After Clinton Polk gobbled up the ensuing onside kickoff, bedlam erupted. The field was a sea of orange as jubilant fans and students rushed down to celebrate one of the biggest triumphs in school history.
'It's tops for me, that's for sure,' Riley said afterward. 'Wasn't that fun? Those kids just fought like crazy.'
The Beavers did it without their most important player, tailback Yvenson Bernard. The Pac-10's second-leading rusher sat out the game with a sprained ankle. In his stead was JC transfer Polk, who in his first career start rushed for 100 yards on 22 carries, caught three passes and didn't fumble once.
'Yvenson was a big loss for us,' OSU tight end Joe Newton said. 'We needed a big game from Clinton to account for that. He stepped up and gave us all we could ask from him.'
Oregon State got four field goals from Alexis Serna, the reigning Lou Groza Award winner. But Serna also had an attempt blocked and saw a 42-yard fourth-quarter try that could have pretty much wrapped up the win go wide left.
There were times during Saturday's game that those wearing orange and black were reminded of the Louisiana State game that opened the 2004 season. The Beavers had the No-3 ranked Tigers on the ropes, but Serna's three missed extra points proved pivotal in a 22-21 overtime loss.
'My mind flashed to that game for a minute,' junior receiver Sammie Stroughter said. 'We've had opportunities before and let them slip out of our grasp. To see it all come together today, it just showed the heart of the guys in the Oregon State program.'
The Trojans had been pushed in each of their four Pac-10 games, and there were those in Beaver Nation who worried they were poised for a breakout win. Riley saw it another way.
'There have been a lot of teams with pretty tight games with them, but nobody had been able to finish it,' the OSU coach said. 'I told our players, 'That will have to be our job in the fourth quarter.' I didn't think it would come down quite like that, but our kids did a great job of never quitting.'
Southern Cal helped out by being atypically sloppy with the ball. The Trojans lost three fumbles and served up a critical interception. The Beavers had no turnovers, as big a factor as there was in the game.
Moore gave what Newton called 'the best performance of his career,' completing 21 of 32 passes and running the OSU offense superbly on a day when turnovers could have proved fatal.
'I'm really proud of Matt,' Riley said. The thing I like is, he's a competitor. He's fun to coach because of that. It's a nice game for that kid to have under his belt for the rest of his life.'
Moore even offered Riley a coaching tip Friday night as the Beavers prepared for the biggest game of their season.
'Matt talked about, 'Just be yourself in this game. Don't try to reinvent who you are because it's a so-called big game and SC. Be yourself, work hard, do the things you've been doing.' Pretty good suggestion. I used it in my pregame talk.'
No Beaver was bigger Saturday than Stroughter, the emerging star who caught eight passes for 127 yards and returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown. A religious young man, Stroughter played up the 'David and Goliath' angle, bringing a bag of stones to the Friday night team meeting and dispensing one to each player.
'I kept my in my girdle pad during the game,' OSU middle linebacker Alan Darlin said. 'It was a motivator.'
Booty and Smith had monster games. Booty connected on 24 of 39 passes for 406 yards and three TDs. Smith snared 11 receptions for 258 yards and two scores. And somehow, the Beavers survived.
'This is a great day for Oregon State's team,' a gracious SC coach Pete Carroll said. 'My hat is off to Mike. They did a great job. They played great the whole day and did a bunch of stuff we wish we could have done.'
For awhile in the second half, it looked as if Oregon State might win in a rout. The Beavers extended a 16-10 halftime lead to 33-10 with 17 straight points, and late in the third quarter, the Trojans were reeling.
First came a six-play, 59-yard scoring drive. A 36-yard Moore-to-Stroughter bomb was the big play.
Stroughter struck again when he took a punt at his own 30, used two crushing blocks and raced 70 yards for a touchdown. With 7:55 yet to play in the third quarter, Oregon State was ahead 30-10.
'A great job by the punt return team,' Stroughter said. 'G-Law (Gerard Lawson) had a great block. He set it all up. And then Daniel Drayton had a great block on the punter. I cut it up and saw only daylight.'
On SC's next offensive play, Chauncey Washington fumbled and OSU's Isaiah Cook recovered at the Trojans' 25. The Beavers tacked on three more with a 20-yard Serna field goal, and it was 33-10 Oregon State with 4:55 remaining in the third period.
Starting from their own 15, the Trojans marched 73 yards in three plays, using passes of 33, 25 and 15 yards to get first-and-goal at the OSU 10. After a first-down run gained no yardage, the Trojans threw three straight incompletions and the Beavers took over at their own 10.
'I got so optimistic down there, I thought we were going to score a touchdown,' Carroll said. 'I kick a field goal, it's a different game. I screwed up.'
Soon thereafter, though, the Beavers did. The Trojans held and on fourth down, OSU set to punt. But true freshman Kyle Loomis dropped a good snap, and the Trojans took over on the OSU 16.
Four plays later, Booty found tight end Fred Davis for a four-yard TD pass, and the Beavers' lead was cut to 33-17 with 12 seconds left in the third quarter.
Three minutes later, Southern Cal was in the OSU end zone again. Smith hauled in a 37-yard TD pass from Booty, Washington bulled over for a two-point conversion and suddenly the Trojans were within 33-25 with 12:09 remaining.
Oregon State drove from its own 20 to the SC 24, with Newton's catches of 22 and 12 yards the key plays of the drive. But Serna's 42-yard field goal attempt was wide left with 5:51 left, and the Trojans were still very much in it.
But SC, from its own 24, went three and out, and after a punt, the Beavers took the ball at their own 40 with 5:14 remaining. On third and eight, Polk raced 14 yards for a vital first down at the SC 44. On fourth down from the Trojan 37, Serna lined up for a 54-yard field goal attempt. But the Beavers were called for a false start, and Loomis punted into the end zone.
'I told Danny (Langsford, the OSU offensive coordinator), let's start getting a package together for overtime,' Riley said. 'You have to have it ready to go. It looked like it was heading that way.'
Starting from the SC 20 with no timeouts and 2:39 left, Booty went long for 32 yards to Dwayne Jarrett, taking it to the OSU 48. On third and 16 from the SC 46, Booty hooked up with Smith for 14 yards. On fourth-and-two from the OSU 40, Smith made another big catch near the sidelines at the Beaver 18. The replay appeared to show Smith's foot touch down out of bounds, but the play stood, and the Trojans had first down with 1:14 remaining.
Four plays later, on second-and-goal from the four, OSU's Keenan Lewis was called for pass interference in the end zone. After the automatic first down, the Trojans had first-and-goal at the two with 16 seconds remaining. A first-down pass intended for Jarrett went incomplete. On second down, Booty found Smith for a two-yard touchdown with seven seconds left.
That made it 33-31, with the Trojans set to tie the game with another two-point conversion. Booty's pass was batted down by Van Orsow, and the Beavers' win was secure.
The Beavers used an early touchdown and three second-quarter Serna field goals to mount a 16-10 lead at halftime, but it could have been much more. They had the ball at the SC one- and three-yard line on different drives and managed only three points out of it.
Southern Cal turned the ball over three times, twice in its own territory in the second quarter. But the Beavers reaped only six points from that.
Moore completed 13 of 20 passes for 149 yards in the half and ran one yard for OSU's only TD.
Booty hit on 12 of 16 passes for 190 yards, including a pair of deep balls to Smith. Smith had five receptions for 137 yards before intermission.
Oregon State took the opening kickoff and moved 69 yards in 10 plays. Moore was 7 for 7 passing on the drive and scored on a one-yard keeper to give the Beavers a 7-0 lead with 10:09 remaining.
The Beavers made a break on USC's first offensive series after the Trojans moved deep into OSU territory. Bryan Payton intercepted a Booty pass at the goal line and returned it 52 yards to the SC 48-yard line. Polk got loose for a 27-yard run, and the Beavers had first-and-goal at the seven before SC's defense held. Serna kicked a 20-yard field goal, but OSU was whistled for a false start. On the ensuing 25-yard attempt, the snap was low and Serna's kick was partially blocked.
Southern Cal answered with a 10-play, 58-yard scoring drive. Washington went in from the two to tie the score at 7-7 with 10:47 left in the second quarter.
On its next offensive series, Oregon State marched from its own 29 to inside the SC 10. But a holding call and sack stalled the drive, and the Beavers settled for a 47-yard field goal and a 10-7 edge with 6:53 remaining before intermission.
Oregon State got a short field when Booty fumbled a snap and OSU's Isaiah Cook recovered at the USC 26. A 23-yard pass from Moore to Stroughter gave the Beavers first down at the SC 3. After Polk moved the ball inches from the goal line with a run on first down, Moore wound up with the ball in the backfield and was tackled at the nine.
'We called the same play as on first down, but Clinton went the wrong way,' Riley said. 'What a killer. We had so many plays like that we worried would just haunt us.'
On third down, Moore was sacked at the 14, and the Beavers were left with a 31-yard Serna field goal and a 13-7 advantage just 2:12 before halftime.
OSU wound up with the ball again in enemy territory when Washington's fumble was recovered the the Beavers' Alan Darlin at the SC 40. That set up Serna's third field of the quarter, this one from 53 yards, for a 16-7 lead with 1:03 still on the clock before intermission.
The Trojans answered quickly, with Smith's 42-yard reception on a bomb taking them to the OSU 12 with 29 seconds left. The Beaver defense held, though, and SC settled for a 29-yard field goal to go into halftime trailing 16-10.
Game notes: The crowd was fifth-largest in Reser history. ... USC is the highest-ranked team Oregon State has beaten since the Beavers upended No. 1 USC in 1967. ... Riley said he didn't seriously consider playing Bernard, who was hurt in the fourth quarter of the Arizona game the previous week. 'It wasn't that close,' Riley said. 'He wanted to try it, but he couldn't run.' ... Stroughter's punt return was his third for a touchdown this season, tying a Pac-10 record. It was the seventh longest in school history. ... Riley is 33-33 as a head coach at Oregon State. His teams are 3-18 against top-25 teams. ... OSU's 33 points were the most the Beavers have scored against Southern Cal since a 38-6 victory in 1914.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Southern Cal 0 10 7 14 - 31
Oregon State 7 9 17 0 - 33
OSU - Matt Moore run (Alexis Serna kick) 10:09.
USC - Chauncey Washington 2 run (Mario Danelo kick) 10:47.
OSU - Serna 47 field goal 6:53.
OSU - Serna 31 field goal 2:12.
OSU - Serna 53 field goal 1:03.
USC - Danelo 29 field goal :07.
OSU - Joe Newton 9 pass from Moore (Serna kick) 9:27.
OSU - Sammie Stroughter 70 punt return (Serna kick) 7:55.
OSU - Serna 20 field goal 4:51.
USC - Fred Davis 4 pass from J.D. Booty (Danelo kick) :12.
USC - Steve Smith 37 pass from Booty (Chauncey Washington run) 12:09.
USC - Smith 2 pass from Booty (pass failed) :07.