Beavers notes: OSU running into formidable USC defense
CORVALLIS -- From Tuesday's Oregon State practice session at Tommy Prothro Field in preparation for Friday's 6 p.m. ESPN2 matchup with Southern Cal at Reser Stadium.
After facing one of the nation's premier defenses in Stanford, OSU's offense must figure out a way to move the ball against another formidable defensive group in the Trojans.
USC leads the Pac-12 in total defense (317.2 yards per game), is second in scoring defense (19.2) and rushing defense (105.4) and ranks third in pass defense (211.9). SC held Utah to 201 yards total offense in a 19-3 victory last Saturday.
"We're going to have to play a whale of a game" to beat the Trojans, OSU coach Mike Riley said. "We're going to have to do a better job of blocking them (than against Stanford) to win."
Oregon State threw for a season-low 271 yards against the Cardinal and quarterback Sean Mannion was sacked eight times -- as many times as he'd been put down in the Beavers' previous seven games. OSU rushed for 77 yards -- a net 17 after Mannion's 60 yards in losses via the sack.
USC's 3-4 defense presents similar challenges for Oregon State's offensive line, which seemed overwhelmed at times by pressure from the Stanford front.
The front seven Trojans "are good," OSU offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh said. "They're big, athletic, strong. They mix up the look they give you, just like Stanford. They'll be tough."
Cavanaugh said improvement from the Beavers' O-line "starts with your assignments and finishes with working together. We're all invested in making this thing work."
USC, Utah and Stanford are tied for the Pac-12 lead in sacks with 27 apiece. The SC defensive front is led by 6-5, 290-pound sophomore end Leonard Williams (team-high 54 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, five sacks, four QB hurries), 6-3, 255-pound senior linebacker Devon Kennard (39 tackles, seven tackles for loss, five sacks, six QB hurries), 6-3, 275-pound junior end George Uko (21 tackles, five tackles for loss, four sacks) and 6-2, 250-pound senior linebacker Morgan Breslin (15 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 4 1/2 sacks).
How does Cav feel about facing that imposing group?
"I feel really good," he said. "I know our guys are going to fight like crazy."
Southern Cal's injury situation, dire against Utah last Saturday, is improving.
The Trojans, minus their first four tight ends against the Utes, will return 6-5, 250-pound junior starter Xavier Grimble, and backup Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick is possible to play.
Star receiver Marquise Lee, who sat out the Utah game with a bad knee, was able to take part in at least some of Tuesday practice and is listed as questionable.
Safety Dion Bailey, a three-year starter who had not dressed because of shoulder and hip injuries suffered vs. Notre Dame, played the second half against Utah. He took a painkilling injection at halftime after his replacement, Su'a Cravens, strained a groin returning an interception in the first half. Both are expected to be available Friday night.
Oregon State's injury situation is up in the air.
Receiver Kevin Cummings underwent wrist surgery Tuesday and will miss the rest of the regular season. The 6-1, 185-pound senior has 23 receptions for 254 yards and two touchdowns. Cummings, injured early against Stanford, remained in the game and was Mannion's target on the final play of regulation. Cummings couldn't hang on to the ball for a 7-yard TD reception that would have given the Beavers a chance to force overtime with a two-point conversion.
"He's probably 50-50 to play in our bowl game, with the chances growing the later we play," Riley said. "It's a shame. Kevin is a great kid who has maximized his potential during his time at Oregon State. We'll really miss him."
Starting tight end Connor Hamlett, who underwent knee surgery two weeks ago, took part in some drills Tuesday and said he is "hopeful" he'll be cleared to play Friday night. Backup Caleb Smith (back) seems more likely to miss the game, then have a bye weekend to get healthy for OSU's Nov. 16 visit to Arizona State.
If Hamlett and Smith are unable to play, the Beavers will go with sophomore Kellen Clute and junior Tyler Perry -- both 6-5 and 245 -- at tight end.
Defensive tackle John Braun and outside linebacker D.J. Alexander, a pair of starters nursing shoulder injuries, sat out Tuesday's practice and are listed as day-to-day.
The guess here is that Hamlett plays against SC and Smith, Braun and Alexander sit it out.
Edwin Delva, a 6-3, 300-pound junior who saw his most action of the season against Stanford, would probably start against the Trojans. OSU would probably use end Dylan Wynn more inside, too, using senior Devon Kell more at end.
Redshirt freshman Caleb Saulo would likely get the nod to replace Alexander.
Notes: USC has lost three straight and in four of its last five visits to Corvallis. The Trojans have won only once there since 1997. Oregon State prevailed 33-31 when SC was ranked No. 3 in 2006, 27-21 when SC was ranked No. 1 in 2008 and 36-7 when SC was ranked No. 20 in 2010. The Trojans are unranked this time. USC holds a 59-11-4 overall advantage in the series. The Trojans have two players with Oregon connections. Third-string linebacker Kyle Yatabe is a senior who transferred from Willamette. Fifth-string safety Adrian Johnson is a redshirt freshman from Sunset High. USC O-line coach Mike Summers was O-coordinator at Oregon State under Jerry Pettibone from 1991-95. Trojans tight end is a cousin of OSU D-tackle Jalen Grimble, who is sitting out the season after transferring from Miami. Ten walk-ons played for USC against Utah.