USC is missing close to 30 scholarship players, but two key players that the Men of Troy absolutely do have: a quarterback and a running back. Quarterback Cody Kessler diced Oregon State for an ultra-efficient 261 yards and two touchdowns on 24-of-32 passing, and Buck Allen added 20 rushes for 115 yards and a touchdown to push No. 18 USC past Oregon State 35-10 on Saturday night.
The quarterback-running back duo may have carried the water for USC, but it was defensive back-turned-linebacker Su’a Cravens that got the Trojans going with a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown with 5:11 to play in the first quarter. Ryan Murphy took the ensuing kick back 97 yards for a touchdown, and the Beavers added a 38-yard Trevor Romaine field goal early in the second quarter to grab a 10-7 lead, but that would be it offensively for Oregon State on this night.
Kessler hit Justin Davis for a 16-yard touchdown on the following drive, and then connected with Darreus Rogers on a 48-yard Hail Mary on the final play of the first half, effectively putting the game away at 21-10. Allen added a 17-yard scoring dash to open the fourth quarter, and his backup Justin Davis closed the scoring with a 21-yard burst at the 5:02 mark of the fourth quarter.
USC threw for 261 yards and rushed for precisely 200 more (Davis added 82 yards on 15 carries) and did not turn the ball over. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I feel like teams that rush and pass for 200 yards and don’t turn the ball over win home games approximately 95.2 percent of the time.
Especially when the opponent doesn’t hit 200 yards of total offense.
Sean Mannion looked like a quarterback that ranked second nationally in passing a year ago solely due to the presence of the now-departed Brandin Cooks, passing for a paltry 123 yards (he averaged 358.6 in 2013) on 15-of-32 passing with no scores and two picks. The Beavers rushed 21 times for a total of 58 yards.
With losses by Arizona State and Utah this week, USC (3-1, 2-0 Pac-12) remains atop the Pac-12 South alongside UCLA and Arizona. The Trojans host No. 15 Arizona State on Saturday.
Oregon State drops to 3-1 (0-1 Pac-12) and visits Colorado on Saturday.
No. 18 USC leads Oregon State 21-10 at the half in a game full of scores that were not part of the game plan.
Trojans defensive back-turned-linebacker Su’a Cravens opened the scoring with a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown at the 5:11 mark of the first quarter. Ryan Murphy immediately responded for the Beavers, taking the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown.
Trevor Romaine gave Oregon State a 10-7 lead with 11:14 to go in the second quarter on a 38-yard field goal, but Cody Kessler closed the half with two touchdown passes – one conventional, one not – to give the Trojans a comfortable lead at the break. The first came on a 16-yard pass to running back Justin Davis with 7:16 to go in the half, and the second came on a 48-yard Hail Mary to Darreus Rogers as time expired.
Rogers’ catch was the rare Hail Mary grab where the receiver leaps from the end zone, comes down at the one yard-line and actually has to step back into the end zone to complete the prayer.
Kessler has completed 17-of-22 passes for 183 yards with those pair of scores, while Sean Mannion has countered with 107 yards on 11-of-19 passing with two interceptions. Neither team has gotten anything done on the ground; Oregon State is out-rushing USC 39-13.
Oregon State will receive the ball to open the second half.
If Ed Orgeron is going to win his first game as USC’s interim head coach, he’s probably going have to do so without the services of star wide receiver Marqise Lee, who is still deemed ‘very questionable‘ for the Trojans’ upcoming game with Arizona this coming Thursday.
The defending Biletnikoff Award winner sprained his knee in Lane Kiffin’s last game, a 62-41 loss to Arizona State, but he’s had a bye week to recuperate. The All-American called the sprain ‘very minor’ last week and claimed that he was getting better daily. But he’s probably a better bet to sit out this week and return to action the following week at Notre Dame.
In the meantime, USC is down to just one healthy scholarship receiver against Arizona — sophomore Nelson Agholor, who will probably serve as quarterback Cody Kessler’s main weapon while Lee is out. Senior De’Von Flournoy, freshman Darreus Rogers and sophomore Victor Blackwell could all play but are all nursing minor injuries.
With the dearth of available receivers, USC might end up turning to its trio of talented tight ends — Xavier Grimble, Randall Telfer and Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick — to kick start its passing game against the Wildcats.