September 26, 2008

Beavers hold off Trojans for upset

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Call it déjà vu. Call it a let down. Call it lack of focus or lack or execution. Call it ugly or disappointing.

Call it an upset. Call it a loss. Call it devastating.

As Oregon State fans poured onto the field at Reser Stadium to celebrate the Beavers' 27-21 win over the top-ranked Trojan football team, safeties Will Harris and Kevin Ellison watched as every inch of green on the field got swallowed up in a sea of orange.

As Ellison walked off the field, all he could do was shake his head and slowly walk back towards his locker.

"This is tough," senior Fili Moala said.

Inside the locker room, players' faces didn't have the typical bravado or jubilance.

The Trojans had been beaten, and they looked the part.

"We're extremely disappointed," USC head coach Pete Carroll said. "I look at it, and Oregon State played great tonight. They did all the things they needed to win the game.

"They played better than us, and they played harder than us."

The game was supposed to be a one-sided bulldozing, and for the first half, it was - with the wrong team clearing the path, opening huge holes on offense and filling gaps on defense.

Two years after upsetting USC on their home field, the Beavers came out of the gates believing they could pull off a shocker.

"For some reason, we just knew," safety Al Afalava said. "We just felt that we would do it again. Everyone had that feeling, and we just came out and played."

The Beavers (2-2, 1-1 Pac-10) leaned heavily on freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers, and he delivered.

Rodgers, standing just 5-foot-7, scampered through the Trojan defense for 117 yards on 21 first-half carries. He finished with 186 yards and two touchdowns.

"I'm just beside myself," Carroll said. "They didn't hide what they were doing. They just did it, and we couldn't stop them…

"We just couldn't tackle the guy."

Linebacker Rey Maualuga said he had trouble locating Rodgers when he was in the backfield.

"He'd find a crease, slip out and take it for five or six yards," Maualuga said. "They ran that play probably 30 times. When you run a play and have success with it, I guess you just keep running it.

"You don't know where he's it. He's so short you can't see him. You'll shuffle to the wrong side."

Moala said he got a good look at Rodgers, but it was always too late.

"He's really slippery," Moala said. "There were times where I thought he was coming one way, and I wouldn't see him until he was right on my side. He's so short and compact, he's going to break an arm tackle."

While the defense struggled to stop Rogers early, the Beaver defense negated anything the Trojan offense tried.

Playing quarterback on third-and-seven, Joe McKnight took the snap and tried to shake free, but fumbled the ball.

Already trailing 14-0, the Beavers took advantage of the turnover and drove down inside of USC's 10-yard line with under a minute to go.

It appeared the Trojans had stopped Oregon State on third-and-goal, but defensive tackle Averell Spicer got flagged for a personal foul.

USC (2-1, 0-1) had another chance when Kevin Thomas dropped an interception in the end zone on the very next play. Making things worse, the ball deflected off Thomas' hands right to Oregon State's James Rodgers for a touchdown.

"They shouldn't have scored that last touchdown," defensive end Kyle Moore said. "(Thomas) should have had that interception, but they seemed to make all the plays."

First-half frustrations didn't keep the Trojans from putting together a comeback.

The defense tightened up, and the USC offense got on the board when Mark Sanchez hit Ronald Johnson on a 26-yard strike.

Then USC closed it to seven when Sanchez and Damian Williams hooked up on a 29-yard pass.

USC had chances to orchestrate game-tying drives in the second half, but couldn't execute. Late in the fourth quarter, Sanchez overthrew Williams directly into Beavers' safety, Greg Laybourn's, hands.

On the next play, Jacquizz Rodgers scored from two-yards out.

Sanchez finished 18-of-29 for 227 yards, three touchdowns and one costly interception.

Down 13 after a missed extra point, Johnson gave the Trojans great field position with a long kickoff return. Sanchez then hit Patrick Turner in the corner of the end zone to give the Trojans one last shot.

However, the onside kick failed and USC came up short.

"We were rolling. I didn't doubt us for a second," Sanchez said. "I still don't. This is a great team. We're going to hang in there…

"Man, this is tough."



 

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