Oregon State-USC: Beavers Expose Trojan Defense Up the Middle

Roy LaFaverCorrespondent ISeptember 26, 2008

Early in the USC-Ohio State game, the Buckeyes took it to the Trojans up the middle successfully for two trips into the red zone.  The frustration of not getting the ball into the end zone, coupled with two USC touchdowns, caused the Buckeye coaching staff to forget what they did well, and the rout was on.

However, the Oregon State coaching staff must have gone to school on the tape of that game.  With a good effort from the offensive line, and a running back who ran like they had coated him with grease and fed him jumping beans for a week, Oregon State went up the middle again, and again, and again.

Only a few times in the third quarter did the Beavers decide they could run wide and throw screens against a defense that was clearly much too fast to allow that kind of action.  So it was back to the well for Oregon State, and amazingly they came up with more water.

The defining moment of the game took place in the second quarter, with Oregon State driving for what would be their third touchdown of the game.  Jacquizz Rodgers ran up the middle for five or six yards on first down.

USC had employed an eight-man box liberally throughout the game, but on the next play the Trojans brought up both safeties to make it a nine-man front.

Does the Oregon State coaching staff seize up and scream for a timeout?  No.  Rodgers again took it up the middle for six yards and a first down.  I was astonished.

That one play spoke volumes about the USC defensive front, and you have to know every Pac-10 coach took notes.

Now, we cannot be naïve enough to think every USC opponent this year will have a running back like “The Quiz,” and not many offensive lines in the Pac-10 will turn in the effort we saw from Oregon State’s front wall.

The Trojans have a great pass rush, and they gobble up anything wide.  But it is clear that the USC defensive front is built for speed, not for an “up the gut” frontal assault.

We have to give the Oregon State coaching staff credit for recognizing that speed.  Once USC’s linebackers were totally committed to the run, Oregon State was successful dumping passes over the middle and on little crossing routes into areas vacated by those backers.  It was a beautiful game plan.

This game also featured one of the dumbest questions at one of the dumbest times by a reporter.  Going to the locker room at the half with a great deal on his mind, Pete Carroll was asked, "Coach, why can’t your defense tackle Rodgers?"

If I had been there, I would have been tempted to slap the lady who asked the question.  Wrong time, wrong place, wrong question.

Please, ESPN, show a little class.  Your reporters seemed almost gleeful, and you’ve been in the business long enough to know this stuff can happen to any team.  It isn’t something a reporter should appear to gloat about.

However, Beaver fans, gloat all you want.