As time expired on USC last night, I was taken back two years ago—no, four years ago. Both, I guess.
Two years ago, USC marched into Corvallis, Oregon to battle a lesser opponent in Oregon State. They left at the short end of a 33-31 score. That game truly began for USC when they were down 23 points. They showed up and made a contest of it, failing only on the final play—a two-point conversion.
Four years ago, you could hardly see the game unfold in the eerie fog. Pete Carroll even said that something did not seem right. I sensed it—there was something in that air out to get USC. Shadows and forms of players ran the field, and in the end, USC barely escaped the Beaver on the shoulders of Reggie Bush and a 65-yard punt return TD.
Every Superman has his Kryptonite. It stands to reason that Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon is USC’s Kryptonite.
Perhaps buried in the foundations of the stadium are the remains of a Charger of yore, or perhaps a breastplate, helmet, and sword, all enchanted by some hippie voodoo. Whatever the case, the spirits of Reser have had USC’s number for the last four years, if not longer.
The matchup seemed elementary: USC’s “greatest defense EVER!!!” against an offense that had been dismantled and stuffed by the likes of Penn State and Stanford. USC’s offense has been just as dominant as their defense. But the Beaver is unforgiving.
Mistakes and lack of execution brought USC to three-and-outs. When the defense took the field, their size and speed proved to be a LIABILITY.
They penetrated too well, too far and couldn’t get down to the level of the ‘Quizz Rodgers, who was unstoppable. They could catch him, but they could never get enough of a grip on him to get him down. By the way, the horse collar tackle is now illegal, boys.
Junior QB Lyle Moevao was efficient and precise as well. He’s sitting on a QB rating of 131.76, for crying out loud. Who are these guys?!
Finally, when the ball bounced, Reser Stadium made sure the ball went the way of the Beavers. One TD catch off of the palms (?!) of a USC defender. An uncharacteristic fumble. An onside kick that sliced badly from the bounce.
Yes, Pete Carroll, next time you enter Reser Stadium, bring a Shinto priest. Exorcise the demons out of that place. Something evil lurks there...
So what did we learn from this? USC has played an admirable non-conference schedule, better than most teams out there. What does it count for? Nothing.
Pete Carroll said after the game, “This conference is so hard...” Yeah, right. The Pac-10 was just demolished by the lowly Mountain West.
Why should conference play be any more difficult? Familiarity. Conferences match up the same teams against each other every year, and teams get familiar with tendencies and the competition. Conference play is harder for that reason.
Non-conference play is difficult because of lack of familiarity, but I would argue that the familiarity of conference opponents breeds more contempt and competition.
Personally, I like non-conference matchups a lot. It tells a lot about teams and coaches, but only when it is competitive. Throw out the results of lower division games in favor of better competition.
When the conference games come, buckle up—anything can happen.