CORVALLIS, Ore. – USC players were speechless after losing to 25-point underdog Oregon State for the second time in three years at Reser Stadium.
"It's real bitter," defensive end Kyle Moore said Thursday night. "We lost by not focusing."
Losses are usually accompanied by excuses, and the one used after this setback was the strength of the Pac-10 Conference, the same conference that recently went 0-4 against the Mountain West.
"This is a reality of how tough this conference is," offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said. "We have to prepare really well every week."
USC coach Pete Carroll also defended the Pac-10.
"The ability of the Pac-10 is obvious," Carroll said. "People don't think they can play like this. Oregon State's going to do really well and win a lot of games this season. The Pac-10 is ridiculously hard."
One thing Carroll did not do after the game is blame anyone, although there were some ripe targets, especially on defense.
"It's not one person even though I feel like it's my fault," quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "We all had our share. Coach Carroll was adamant about that."
Oregon State tailback Jacquizz Rodgers rushed for more yards (186) than any tailback against USC in the past 77 games.
“I was really surprised how they ran on us,” Trojans defensive end Kyle Moore said. “We missed a lot of tackles. People did not fall in the gaps. We didn't play well at all, especially on the defensive line.”
Carroll was stunned Rodgers dominated the Trojans' much-hyped defense.
“We just couldn't tackle the guy,” Carroll said. “We weren't ready to do what we needed to do. We weren't functioning.”
• USC safety Taylor Mays left the game with a bruised chest and was spitting up blood.
• Linebacker Brian Cushing broke a bone in his hand.
• Linebacker Rey Maualuga sprained his knee.
Prior to falling behind 21-0 at halftime against Oregon State, the last time USC was shut out in the first half was the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl against Utah, when the Trojans trailed 10-0.
As No. 1
This is the seventh time an Associated Press-ranked No. 1 Trojans team took the field against Oregon State. USC lost the first meeting 3-0 in the mud in Corvallis in 1967, but won the past five, in 1968, 1972, 1979, 1981 and 2004.
USC tailback Joe McKnight fumbled twice, including a crucial fumble in the first half inside Oregon State territory.
“He was bouncing around and it just popped out,” Carroll said.
This was Oregon State's first over a No. 1 team since the Beavers upset USC 3-0 in 1967. Oregon State coach Mike Riley's father, Bud, was an assistant coach for the Beavers for that victory.
It might seem like USC rarely plays on Thursdays, but this was the fourth Thursday game against Oregon State.
The first three were played on national holidays: Thanksgiving in 1914 (a game played in Tacoma, Wash.), and 1916 and Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1926: the eighth anniversary of the ending of World War I.
Back on schedule
The Trojans were not originally scheduled to play Oregon State in 2006. Prior to that year, Pac-10 teams missed one conference opponent each year.
USC had been scheduled to miss the Beavers for four consecutive seasons, from 2005-2008. But when the NCAA added a 12th game, the Pac-10 decided to schedule all conference teams.
The 2006 upset was not the first time an Oregon State team stopped a major USC streak.
In 1933, in Portland, Oregon State's 11 "Iron Men," as they would go down in school lore, played the entire 60 minutes with no substitutes, holding Howard Jones' Trojans to a 0-0 tie, and ending USC's 25-game win streak, USC's longest winning streak before Pete Carroll showed up.
Entering Thursday's game, USC won only once in Corvallis since 1997, in the "fog game" of 2004.
- Pete Carroll