Plaschke: USC proved it isn’t overrated in win at Oregon State

Midway through the first half, the scream rang out from Oregon State’s ecstatic crowd, thousands of orange-shirted men bursting with swagger at a USC team that fell flat on their faces.

“Overrated… Overrated…”


At least not yet. Not this night. Not with this coach. Not with this culture.

Within two minutes of yet another monumental game at the cursed Reser Stadium on Saturday night, something stunning happened to what appeared to be a bloody stunning Trojans team.

They were awful, awful, awful…then brilliantly terrific.

Caleb Williams was awful, awful, awful…then beautifully persistent.

The defense was awful, awful, awful…then elegantly dour.

The game was lost, then won, then lost again, then smashed with a riveting drive that ended with a last gasp at 1:13. Just then, Jordan Addison intercepted a 21-yard Williams sideline shot and slid into the end zone.

Orange crushed. amount frozen. Addison waves goodbye to the stands. Williams yells at the lawn. All of Corvallis finally fell into an eerie silence, broken only by the sound of USC players filling their locker room with their fight song.

The Trojans win 17-14 to remain undefeated and unimpressed and anything but overrated.

If anything, the Trojans are underestimated at number seven.

“We found a way and it feels damn good,” said coach Lincoln Riley.

This wasn’t the clean blowout they experienced in their first three wins. This was more akin to the remodeling project that swallowed half of Reser Stadium and forced 25,000 fans to be squeezed to one side.

That was messy. That was awkward. That was hard. This was the first time the Trojans had failed to score a touchdown on their first possession and the first time they had come from behind and for many long moments it seemed like they were losing for the first time.

“I’m probably prouder of this win than the previous three,” Riley said, later adding, “If anything we’ve done up to this point shows the progress we’re making in that locker room, inside the walls, of culture, tonight really showed that.”

That new culture was most evident with 4:35 left and the Trojans four behind after an embarrassingly easy 18-yard touchdown run by Jam Griffin.

USC had the ball on its 16-yard line with a quarterback that had been terrible and an offense that had gained minus a yard in its two previous possessions and failed to capitalize on an Oregon State interception and missed field goal.

This is a team that stinks. But this is a team that believes, and you can probably guess what they said to each other in the scrum.

“It’s our time to shine,” Addison recalled.

You can probably also guess what they said to each other on the bench.

“It’s not something that throws us off track,” said safety Max Williams. “We said on the sidelines, ‘We do this every week.'”

Caleb Williams threw two passes for 23 yards to Tahj Washington, threw a few incompletions and suddenly the Trojans found themselves facing a fourth and sixth from midfield. That doesn’t happen every week. That hasn’t happened this season. What happened next shows that this team is about the grind as well as the glamour.

Williams ran, was surrounded by tacklers, then surrounded by blockers, and finally was literally forced to a first down by his offensive linemen. Has anyone else seen this and thought of Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart?

“These are the moments, aren’t they?” said Riley. “That’s what matters. Fourth down and you go to find a way.”

Williams, who was sadly not made available to the media after the win, gained seven yards and five snaps later he threw the touchdown pass that resulted in Addison waving to the stunned crowd.

“It’s time to go home,” Addison said when asked about the gesture. “Pack it up.”

Williams spent most of the night looking like he wished he’d never left home. Even counting that last drive, he was only 16 of 36 when he went 180 yards. At times it seemed like Riley was the only person cheering him on, visibly patting him on the back, staring into his eyes and encouraging him on the bench.

“I said, ‘We’ve been there before, you just have to go play,'” Riley said. “Some days you’re not going to be at your best…how you react to those moments is what separates you.”

The Trojans ended the night’s split with their fourth interception, a nab from Max Williams that gives them 11 interceptions in four games while the offense is yet to make a turnover.

Oregon State wide receiver Anthony Gould is brought down by USC's Ralen Goforth, Prophet Brown and Bryson Shaw

Oregon State wide receiver Anthony Gould is clobbered by USC’s Ralen Goforth (left), Prophet Brown (center) and Bryson Shaw Saturday in Corvallis, Ore.

(Amanda Loman/Associated Press)

“Truly great teams find a way, no matter what the circumstances,” Riley said. “We found a way.”

Indeed, this was their best win in their worst game of the season. Perhaps no other USC team since the Pete Carroll era has been able to survive at Reser, despite allowing 153 rushing yards, despite twice lagging behind, and despite being so nervous from the charged atmosphere that they took all three first-half timeouts early on of the second quarter.

The students cursed USC in signs on their dorm windows. They painted their bellies with BEAVS. Their orange shirts turned the cheering section into a gigantic, blinding sunset.

“To be able to be in a situation like that, you need games like this to show who you are as a team,” said linebacker Shane Lee. “We have never been in a situation like this before. Coming here and having our backs to the wall for most of the game to be able to fight and keep fighting and fight again.”

They kept fighting, even as the PA system blared the sound of a chainsaw every third outage, even as the fans kept chanting and gesturing, even as that crazy half-stadium felt like three stadiums.

Oregon State fans cheer and raise arms.

Oregon State fans react after a Beavers cheer after a touchdown against USC Saturday night in Corvallis, Ore.

(Amanda Loman/Associated Press)

“Even towards the end you might lose hope, some teams might lose hope, we still believed in it and we still prevailed,” Lee said.

They literally prevailed, not only with Williams in that fourth down game, but also with Travis Dye, who gained 133 yards and hit on a seven-yard touchdown rush, proving he could become as much a weapon as his quarterback.

“If you just keep fighting, keep fleeing, keep fleeing, you’re going to end up the same way we did tonight,” Dye said. “These are the moments we live for. That’s it.”

This highly talented and highly motivated USC football team is indeed a lot of things.

Overrated is not one of them. Plaschke: USC proved it isn’t overrated in win at Oregon State

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