USC Football

Ware shines in USC's 38-21 victory over Oregon State

November 3, 2018
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For most of the night, all Aca'Cedric Ware saw was open field. It's not something the Trojans have experienced a lot of this season, as they've seen both their running room and opportunities to achieve team accolades contract as they've struggled.

But for one night, Ware and the Trojans were able to run free.

WARE QUOTE

Ware was absolutely dominant, running for 205 yards and three touchdowns on just 17 carries. He gashed the Beavers in space, proving he had regained his early-season explosiveness on scoring runs of 57 and 62 yards, the latter of which put the game away for USC.

WARE QUOTE

USC's entire running game was extraordinary, as Vavae Malepeai and Stephen Carr combined for 150 yards and a touchdown of their own. All the offensive line had to do was get some push to allow the backs some space to work their magic on a Beaver defense that lacked the talent to keep up with the three-headed monster.

"I didn't feel like anybody was ever in the backfield," said head coach Clay Helton of the offensive line's performance. "There was no penetration in the running game, and that's huge for runners. It allows you to stretch and cut off those combination blocks."

The Trojans dominated the other side of the run game as well; Beavers running back Jermar Jefferson, who ranked third in the nation in total rushing yards coming into the game, managed just 58 yards on 18 carries. The defensive line won their matchups, as they should against a weak Oregon State offensive line, and did well to tackle Jefferson, one of the country's most explosive backs.

QUOTE ON RUN DEFENSE

The pass defense, however, struggled to contain Jake Luton, who completed 31 of 45 passes for 301 yards and a touchdown. The senior was essentially the Beavers' entire offense as they mounted their comeback, leading methodical drives on short passes all the way to the goal line.

The USC pass defense assisted of course, breaking down in coverage on multiple occasions. The most notable example of this was when outside linebacker Kana'i Mauga appeared to get confused in coverage, allowing tight end Noah Togiai an easy release into the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown that brought the score to 21-14 USC at halftime.

The Trojans nearly beat themselves with missed opportunities throughout the night. Center Toa Lobendahn's snapping issues reared their ugly head once again with low exchanges, including one that sank a second half possession. Linebacker Cam Smith dropped a possible pick-six on a bewildering fake field goal play the Beavers ran instead of allowing Luton to have a shot on a fourth and short. Malepeai lost a fumble and cornerback Iman Marshall dropped an easy interception ball thrown right into his stomach.

But not all the setbacks were USC's fault. Defensive back Ajene Harris, filling in at safety for the second straight week, got flagged for a dubious unnecessary roughness penalty when he hit Jefferson a millisecond before the back stepped out of bounds. This gave the Beavers a free first down on a third and 21 that they were well short of converting, and set them up for quarterback Jack Colletto's 6-yard plunge to make it a one-possession game again.

Harris, however, redeemed himself by flying in to deflect a fourth down pass aimed for a seemingly wide open receiver the possession after Malepeai's fumble, terminating the Beavers' best chance to tie the game.

AJENE QUOTE

The Trojans were able to make enough plays like that to take a 38-21 lead with under five minutes left, and they often came from the same source as a mistake. The pass defense made up for breakdowns on the backend by sacking Luton six times. Despite more low snaps from Lobendahn, Malepeai responded to his fumble with 45 rush yards on the team's second to last drive, culminating in a Michael Brown field goal that essentiallly sealed the win.

JT Daniels made a comeback of his own, returning from a concussion that kept him sidelined a week ago by completing 14 of 26 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps it was just the porous Oregon State unit, but Daniels appeared to read the defense better than he had earlier in the season, throwing with nice timing and anticipation.

And, of course, he showcased some of that unteachable arm talent with a 41-yard touchdown to Devon Williams for the freshman receiver's first career score. Daniels dropped the ball right into Williams' hands down the right sideline despite little separation between the receiver and his defender.

JT QUOTE

It was a typical performance for USC; a strong start followed by head-scratching mistakes and bad luck. A few individuals had great performances on the night, but the team as a whole wasn't particularly impressive. Oregon State is simply not a good team, and this game never should have been in doubt.

That being said, the Trojans are still in the race in an aggressively mediocre Pac-12 South. USC, Utah and Arizona are all 4-3 in-conference, with the Trojans holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over Arizona and the Utes holding the tiebreaker over both of them.

USC has the easiest remaining schedule, though, facing California at home next week before heading to Westwood to take on UCLA. Utah still has to play Oregon at home and Colorado on the road. The Wildcats have a tough road matchup with Washington State before facing a suddenly hot Arizona State team at home.

HELTON QUOTE

The Trojans' aspirations of another Pac-12 Championship Game appearance are still possible. But the team's performance raises the question of just how bad they would be beaten in Santa Clara, if they made it at all.

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