LOS ANGELES — The day following No. 7 USC’s win over Fresno State, linebacker Ralen Goforth had some film to watch. Not of the victory, but of last year’s 45-27 loss to Oregon State at the Coliseum.
“Me personally, I remember every loss that we had last year,” Goforth said. “I’ve had to carry this for 365 days.”
Tuli Tuipulotu gave himself a day, then, he admits with a masochistic laugh, he watched the film from last year alone.
“I had to watch that game. I had to. It was tough to watch, but we’re ready to work,” the defensive lineman said. “Same thing as Stanford. I know that’s in the past, but man, that game was the revenge. We need our get-back.”
This sentiment is an undercurrent of this week’s matchup with Oregon State, and the Trojans’ first season under Lincoln Riley as a whole.
USC (3-0, 1-0 in Pac-12) hit a painful rock bottom last season. It wasn’t just the 4-8 record, but the historic magnitude of the losses the Trojans suffered.
BYU’s first win at the Coliseum. UCLA scoring 62 points, the Bruins’ most in the history of the crosstown rivalry. Utah’s first road win over USC since 1916, prior to the Coliseum’s construction.
And of course, Oregon State’s first win at the Coliseum since 1960.
So while, yes, 2022 is a new day in Troy, a chance to leave the past behind, not all wounds heal so easily. USC would like to patch some up with a revenge win this season.
And it’s hard to forget a loss to the Beavers in which the USC defense allowed 535 yards, in which the Trojans committed four turnovers, in which USC was held to 76 rushing yards, in which Oregon State got away with committing 14 penalties.
Even for Riley and the host of new faces at USC, there’s an understanding of what kind of statement can be made this week against the Beavers (3-0, 0-0).
“We’re focused on the future but not a blind eye to the past,” Riley said. “Part of the excitement and the challenge that everybody that’s in this program right now accepted was let’s do what we gotta do to get this thing going the way it should. And some of that involves playing better against people that maybe you haven’t played as good against at times in the past.”
When USC has the ball
The USC offense has been humming along this season, ranking seventh nationally with 50.7 points scored per game without committing a single turnover. But the Trojans will need to keep up the latter trend to win Saturday.
The Beavers allow 357.3 yards per game on defense, with only three sacks. But where Oregon State’s defense thrives is in taking the ball away with six interceptions and two fumble recoveries this season. Defensive backs Jaydon Grant and Rejzohn Wright have two picks each, while Grant has added a forced fumble.
When Oregon State has the ball
This will be the true test of USC’s bend-but-don’t-break defense. The Beavers have averaged 468.3 yards per game and 45.7 points. QB Chance Nolan has completed 62.7% of his passes for 746 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions this season.
He’ll be without star tight end Luke Musgrave, sidelined with an undisclosed injury, but Nolan still has plenty of targets. Treshaun Harrison has been reliable with 16 receptions in three weeks. Anthony Gould is the explosive option with 23.5 yards per reception.
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But where the game will likely be decided is in the red zone, where Oregon State has scored in 14 of 14 appearances and USC has held opponents to seven scores in 13 tries. The Beavers use linebacker Jack Colletto in short-yardage situations, where he has rushed six times for three touchdowns.
“They’ve done a nice job of designing and keeping people imbalanced down there,” Riley said. “There will be some moments like that in this football game, and they’ll be pivotal moments.”