CORVALLIS, Ore. - More often than not, USC's dominance up front is what separates the Trojans from lesser teams.
USC controls the running game with lightning quick defensive linemen and ferocious linebackers. With a stable of capable running backs and a solid offensive line, the Trojans dictate the pace of the game with their ground attack.
In Thursday's 27-21 loss at Oregon State, though, none of that was true.
The Beavers dominated the game at its most crucial point - the line of scrimmage.
"We just got knocked around," USC head coach Pete Carroll said. "We just got beat tonight, Oregon State beat us on both sides of the ball.
"We're not used to that happening. Physically, it shouldn't happen that like."
Oregon State rushed for 176 yards while the Beavers held USC to 86 yards on the ground.
"They didn't do anything that we'd never seen before," running back Stafon Johnson said. "To us, we didn't capitalize at certain times. We just have to execute. We beat ourselves."
Throughout the locker room, the consensus was Oregon State didn't surprise the Trojans with much throughout the game, save for a few screen passes.
Center Kristofer O'Dowd said the Beaver defensive front four didn't push the Trojans around.
"They didn't do anything different. They weren't more physical than we were," O'Dowd said. "The only thing I could see is that we need all 11 to do what they need to do. When one person doesn't do it right, the play gets blown up."
Oregon State also forced problems in the Trojan passing game, pressuring Mark Sanchez out of the pocket a number of times.
"Their front four played a great game," Sanchez said. "They had some good schemes and ran some good stunts. It just wasn't our sharpest game."
Two left feet
Carroll said USC looked inept in the game's first half, getting dominated in all aspects.
"Nothing was happening. We couldn't slow them down, and we weren't moving the football," Carroll said. "We couldn't function. We weren't ready; they were readier than us.
"They played great and we didn't."
From the moment of the opening kick, when the Beaver special teams stopped C.J. Gable on a short return, momentum was on the home team's side.
Oregon State stopped USC on third-and-short on the Trojans' first two possessions and held USC without a first down until the very last play of the first quarter.
The slow offensive start, unfortunately, hurt the USC defense.
"We get a little excited when our offense scores some points, and we didn't score any in the first half," defensive end Kyle Moore said. "They were running the ball on us."
The slow start led to 21-straight points for the Beavers, while the Trojans looked like they were running in place.
"We weren't ready to do what we needed to do. We felt like we had great preparation," Carroll said. "We felt like we did what we needed to, and then when we were out there, it just didn't feel like it.
"On both sides of the ball in the first half, we couldn't function."
Oregon State players admitted to thinking about the Beavers' last win over the Trojans at Reser Stadium.
"We just felt that we would do it again," Oregon State safety Al Afalava said. "Everyone had that feeling."
On the other side of the field, though, the mentality was quite a bit different.
In the week leading up to the game, Trojan players and coaches said they were leaving the past where it belonged - in the past.
"People want to say it's like déjà vu. I didn't ever have that mindset," linebacker Rey Maualuga said. "I was going to come in here and play football and forget about two years ago.
"I didn't use it at all."
Stafon Johnson wasn't a big part of the USC offense early. He failed on a third-and-short carry on the Trojans' first drive and only got two more carries in the half.
Johnson appeared to have fallen to third on the depth chart, but had the most luck running against the Beavers.
Johnson finished with seven carries and rushed for a team-high 48 yards.
Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said Johnson's play and C.J. Gable's running were highlights for him.
"I thought Stafon had a nice game. He ran well," Sarkisian said. "I thought C.J. ran hard."
Still, Gable only carried the ball three times for 19 yards.
"We only ran 51 plays, and there are only so many balls to go around," Sarkisian said.
• Running back Joe McKnight took two snaps as quarterback in the USC loss with little success.
"They just didn't turn out," Sarkisian said. "I thought the first one we had blocked pretty well, and they kind of strung us and did a nice job. On the second one, Joe made a read to keep it, and they rallied to the football and popped it loose. "
• Sanchez threw for three touchdowns, but he did toss one costly interception in the fourth quarter.
"I was squeezing one in there. I could've made the play. As I was throwing it, I was kind of getting hit, but that's the way this game goes," Sanchez said. "I've completed plenty of passes when I've been under pressure like that. It got away from me and it sailed a little bit. It went right over Damian's head.
"It's not his fault. It was just a bad throw."
• USC was just 2-of-10 on third down.
• Oregon State held the Trojans scoreless for the first half. The last time the Trojans were shutout in the first half was the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl.
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