The Oregon State football team's first upset of USC in the modern era was an amazing experience for me.
It was the Beavers' first big-time upset I covered. They had beaten a top-20 Cal team in 2005, but the 2006 victory over No. 3 and undefeated USC was one for the ages.
At No. 3, USC was the highest-ranked team OSU had beaten since No. 1 USC in 1976. The Beavers, who were also coming off a losing season in 2005, also ended USC’s 38-game regular season win streak. The game propelled OSU into the Sun Bowl.
OSU was a huge underdog and was expected to be a speed bump for the Trojans. However, the Beavers played a complete game in all phases.
The Beavers forced four interceptions, including a TD-saving one by Bryan Payton in the end zone. Alexis Serna kicked four field goals and Sammie Stroughter returned a punt 70 yards for a TD.
Quarterback Matt Moore played well, even though he was sacked six times. Running back Yvenson Bernard was out with a sprained ankle, but Clinton Polk ran for 100 yards in his place.
The Beavers led 33-10 with 4:51 left in the third quarter. They had dominated the game in every way up to that point. As a writer, you are trying to write the best game story possible in a potential upset.
The Trojans then stormed back the rest of the game. My writing tone changed from a dominating win, to hold on and then to blowing it.
As usual, members of the press make their way to the field with five minutes left. The game was in the balance as USC was driving in the final moments. I had seen this before when the Beavers blew the lead at LSU in 2004.
John David Booty hit Steve Smith with a 2-yard TD pass with seven seconds left to bring USC to within two points. The Trojans set up for the 2-point conversion with momentum. If they tied the game, the Beavers were spent with nothing left for overtime.
I was on west sideline on the north side for this final play. Booty threw to his left to the lone receiver there with Coye Francis covering. Who would win that battle? You wouldn’t find out as the ball fell to the ground as defensive end Jeff Van Orsow tipped the ball, but just barely.
After recovering an onside kick, the Beavers had one of the wildest celebrations I’ve seen. So there was another total re-write of the story. The Beavers survived to pull off the improbable win.