CORVALLIS - A defense that has taken a beating in the media and among fans for much of the season, made a major statement on Saturday night.
Oregon State's defense limited USC to one touchdown and scored one of its own as the Beavers shocked the Trojans 36-7 in front of 44,969 people in a Pacific-10 Conference game in Reser Stadium.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak and moved the Beavers to within one victory of becoming bowl eligible.
The biggest play Saturday came on the first play of the second quarter. With the Beavers leading 3-0, Jordan Poyer stepped in front of a Matt Barkley pass and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead.
"Obviously it was a big momentum changer but it was early and SC is a team that can do a lot of things," Poyer said. "We still had to come out and execute."
The play was typical of how the Beavers played throughout Saturday's game. OSU pressured Barkley throughout the first half and he never seemed to be able to get in a rhythm.
"Our game plan was to come after him," Poyer said. "We were going to man up the receivers and come after Barkley and put a lot of pressure on him and make him make throws like he threw to me. He threw that because of pressure. We had a blitz coming and I saw the route, it was a hammer route, and I jumped it."
The Beavers sacked Barkley twice in the first half. Barkley injured his ankle when he was sacked by Kevin Frahm just before the end of the half.
Barkley, who was 10 for 19 passing for just 75 yards, didn't return.
"They were a good team," Barkley said. "Their D-line was getting after it. It seemed like on a lot of those passes their guys were there to make stops."
Backup quarterback Mitch Mustain played the second half and didn't fare much better. Mustain finished 8 for 17 for 60 yards.
"The preparation by (defensive coordinator) Mark Banker and the rest of the guys was just tremendous, and the players played hard and played really good assignment football," coach Mike Riley said.
Senior defensive tackle Stephen Paea said it was a team effort on defense, and the best they have played together this season.
"We showed up defensively and handled our business and we slowed them down," Paea said. "We played as a team today.
"I give credit to our secondary. They played their butts off and I love it. When they have six, seven guys in protection against our four defensive linemen, that's huge for our team. We did our thing today and played Beaver D."
USC's only score came late in the third quarter on a short drive set up by a 56-yard kickoff return.
That didn't sit well with Paea.
"I was mad when they scored," he said.
Paea also said he took offense at how many times the Trojans went for it on fourth down. USC attempted six first downs, converting two.
"We get mad as far as a defensive line," Paea said. "It's an insult for them to go. I tell the fellas you just got to play our defense, play assignment football and cancel gaps and just play."
Paea also forced a fumble in the fourth quarter, giving him a school-record eight, and helped the Beavers limit the Trojans to 255 yards total offense.
"There was no rhythm," USC coach Lane Kiffin said. "They did a really good job and we helped them. We gave up sacks. One of our strengths has been not giving up negative yards."