LOS ANGELES — Football is a game of opportunities.
Teams that take advantage most often are usually successful.
On Saturday, the Beavers had several chances early on, some coming after USC turnovers, but could not convert.
That was enough to allow the No. 14 Trojans room to breathe and break open the game to hand OSU a 38-10 Pac-12 defeat before 60,314 fans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
“We had many opportunities we didn’t take advantage of and we left a lot of points out there and had many opportunities to score some points and be right in the football game,” OSU coach Gary Andersen said.
Penalties were part of the problem. The Beavers were flagged seven times for 69 yards. Certainly not a huge number, but the calls too often came at bad times.
The Beavers kept a Trojans scoring drive alive with a roughing the kicker penalty, had holds nullify some good runs and a flag on a big return.
“We had unopportunistic penalties that just crushed us,” Andersen said.
The offense could not get the ball in the end zone when the Beavers were deep in the USC red zone. Instead of a close game or a lead at the half, OSU trailed by 18, a hefty deficit for any team.
The defense had moments, but breakdowns once again proved costly.
One of those came after the Trojans converted a fourth down play. The Beavers let tight end Josh Falo run free and Sam Darnold hit him for a 30-yard score and a 28-3 lead in the third.
OSU looked on the brink of responding after moving to the USC 4 but lost a fumble.
Receiver Seth Collins said most of the blown chances were self-inflicted.
“We were in the red zone and we’d fumble so they would get out of it,” Collins said. “It’s really nothing they did. We just killed ourselves, to be honest. We can’t have a defeatist mind-set. We have six more games left.”
The Beavers (1-5, 0-3) were able to cut it to 28-10 after a strange situation in which Collins, thinking he had just caught a 39-yard touchdown pass, was flagged for taunting. It turned out that Collins was down just short of the goal line and the Beavers had to take over from the 15. But this time the Beavers were able to get the ball in the end zone. They scored in two plays, the second a 6-yard touchdown by Artavis Pierce.
Collins didn’t have much to say about the call and that he does not remember what he said.
“What was said in that setting, I don’t know,” Andersen said. “But it’s frustrating to have those things happen. From a fundamental program standpoint, from what I believe in, that’s extremely frustrating.”
Darnold had a strong game, completing 23 of 35 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns for the Trojans (5-1, 3-1). The Beavers intercepted him once and sacked him once.
“I felt like we got better as a defense but there were little things,” safety Jalen Moore said. “I dropped an interception. I feel like we have to make those plays and capitalize on those opportunities. I feel like every game we have a chance, we just have to capitalize and execute as a team.”
The Trojans made it 7-0 on the first possession of the game, with Darnold going over the top to a wide open Tyler Vaughns for a 37-yard score to cap a 78-yard drive.
OSU gave the ball right back when Darell Garretson was intercepted at the Beavers’ 32. USC punched the ball into the end zone three plays later for a 14-0 lead.
Brandon Arnold recovered a muffed punt after the Beavers went three-and-out on their second drive. But the offense gained a yard over three plays and Jordan Choukair’s field goal attempt was tipped.
Another Trojans fumble set up the Beavers at the USC 23. Once again, the Beavers could not get a first down and Choukair missed wide left.
The Beavers’ defense stopped USC and forced a punt that went out at the OSU 47. OSU moved the ball into the red zone thanks to an 11-yard run by Thomas Tyner and a 21-yard pass to Isaiah Hodgins.
The drive stalled at the 8 and this time Choukair knocked through a 33-yard field goal to make it 14-3 at the start of the second quarter.
The Beavers had another USC drive stopped for a moment but Hamilcar Rashed roughed the punter and the Trojans took advantage by taking it in for a 21-3 lead.
OSU had another failed opportunity when Tyner was stopped short on a fourth-and-2 to end a drive at the USC 13.
Manase Hungalu got the Beavers’ offense back on the field at their 47 with a nice read and pick of a Darnold pass.
“I thought we came out ready to play at first,” Collins said. “We’ve got to play four quarters.”