Oregon State’s run game was stuck in neutral for most of Saturday night’s 38-21 Pac-12 football loss to USC.
Linebacker Christian Rector said that was the main focus for the Trojans defense.
The goal the Trojans set early in the week was to hold the Beavers, who entered the game averaging 185 yards per game, to 100. By Thursday, the total dropped to 75.
USC limited Oregon State to 31 net yards and outside of one drive where Jermar Jefferson was finally able to string a few runs together for positive yards, shut the Beavers down.
“I thought that was huge, especially in the second half,” USC coach Clay Helton said.
Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith said USC’s movement up front and stacking the box never allowed the Beavers to get that part of the offense moving. The Beavers had minus-9 yards at the half.
Beavers starting quarterback Jake Luton said he wasn’t surprised the Trojans focused on stopping the run.
“I think anyone that watches our tape knows how successful the run game we have (is) and just how talented our backs are so I thought it was smart of them to kind of come out and make us do it through the air and kind of try to shut those guys down because we have a lot of talent in the backfield,” he said.
The only drive the Beavers found some success was in the third quarter when Jefferson, who finished with 58 yards on 18 carries, rushed seven times for 37 yards.
The Beavers averaged just under 1 yard per carry (31 yards on 32 attempts) after factoring in six sacks for minus-42 yards.
“I think with the run game that we have we’re always going to try to get it going,” Luton said. “So that’s something we’re going to stick to all throughout the game whether we’re having success or not is trying to get those guys rolling. There were some flashes there in the second half when we got the run game going.”
While the run game was stifled in the first half, Luton was torching the USC defense for 220 yards and a touchdown as he connected on 22 of 27 pass attempts as the Beavers trailed just 21-14 after falling behind 21-0.
Trevon Bradford had a career-high 10 catches for 63 yards and Isaiah Hodgins had another big game with Luton at quarterback, with eight receptions for 129 yards. It was his third 100-yard game of the season.
“I thought he made some good throws under duress at times,” Smith said of Luton. “Those guys competed for the ball running routes. Bradford had some big catches underneath and Hodgins also has the explosive (play) at the end of the half which was huge for us. We’ve just got to continue to shore up some of this protection part and that’s been killing us.”
Luton has plenty of confidence in his group of receivers.
“I think that any of my guys out there on the edge, the receivers, on any given day any single one of them can have 10 or more receptions because they’ve all got a lot of talent,” he said. “It’s something that we work on every week throughout the week is just trying to get on the same page.”
Luton couldn’t replicate the success he had had over the previous four quarters and overtime — 50 of 66 for 530 yards and four TDs — in the second half. He was just 9 of 18 for 81 yards and the Beavers didn’t score after their first possession of the third.
“SC made some adjustments and kind of shut down some of those quick throws we were hitting and so that’s on us, that’s something we’ve got to look out and figure out how we can continue to adjustment as the game goes on,” Luton said.
Still, the Beavers had two chances to get even but they failed on a trick play on a fake field goal attempt and had a four-and out that gained one yard after a fumble at the USC 39.
The Trojans scored one play later for what turned out to be the dagger.
“We just weren’t able to continue to execute like we were earlier in the game and I think we were in striking distance there most of the second half and just couldn’t get it done,” Luton said.