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MailTribune.com
  • Defense could decide USC-OSU

    Both teams enter tonight's contest coming off strong defensive efforts
  • CORVALLIS — Defense may very well define both sides when Oregon State hosts USC tonight.
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  • CORVALLIS — Defense may very well define both sides when Oregon State hosts USC tonight.
    Both teams are coming off strong defensive efforts — although with different outcomes.
    The Beavers (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12) fell 20-12 at home to No. 6 Stanford last weekend, but they limited the physical Cardinal offense to just 273 yards, the lowest total in Stanford's last 14 games. Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan passed for just 88 yards and no touchdowns.
    The Trojans (5-3, 2-2) forced four turnovers, including three interceptions, in a 19-3 victory over Utah last Saturday. It was the second win in three games since Ed Orgeron was named interim head coach.
    Southern California, which ranks 11th in the nation in overall defense, holding opponents to 318 yards, held the Utes to 201.
    But the Trojans will have a considerable challenge in Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion, who leads the nation in passing with an average of 408 yards. The 6-foot-5 junior has thrown 30 touchdown passes with just three interceptions this season.
    His favorite target is Brandin Cooks, who leads the nation with 1,256 yards receiving and shares the lead with 13 touchdowns.
    After the loss to Stanford, Cooks, cornerback Rashaad Reynolds and safety Ryan Murphy got the team together for a pep talk. It was much the same as they did at the start of the season when the Beavers lost to lower-division Eastern Washington.
    "We told each other that we could go two ways, just like we did at the beginning of the season. We can either lay down and rollover to next week or we can learn from it and push forward," Reynolds said. "I think with the team, veteran group and leadership we have I think we will be all right. You can't dwell on it too much."
    The Trojans have been devastated by injuries. At the top of the list is receiver Marqise Lee, who is questionable for the game because of a left knee injury that has sidelined him for two of the last three games.
    And of course there's the fact that USC hasn't won at Reser Stadium since 2004.
    Here are five things to look for when USC visits Oregon State tonight.
    GIANT KILLERS — This year is really no comparison, but the Beavers have come up big against some very formidable Trojan teams — and won. In 2008, the Beavers were 26-point underdogs when they knocked off then-No. 1 USC 27-21 on a Thursday night in Corvallis. Two years earlier, Oregon State topped then-No. 3 USC at Reser 33-31. Back in 1967, the "Giant Killers" bested the top-ranked Trojans and running back O.J. Simpson 3-0 in Corvallis. "I think you have to give (coach) Mike Riley and Oregon State the credit," Orgeron said. "Those guys do a tremendous job when the Trojans get up there."
    INJURIES GALORE — In addition to Lee, the Trojans are dealing with numerous injuries that have forced them to shift players to new positions and use walk-on players. USC also continues to play under NCAA sanctions that cost the team 30 scholarships over three seasons and limited the team to no more than 75 scholarship players. Right tackle Kevin Graf probably won't play because of a left ankle injury and linebacker Morgan Breslin is still nursing a hip injury. Tight ends Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer both sat out against Utah and were limited in practice earlier this week but hoped to play. Safety Su'a Cravens is expected to play despite a groin injury last week.
    CUMMINGS OUT — Oregon State senior receiver Kevin Cummings suffered a wrist injury sometime during the first half of the loss to Stanford and required surgery. It will keep him out the rest of the season but he could be back for a bowl game. Senior Michal Hatfield and redshirt freshman Malik Gilmore will take on greater roles in Cummings' absence.
    A LOT OF ORANGE — Oregon State is going to debut its new "orange-out" all-orange uniforms and metallic orange helmets for the national television audience tonight. At least one fan website joked that the monochromatic look could make the Beavers resemble traffic cones. The team has also asked their fans to wear orange to the game.
    THE LAST TIME — The two teams haven't met since 2010, when the Beavers downed then-No. 20 USC in Corvallis. Ryan Katz threw for 154 yards and two touchdowns while Jacquizz Rodgers rushed for 128 yards and another score in the 36-7 victory.
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