Hail Mary before the half does in the Beavers
LOS ANGELES — A Hail Mary that works can be a back-breaking play for the defense.
It can win a game, or, in the case of the Beavers’ 35-10 Pac-12 loss to USC on Saturday evening in the Los Angeles Coliseum, it can change the course of a game at the end of the first half.
USC quarterback Cody Kessler unleashed the pass after eluding a few OSU pass rushers and Darreus Rogers made the grab just outside the goal line and got in for the touchdown that turned a 14-10 game into an 11-point deficit for the Beavers.
The OSU defenders seemed bewildered by the play, most of them watched, frozen in place as the ball descended.
“It was a good play by USC,” linebacker Michael Doctor said. “Their receiver made a nice grab. We’ve just got to be better than that. We are better than that.”
Coach Mike Riley said it looked like the Beavers had too many defenders too deep.
“I’ll have to look at it on film, but we didn’t really encircle the receivers or have people lined up in front of the goal line well enough,” Riley said. “It looked like we drifted back into the goal line with too many people and nobody in front to make a play.”
The effect was palpable. While the Trojans ran off the field, hopping and skipping to their locker room, the Beavers stood, sagging as they waited their turn to walk the tunnel.
The play all but erased what had been a strong, steady first half of defensive football for the Beavers (3-1, 0-1).
“Obviously, it will make you down a little bit, but we know what we’ve got to do,” Doctor said. “It’s a tale of two halves and we’ve got to go right back out there and stop them.”
Halftime for the Beavers wasn’t a downer.
“I thought our team was pretty good at halftime as far as knowing that they had competed and done some things well,” Riley said. “Even though we weren’t doing much offensively, our defense played a lot of good football there for a long time. At one point, the only thing they had done is intercept a pass and run it back for a touchdown. So I think our team had some confidence that we could do some stuff.”
The Beavers didn’t exactly fold their tents, but they never got back in the game from that moment.
Quarterback Sean Mannion and the offense had a tough time getting on track, particularly in the passing game. The Beavers were without receivers Victor Bolden and Rahmel Dockery.
Jordan Villamin and Hunter Jarmon didn’t get their first catches of the game until deep into the fourth as Mannion was working to get into sync with them.
“We’re not going to use that as a crutch offensively,” Mannion said. “It’d be easy to say, ‘Oh Victor is out, that’s why.’ That’s not it at all. I need to play better.”
Meanwhile, the Trojans bumped the lead to 28-10 early the fourth, forcing the Beavers to go to throwing the ball as much as possible. That didn’t work and the defense eventually got gassed and allowed another score to end an 88-yard drive.
Mannion finished with 123 yards passing, the first time he failed to get to 200 yards as a starter.
“The story of the game was we never really responded by scoring points or controlling the ball and our defense wore out,” Riley said.