Student body right, a sweep with massed blocking, has been USC's staple play in the modern era of college football.
But the Trojan student body, or rather the blockers, adjourned Saturday night at the Coliseum when Ryan Knight was thrown for a one-yard loss on a fourth and goal situation at the Baylor 3-yard line late in the game.
As a result, the surprising Bears from Waco upset the No. 3 ranked Trojans, 20-13, before a subdued crowd of 52,544.
Baylor, an 11-point underdog, earned the win. It wasn't any fluke. The Bears kept the Trojans' defense off balance with a clever option attack.
Still, it was a game that USC might have won if plackicker Don Shafer hadn't missed a field goal try and had an extra point attempt blocked--and if saftey Jerome Tyler hadn't fumbled to Baylor after intercepting a pass.
But might-have-beens are muttered by every loser across the country.
Nevertheless, some unimaginative play-calling contributed to USC's defeat. Here was the situation:
The Trojans had a first down at the Bears' 6-yard line with 3:16 remaining while trailing, 20-13.
On first down, quarterback Sean Salisbury rolled left on apparent bootleg play. Now Salisbury isn't known for for his blazing speed, but he had burned Baylor earlier with two impromptu runs.
This time Salisbury couldn't turn the corner and fumbled out of bounds for a one-yard loss.
Second down: Knight smashed four yards to the Baylor 3-yard line.
Third down: Knight was stacked up for no gain, again trying to go inside.
Fourth down: What to do? A Salisbury rollout, perhaps. He was an effective passer, completing 20 of 29 for 235 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Moreover, his favorite receiver, split end Hank Norman, was hauling in everything thrown at him. Norman wound up with 10 catches--one short of tying the school record--for 132 yards and one touchdown.
But the Trojans went back to basics. It was Knight trying to sweep right end and he hit a roadblock, as he was hurled back for a one-yard loss by linebacker Aaron Grant.
So Baylor took possession of the ball with 1:37 remaining in the game and held it to the finish.
"I never second guess the coach," Salisbury said. "If the coach thinks we can run it in, we should run it in. Baylor was pumped for the run and they stopped us."
Norman wasn't second-guessing Ted Tollner or his staff, either.
"We are USC and we live and die by the run," he said.
Baylor came into the game with the misleading reputation that it didn't have much of a running game and that it was soft trying to defense good running teams.
The Bears had gained only 208 net yards in their two previous games. Maybe they were playing possum. In any event, Baylor, using several backs along with option running quarterbacks Tom Muecke and Cody Carlson, wound up with 203 yards on the ground.
Baylor had yielded 504 yards rushing while beating Wyoming and losing to Georgia. So it looked like a setup for USC with its pro-sized offensive line and its legendary reputation as a mow-'em-down running team.
But the Trojans huffed and puffed and couldn't blow down the Baylor defense. USC gained only 153 yards by rushing and, curiously, was much more effective as a passing team.
"I believe we were beaten at our own ball game," Tollner said. "It came down to what we think is our strength--to play physical and stop the run, and run the ball when you have to. They won the war, so they won the football game.
"I don't have the answer for it. I know when you're not ready, things like this can happen. How good a football team we are, I don't know, but we'll find out. When you have your strength taken away like that, you don't know how to assess your team."
As for the play-calling at the end near the goal line, Tollner said: "We had made the decision to run all four downs. Salisbury's run was designed to go inside, but it was a miscommunication on our part. We think the strength of our team is physical, and we can take it (the ball) six yards on four downs."
USC opened its season Sept. 7 with an impressive 20-10 win over Illinois--a team with national championship aspirations. The Trojans were idle last week and well rested, while Baylor lost a tough game to Georgia, 17-14, at Athens, Ga.
It's probably too early to assess USC, but perhaps it didn't prove much by beating Illinois. The Illini was pounded, 52-25, Saturday by Nebraska.
USC indicated it was ready to take charge of the game in the first quarter by marching 67 yards to a touchdown, with Salisbury's accurate passes keeping the drive alive.
The USC quarterback finished it off with a 9-yard scoring pass to Norman.
But Baylor owned the second quarter. It maintained ball control with darting runs to the outside, or quarterback keepers. Not big plays, but first-down plays and time consuming at that.
Muecke climaxed a 73-yard drive with a a 6-yard scoring run. Later, when another drive stalled, Terry Syler kicked a 39-yard field goal and the Bears were ahead to stay.