It isn't perhaps coincidental that USC rediscovered an effective, balanced offense as a tailback emerged from a pack of prospects.
USC needed all of its offensive weapons Saturday to hold off Boston College before a crowd of 46,205 and a national television audience at the Coliseum.
By winning their home opener, 23-17, the Trojans (1-1) provided Coach Larry Smith with his first USC victory and ended the Eagles' 10-game winning streak, which was the nation's second longest.
Steven Webster, who had damaged ligaments in his left ankle in a summer basketball pickup game, provided the Trojans with a lift.
He didn't start, giving way to freshman Scott Lockwood. However, when he got into the game on USC's second series, he quickly took command of the position.
Webster, a junior and the No. 1 tailback coming out of spring practice, gained 119 yards in 24 carries for a 4.76 average. USC averaged only 1.9 yards per rush while losing to Michigan State, 27-13, Sept. 7.
Even though Webster's speed, quickness and tackle-breaking ability was a factor, the game turned on two big pass plays for the Trojans.
Boston College came into the game advertised as a big play, Brigham Young-type passing team. But USC quarterback Rodney Peete made the big strikes Saturday, teaming with wide receivers Ken Henry and John Jackson on touchdown pass plays covering 53 and 51 yards.
Jackson's touchdown provided the Trojans with a 23-10 lead 3 minutes 20 seconds into the fourth quarter.
But the Eagles, who had moved the ball previously only to have drives terminated by four sacks of Mike Power and a clutch, third-down stop by linebacker Delmar Chesley, retaliated swiftly.
Power drove his team 75 yards in 10 plays, and scored on a 5-yard bootleg.
So, USC's advantage was cut to 23-17, and when the Trojans couldn't get a first down on their next series, Chris Sperle provided Boston College with good field position when he shanked a 26-yard punt out of bounds at the Eagles' 45-yard line.
The Eagles, relying more on their running game as they had on their previous touchdown advance, punched the ball to the Trojans' 33-yard line.
Once there, though, BC forgot about workhorse tailback Jim Bell. On third and two from the 33, Power ran instead of throwing a short pass as called. He was stuffed by linebacker Bill Stokes for no gain.
On fourth down, he tried to run again after dropping back to pass and managed to gain only a yard before he was halted by Chesley.
That was the game. The Trojans took over with three minutes remaining and kept the ball until time expired.
"We won and that's what matters," Smith said. "I don't care how we looked, or how we did it. Our team sucked it up and showed some poise at the end.
"Our defense made some key stops and didn't give up the big play all day (BC's longest gain was 32 yards on a pass play). Our offense scored and moved the ball. I don't think we're there yet, but the key thing is that we got the win."
Smith was pressed to answer what his first victory as USC's coach meant to him.
"In terms of this being the first win, it meant everything," he said. "But I didn't even want to think about losing. We knew Boston College wouldn't give it to us and we would have to earn it. And I think we earned it."
As a historical note, Smith became the first USC coach to win his home opener since Jess Hill prevailed in 1951.
The Trojans compiled 434 yards in total offense, the most since they gained 443 yards in the 1986 season opener against Illinois.
More significantly, USC had only one turnover, a fumble by safety Cleveland Colter on a kickoff. That's in contrast to five against Michigan State--three fumbles and two interceptions.
Peete had almost a flawless game in the sense that he didn't throw an interception, while completing 14 of 22 passes for 248 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also put some pressure on the BC defense with his scrambling.
Boston College had 356 yards in total offense with Power completing 20 of 32 passes for 243 yards and 1 touchdown.
However, the Trojans stopped Power just often enough to negate possible scoring drives.
Marcus Cotton, USC's prospective All-American linebacker, played like one Saturday after he had admittedly the worst game of his career against Michigan State.
Cotton had two sacks for a deficit of 27 yards. Stokes had one for 13 yards and nose guard Don Gibson another for 8 yards.
And it was Chesley, a sophomore replacing injured Rex Moore, who made a key stop in the second quarter. Bell, who gained 96 yards in 20 carries, slammed into the line on fourth and one from the USC 36. But Chesley drove him back for a two-yard loss.
Boston College scored on its second possession in the first quarter, driving 68 yards with Power throwing a 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ivan Caesar.
The Trojans made it 7-3 later in the quarter on freshman Quin Rodriguez's 40-yard field goal. Rodriguez was celebrating his 19th birthday.