In what turned out to be a tuneup for a demanding three-game stretch on the road, USC easily beat Oregon State, 48-14, Saturday night at the Coliseum.
The Trojans almost did as they pleased, running and passing for a lot of yardage on a warm evening.
By winning, USC improved its overall record to 3-1, while Oregon State dropped to 1-3. USC is 2-0 in Pacific 10 play.
However, the Trojans have beaten up on the lower-echelon teams, California (31-14) last week and now Oregon State.
The schedule becomes increasingly more difficult. USC will be in Eugene, Ore. next Saturday to play Oregon, the surprise team of the Pac-10. Oregon upset Washington, 29-22, Saturday to emerge as a conference contender.
After the Trojans play the Ducks, they'll meet Washington at Seattle and then Notre Dame at South Bend, Ind.
Oregon State is not a physical team and that was evident Saturday night. The Trojans led at halftime, 28-7, and just kept pouring it on.
And the Trojans got their touchdowns the old-fashioned way, they earned them, on drives covering 63, 75, 74, 76, 85, 74 and 97 yards.
Oregon State hasn't been competitive with USC in recent years. In the past four meetings, the Trojans have compiled 182 points to only 24 for the Beavers.
It seemed that almost everyone got a piece of the action for the Trojans: --Quarterback Rodney Peete scored twice on runs of 6 and 11 yards.
--Tailback Steven Webster got the first touchdown on a 16-yard burst.
--Flanker Randy Tanner made a tough catch in the end zone to complete a 28-yard scoring play.
--Ryan Knight, now a reserve fullback, bucked into the end zone from 1 yard out.
--John Jackson, now the starting split end with Ken Henry out due to a shoulder injury, teamed with Peete on a 22-yard touchdown play.
--And freshman tailback Scott Lockwood completed the scoring on a 38-yard touchdown run.
USC Coach Larry Smith said last week that his team was only average. Asked if he still thought that, he said: "We did a little bit better tonight than we did last week (against Cal), but we're going to have to be better than we were tonight to beat Oregon. We took one more step. I'd say we're slightly above average."
A crowd of 47,979 watched USC gain 582 net yards to only 278 for Oregon State. It was the most yardage for the Trojans since 1979, when they rolled up 591 yards against Notre Dame.
USC came into the game as the total offense leader in the Pac-10, averaging 427.3 yards. They padded that statistic against Oregon State.
"They didn't really know what we were going to do--run or pass--and that made my job easier," Peete said.
Peete completed 15 of 18 passes for 249 yards and 2 touchdowns.
His Oregon State counterpart, Erik Wilhelm completed 19 of 30 passes for 241 yards and 2 touchdowns. But he was harassed by USC's defense, in particular outside linebacker Marcus Cotton, who was sacked 4 times for 32 yards in losses.
The Beavers had a negligible running game, rushing for only 37 yards. By contrast, the Trojans gained 322 yards rushing.
Webster had his third straight 100-yard plus rushing game. The junior tailback, who has a deceiving burst of speed, gained 132 yards in 26 carries, a career high. Moreover, he averaged 5.08 yards a carry.
"We're getting better with each game, building some momentum," Webster said. "And now we go into Oregon, Washington and Notre Dame. We'll see how good a team we really are."
Webster missed the opening game, a 27-13 loss to Michigan State, with an ankle injury. He still wears a lightweight brace on his left ankle, which will most likely stay with him the rest of the season.
"The ankle is 95% now," he said. "But it should be 100% for Washington and Notre Dame."
The Trojans might have won by a larger margin if Peete hadn't fumbled while trying to cross the goal line in the second quarter. Oregon State recovered in the end zone for a touchback.
But the USC quarterback crossed up the OSU defense on his other touchdowns. He swung wide for the first one, six yards in the first quarter. Then in the second quarter, he faked a handoff to Leroy Holt, drawing the OSU defense to the fullback. He was untouched as he went outside for a nine-yard touchdown. Oregon State got a touchdown in the second quarter on an 87-yard scoring drive. Wilhelm finished it off with a three-yard pass to wide receiver George Gaines.
The Beavers didn't score again until late in the fourth quarter, when the Trojans were comfortably ahead, 48-7. Wilhelm threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to flanker Robb Thomas.
"My overview is that we played very poorly, especially on defense," Oregon State Coach Dave Kragthorpe said. "USC certainly rushed the ball and ran the option very well. You can't tell how much of that was our lack of defense. Let it suffice to say that they were very good.
"As for Webster, I walked off the field with him and asked him, how big he was. He said, 'Not big enough.' I told him that he's big enough. My gosh, he's a skinny little kid. But he does a great job. He runs hard. He's amazing."