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Trojans Lose Their Grip

Beavers revel in a victory their coach, Dennis Erickson, calls "the greatest I've ever been involved in."

October 01, 2000|J.A. ADANDE

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Even though Oregon State had thoroughly outclassed USC all game, even though only 4:19 remained in the fourth and the Beavers led by 10 points, one Oregon State fan was not convinced.

He turned to the person next to him and said, "This game is not over yet."

That's the way it works when your team has lost to its opponent 26 consecutive times. When you lose with such regularity, by just about every means possible, it isn't too hard to imagine new scenarios of defeat to go next to all the rest.

And perhaps USC thought it would win simply because. Don't the Trojans always beat Oregon State?

"Momentum is a beautiful thing," observed Oregon State running back Ken Simonton, whose 234 rushing yards almost quadrupled USC's combined total. "And it's a terrible thing when you lose it."

The Trojans lost it all Saturday. Their ownership of Oregon State. Their undefeated record in 2000. Their No. 8 national ranking. Their control of their fate in the Pacific 10 Conference.

Oregon State linebacker Richard Seigler said the Trojans were trying to intimidate the Beavers, "Just on the name 'SC', beating us for so many years."

Teammate Nick Barnett has some news: "Tradition doesn't work no more."

After the Beavers' 31-21 victory on Saturday, the streak is over.

Maybe now the Trojans will realize the need to play with better execution and game management. Maybe now they'll realize that simply showing up and waiting for things to go their way isn't an acceptable strategy.

Oregon State was better in every way Saturday. Offense. Defense. Kicking game. Every phase.

The Beavers limited the effect of USC's impact players. They consistently ran away from and threw over linebackers Zeke Moreno and Markus Steele. They harassed Carson Palmer into throwing three interceptions and sacked him four times. They held Kareem Kelly to only one reception for 11 yards. Running back Sultan McCullough had to leave in the third quarter with a knee injury, but as Oregon State safety Terrence Carroll said: "I didn't see too much going on when he was in there, to be honest."

USC might have been rolled right out of Corvallis if not for a fumble that Moreno returned 80 yards for a touchdown. Sure, the Beavers got a gift touchdown of their own when they recovered a Petros Papadakis' fumble at the USC six. But if you took away all the quirks, bad bounces and big plays for both teams, just stripped the game down to line-it-up-and-go-at-'em, the score still comes out 21-7 Oregon State.

And the school's first victory over USC since 1967. For Trojan fans who thought they suffered through the eight-game losing streak to UCLA and 13 years without a victory over Notre Dame, imagine how it felt when the Oregon State Class of '68 got together for its 30-year reunion a couple of years ago and had to realize that the thing that hadn't changed about their lives and their school after all those years was the losing streak to USC.


Just think about all the things that have come along since then, from Neil Armstrong walking on the moon to Michael Jackson moon-walking, from the fall of Saigon to the rise of dot-coms.

"It's a long time," Carroll said. "All good things have got to come to an end, just like all bad things got to come to an end. We finished it off today."

No one on the roster was alive when Oregon State last beat USC. With players born as recently as 1982, it's possible that some players' parents weren't alive in 1967.

Oregon State Coach Dennis Erickson was around back then.

"I was playing quarterback at Montana State in Bozeman, Montana," Erickson said. "Just zipping the ball for touchdowns, making all kinds of plays."

See how long 33 years is? It's long enough to distort memories.

He has only been at Oregon State for two years. It's long enough for him to make a difference, including a 7-5 record last year that was the team's first winning season since 1970. And it was long enough to develop a distaste for the length of Oregon State's futility against USC. "You keep hearing that, keep hearing it, keep hearing it," Erickson said. "You don't want to hear it any longer. When they were coming back [I thought] 'God, I've got to hear this for another year? What the heck's going on?"'

As it turned out, what was going on was a victory that Erickson called "The greatest I've ever been involved in."

That means a lot coming from a man who won two national championships in Miami.

"USC is one of the great programs in the country," Erickson said. "To beat a program like that, with the kind of tradition and all the things--the horse, the Rose Bowls and the national championships--says a lot of things about this program and hopefully the direction it's going in right now."

USC got thrown into reverse--not to mention the bottom of the Pac-10 standings.

One game doesn't constitute a streak.

It only felt that way.

J.A. Adande can be reached at his e-mail address:

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