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USC's D-fining Moment

College football: The defense allows only 131 yards as No. 18 Trojans shut out Oregon State, 22-0, in Pac-10 opener.

September 29, 2002|GARY KLEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A rainbow emerged from the mist and arched briefly above the peristyle end of the Coliseum late Saturday afternoon during USC's Pacific 10 Conference opener against Oregon State.

The only sight more radiant was the play of USC's defense, which faded not even for a moment in the No. 18 Trojans' comprehensive 22-0 victory over the No. 23 Beavers before a crowd of 56,417.

"We never stopped, we were relentless," USC defensive end Omar Nazel said.

One week after missing tackles and allowing uncontested pass receptions in a loss at Kansas State, USC manhandled previously high-powered Oregon State. The Beavers were shut out for the first time since Nov. 15, 1997, when USC blanked them, 23-0, in Corvallis, Ore.

The loss also kept Oregon State winless at the Coliseum since 1960, a streak of 19 games.

"USC kicked our rear ends--in a lot of phases," Oregon State Coach Dennis Erickson said.

Oregon State (4-1) came into the game averaging 47.5 points and 500 yards a game after victories over Eastern Kentucky, Temple, Nevada Las Vegas and Fresno State.

The Beavers had rolled past those overmatched opponents with a big-play offense directed by sophomore quarterback Derek Anderson, who had passed for 15 touchdowns, and sophomore tailback Steven Jackson, who ranked seventh nationally with a 134-yard-per-game rushing average.

But USC (3-1), led by a ferocious defensive line, limited Oregon State to 131 yards. The Beavers had only eight first downs and converted only one of 15 third-down attempts.

"That was a great day's work," said USC Coach Pete Carroll, who has a six-game winning streak in conference games. "It didn't really matter what we called. The guys up front were just tearing it up."

Anderson completed only eight of 30 passes for 80 yards and was sacked five times, twice by nose tackle Mike Patterson, once each by Nazel and end Kenechi Udeze and once by several members of the unit.

"Everything worked," Udeze said. "We put pressure on the quarterback and we could see he was eager to get rid of the ball because he knew we were coming."

Jackson, who rushed for 227 yards last week against Fresno State, gained only 67 yards in 15 carries.

"They were pretty much dominating the line of scrimmage. It was pretty overwhelming," Jackson said. "I couldn't believe what was going on."

Neither could Erickson, whose team was penalized 12 times for 116 yards.

"I've never had an offense that was so inefficient as we were today," he said. "Give their defense credit. It was ugly."

USC's offense did its part by controlling the ball. The Trojans had possession for 37 minutes 55 seconds and produced 330 yards against a Beaver defense that ranked 13th in the nation and first in interceptions.

Quarterback Carson Palmer completed 23 of 41 passes for 231 yards and connected with freshman wide receiver Mike Williams on two touchdown passes.

Flanker Keary Colbert, who caught 11 passes last week against Kansas State, was Palmer's favorite target again, catching six passes for 67 yards.

Williams, tight end Alex Holmes and running back Sultan McCullough each caught four passes against a Beaver secondary that was penalized three times for pass interference.

"They tried to get up in our receivers' faces, but we weren't going to let them do that," said Palmer, who moved past Rodney Peete to become USC's total offense leader. "We kept on trying to run by them and we got them a couple times."

The Trojans took a 13-0 halftime lead on second-quarter field goals of 43 and 42 yards by Ryan Killeen and an 11-yard touchdown pass from Palmer to Williams with 10 seconds left in the half.

Palmer and Williams connected again for a touchdown with 4:45 left in the third quarter on a 16-yard fade route to the left corner that USC tried and failed to execute in its three previous games.

"Practice finally makes perfect," said Williams, who came back from a four-drop performance against Kansas State.

Killeen added a 32-yard field goal with 10:34 left in the game and the race for a shutout was on.

"I looked up at the scoreboard and said, 'Hey, let's get a goose egg,' " Udeze said. "The key was never letting up. We went hard from the first play to the last."

Udeze, Patterson, Nazel, defensive tackle Shaun Cody and nose tackle Bernard Riley led the push and linebackers Mike Pollard, Melvin Simmons and Matt Grootegoed swarmed in support.

USC's untested secondary came through with solid performances from cornerbacks Darrell Rideaux and William Buchanon and safeties DeShaun Hill and Troy Polamalu.

Buchanon, in particular, played well in his first start. The redshirt freshman was targeted by Kansas State last week when he replaced Ronald Nunn in the second half.

Nunn's season-ending knee injury thrust Buchanon into a starting role and he did not flinch.

Oregon State flanker James Newson caught only three passes, the longest for eight yards. Wide receiver Shawn Kinter was limited to one reception for 19 yards.

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