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USC vs. Oregon State: Trojans try to avoid another trap game against the Beavers

Trojans have suffered damaging losses in their last two visits to Corvallis. They'll try again Saturday against an Oregon State team that is struggling at 4-5.

November 20, 2010|By Gary Klein

USC, which needs to win its last three games for a 10-win season, returns to the scene of two of its most costly losses in the last decade. Meanwhile, Oregon State tries to end a two-game skid, including last week's home loss to Washington State. Staff writer Gary Klein looks at the game's key matchups and issues:

Backed by speed

USC's Marc Tyler is coming off the best game of his career, a 31-carry, 160-yard effort that helped the Trojans hold off Arizona.

Despite a sore ankle, Tyler ran with speed, shake and grit. His performance earned him his seventh start and caused usually close-to-the-vest Lane Kiffin to break from character, with the coach saying "it's his job to lose."

Freshman Dillon Baxter did not make the trip because of a compliance issue: USC said he accepted a golf cart ride on campus with a group of people that included an agent. Tyler's backup will be senior Allen Bradford, who met with Kiffin this week to discuss his diminished role in recent games.

Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers has averaged 108.7 yards rushing during his career, 99.2 this season. He broke onto the national scene two years ago when he ran for 186 yards against the Trojans. He gained 113 yards at the Coliseum last season.

Rodgers has lost only one fumble in 876 career touches.

Passed tense

Former USC quarterbacks John David Booty and Mark Sanchez were doomed by interceptions and tipped passes in the Trojans' last two visits to Oregon State, so Matt Barkley will need to avoid mistakes that would allow the crowd to become a factor.

Barkley is third in the Pac-10 in passing efficiency. He has passed for 25 touchdowns with nine interceptions.

Freshman Robert Woods and senior Ronald Johnson are back to full speed and are among the conference leaders in receptions per game.

Oregon State's Ryan Katz has passed for 14 touchdowns with five interceptions. The former Santa Monica High standout was 12 for 21 for 155 yards and two touchdowns with an interception in last week's 31-14 loss to Washington State.

Oregon State's passing game sustained a major blow when receiver James Rodgers suffered a season-ending knee injury during a victory over Arizona on Oct. 9.

Monitoring miscues

Oregon State might be struggling, but the Trojans' margin for error is slim against a team that is second in the conference and tied for eighth nationally with a plus-9 turnover margin.

The Beavers have committed only seven turnovers, tied for fewest in the nation.

Senior cornerback James Dockery, who played at La Quinta High, has four of the Beavers' nine interceptions.

USC ranks fifth in the conference in turnover margin at plus-2. The Trojans have lost eight fumbles and intercepted 11 passes. Against Arizona, the Trojans forced two fumbles that set up a touchdown and a field goal.

Line of fire

USC's offensive line is feeling good about itself after leading the way for Tyler and shutting out Arizona's sack-happy defensive ends.

Tackles Matt Kalil and Tyron Smith have been on their games and the unit appears to have been fueled with a dose of aggressiveness since Michael Reardon was installed at left guard three weeks ago.

The Trojans must neutralize Beavers defensive tackle Stephen Paea, who has four sacks and has forced two fumbles.

USC defensive end Wes Horton and his linemates are looking forward to facing a Beavers offensive front that has given up 25 sacks, second most in the Pac-10.

Special teams

Joe Houston kicked a last-minute field goal against Arizona State and also kicked a field goal that provided the winning points against Arizona. Houston is seven for 13. Jacob Harfman has averaged 42.5 yards a punt.

Johnson is second in the Pac-10 in punt returns, averaging 17.3 yards, and Woods is seventh in kickoff returns, averaging 25.0.

Oregon State's Justin Kahut has made three of seven field-goal attempts. Johnny Hekker has averaged 41.0 yards a punt.

Jordan Poyer is third in the Pac-10 in kickoff returns, averaging 26.6 yards. He has averaged 9.1 yards a punt return.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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