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USC football: A fan’s look back at the Ohio State game

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USC faced dire straits. Trailing late in the fourth quarter, deep in its own end, on the road before a frenzied crowd.

Its national title hopes minutes from disappearing. The offense, struggling for most of the game, with one final shot at glory.

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USC at OSU?

Yes, but USC at Ohio State University in 2009 had a far different ending than USC at Oregon State University in 2008.

The Trojans couldn’t rally in the closing minutes against the Beavers and suffered their only loss of the season. The 27-21 defeat kept USC from playing in the BCS championship game.

USC did complete the rally on Saturday, scoring with a just over a minute left to defeat the Buckeyes, 18-15.

It certainly wasn’t pretty and the Trojans have a ton of work to do before

even thinking about playing for the crystal ball, but the chance is still there, thanks to another legendary USC drive.

The Trojans’ winning drive officially was 86 yards. It actually covered 95 yards.
On the first play, Matt Barkley was sacked for a four-yard loss. USC was then called for a false start.

It was in the next 12 plays that a kid became a man for the Trojans.
Yes, Barkley deserves praise for staying cool and directing USC to the end zone.
But it was the play of Joe McKnight that has USC at 2-0 today.

USC fans have waited, mostly impatiently, for McKnight to live up to his billing as the top tailback recruit in the nation in 2007.

For every highlight play there has been a fumble or an injury.

So it was against this backdrop that USC faced a second-and-19 from its five-yard line.
McKnight took the handoff from Barkley. The Ohio State front, as it had all game, made a strong push.
McKnight looked like he was in trouble. But instead he broke off an 11-yard run.
Third-and-eight from the 16. The record-setting crowd of 106,033 knew the Buckeyes were a stop away from likely clinching a victory.
But McKnight came through with his biggest play as a Trojan. Lining up at tailback, he ran a half-circle route and got into the middle of the field with only a linebacker covering him.

He took the short pass from Barkley and turned it into a 21-yard gain. He looked a lot like ... Reggie Bush.
McKnight had four more carries on the drive for 21 yards. After Stafon Johnson’s two-yard touchdown run, McKnight scored the two-point conversion on a pass.

In many ways, the last-minute victory should be more beneficial to the Trojans than the 35-3 victory over the Buckeyes last season at the Coliseum. USC was good enough to beat a top-10 opponent on the road, but its play wasn’t good enough to suggest the players get cocky.

USC was No. 1 before the Ohio State game a season ago and looked like a team that would cruise the rest of the season.

The Trojans had 12 days until their next game, 12 days to hear how good they were.
And then they played a Thursday night game at Oregon State.

McKnight had probably the worst game of his career against the Beavers. He gained 10 yards on seven carries and had a fumble late in the first half that set up an Oregon State touchdown.

From OSU to The OSU, McKnight was one of The main reasons USC can still think of playing for a national title.

--Hans Tesselaar


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