Trojans Take Rose Bowl Option : College football: They clinch berth with uneven 28-10 victory over Oregon State. Tailback Washington has a big game on his 20th birthday.


It will be a happy, relieved and banged-up Pasadena-bound USC football team that meets UCLA at the Coliseum next weekend for the city championship game.

John Robinson’s Trojans still seemed to be suffering lingering effects from the blowout defeat at Notre Dame three weeks ago, even on a night when the Trojans, in Robinson’s third year back at the helm, passed a major milestone and clinched a Rose Bowl berth.

The 28-10 victory over Oregon State, before a Saturday night crowd generously announced at 21,851, was USC’s fourth consecutive out-of-sync game, after going an almost-faultless 6-0 to start the season.

On a night when they had to defeat the Pacific 10 Conference’s worst team to wrap up their 28th Rose Bowl appearance, the Trojans, 8-1-1 overall and 6-0-1 in the Pac-10, had 116 yards in penalties, pass-blocked only intermittently and were stumped for four quarters on how to stop Oregon State’s option run bursts up the middle.


The glue that held it all together was sophomore tailback Delon Washington, who, on his 20th birthday, was Mr. Reliable on a jittery offense. In 28 carries, Washington had 158 yards, a career high, and two touchdowns.

And then there was Keyshawn Johnson, whose eight catches gave him 78 for the season, tying the single-season Pac-10 record, which he shares with three others, including former Trojan Johnnie Morton.

Among Robinson’s tasks this week is to figure out what happened to USC’s run defense. The last four opponents have gained more than 750 yards rushing. Oregon State ran for 238 yards.

Two Trojans came out of the game and didn’t return, defensive back Jesse Davis and defensive end Israel Ifeanyi, both of whom were said to have hamstring pulls.

But late Saturday night, the downside could wait a day or two. It was time to celebrate the upside--USC’s first New Year’s visit to Pasadena since 1990. And celebrate they did--coaches hugged players, players hugged coaches, and the little Trojan band at the five-yard line played the appropriate music.

In the locker room, after roses were passed out and the invitation tendered and accepted, players broke into appropriate song.

Robinson was presented first with a USC cap emblazoned with ROSE BOWL ’96, then accepted the official bid in the locker room by Tournament of Roses committeemen Bud Griest and Jack French.

“It’s great,” Robinson said. “We’ve got more work to do. We’ve got UCLA to play. It’s a great feeling, though, it’s one of our major goals.”

It was a night when Oregon State (1-9, 0-7) refused to go easily, not even after the Beavers were down to their third-string quarterback. Starter Tim Alexander (injured shoulder) wasn’t even in uniform, and Don Shanklin started.

But he was crunched by USC linebacker Errick Herrin in the second quarter, left, and was replaced by Rahim Muhammad . . . and the pesky Beavers didn’t miss a beat.

The pattern of the game was that USC would stop Oregon State for a play or two, then J.D. Stewart (100 yards) or Muhammad (77 yards) would burst up the middle for anything from 10 to 25 yards.

The game itself was not much to celebrate.

Quarterback Kyle Wachholtz took the Trojans on a seven-minute drive that covered 84 yards to open the scoring on USC’s second series.

Washington had three nine-yard runs up the middle on the first drive, the last one a touchdown with 7:11 left in the quarter.

Oregon State promptly drove 57 yards to USC’s three, but then Herrin made a great defensive play, one that loomed larger as the first half rolled on.

On first and goal at USC’s three, Herrin crashed up the middle, got between Shanklin and Stewart during the exchange, and caused a fumble that he recovered himself at the six.

Shanklin left the game with a bruised shoulder.

Washington had a slashing 27-yard run up the middle on USC’s next series, but Oregon State’s Tom Holmes got a 14-yard sack on Wachholtz at midfield and USC punted.

On their next possession, the Trojans got 17 yards on a reverse to Johnson, setting up USC at the Oregon State 41. Washington ripped off 21 yards before the Trojans suckered the Beavers with two Terry Barnum plays.

The first was a run to the left side--Barnum’s third carry of the season--for one yard. But on the next play Barnum was all alone in the end zone. Wachholtz’s easy 19-yard scoring pass to him made it 14-0.

USC defensive end Marcus Bonds, playing for Ifeanyi, caused a fumble on Oregon State’s first play after the kickoff, Micah Phillips recovering at the Beaver 10.

On a fourth and goal from the one, Wachholtz used a play-action pass to free up Tyler Cashman in the end zone. Adam Abrams converted for 21-0.

USC was twice thwarted from boosting its three-touchdown lead in the third quarter, the first time when Oregon State’s Larry Bumpus intercepted a poorly thrown Wachholtz pass.

This time the turnover cost USC points because the Beavers, behind Muhammad, moved to field-goal range and Randy Lund kicked a 24-yarder with 9:31 left in the third.

USC linebacker Scott Fields was hurt on the play, but he was back in the game on the next defensive series.

Wachholtz tried to put the game away on USC’s next possession, taking his team 59 yards to Oregon State’s 30, but the Beavers stiffened and USC ran out of downs, Wachholtz missing Johnson on fourth and four.

Oregon State made it 21-10 with 9:57 left when Muhammad took his offense 78 yards for its touchdown, a one-yard Stewart run.