Top-ranked USC is back in the Pacific Northwest for the second time in two weeks, but most of the Trojans will be in unfamiliar territory tonight when they play Oregon State at Reser Stadium.
That includes Coach Pete Carroll.
USC has not played here since 2000, the year before Carroll took over the program and began restoring it to national prominence.
Defending national champion USC is 8-0 overall, 5-0 in the Pacific 10 Conference and has won 28 of its last 29 games, including its last 17.
But a few Trojan players were here four years ago when Oregon State ended its 33-year, 26-game losing streak against USC by winning, 31-21, before a delirious sellout crowd.
USC had defeated Penn State in the Kickoff Classic and was 3-0 and ranked eighth. The loss started a five-game losing streak that ultimately doomed former coach Paul Hackett.
“We had won the Kickoff Classic and everyone thought we were a super great team, and then that game happened and we went into a little skid,” said tight end Alex Holmes, a fifth-year senior. “Obviously, we’re not expecting that this time.”
USC, however, is anticipating a tough game against upset-minded Oregon State, which rebounded from a 1-4 start with victories over the Pac-10’s three weakest teams.
“We’re climbing out of a hole and we have our nose over the top of the edge,” Oregon State Coach Mike Riley said.
Riley is hoping to repeat the feat the Beavers achieved here Nov. 11, 1967 when they upset top-ranked and previously unbeaten USC, 3-0, on a muddy field soaked by rain.
“It was a great moment in Oregon State history,” said Riley, who was a ball boy for the team that season.
Rain is not expected tonight and the field has an artificial surface, so it will be difficult for Oregon State to slow a USC team that has outscored its last three opponents, 125-19, and ranks in the top six nationally in every defensive category.
Oregon State began its season with a 22-21 overtime defeat at Louisiana State, which won the 2003 BCS title game and shared the national title with USC. The Beavers then lost at Boise State, beat New Mexico, and lost at Arizona State before getting blown out by California.
Oregon State regrouped after an open date and defeated Washington, Washington State and Arizona. The Beavers have recorded their four victories against teams with a combined 10-23 record.
“They won’t in any way be intimidated or anything like that,” said Carroll, who is 10-0 in November games at USC. “This is a team that went into LSU and played great football and had a win all the way to the last second of that game.
“I don’t think they were wavered by that situation. They’re certainly not going to worry about us coming in. They’ll be ready to go.”
Oregon State leads the Pac-10 in passing offense and is last in rushing.
Senior quarterback Derek Anderson, on track to become only the fifth player in Pac-10 history to pass for more than 10,000 yards, has thrown only one interception in his last 115 passes.
Anderson passed for 485 yards and two touchdowns last season against the Trojans, but he completed only 34 of 60, threw four interceptions and was sacked four times in a 52-28 defeat. In 2002, USC sacked him five times in a 22-0 victory.
“We’ve had some success against him and he’s had some success against us,” Carroll said. “This is the best that he’s ever been.”
After regaining his touch in last week’s victory over Washington State, USC quarterback Matt Leinart faces a Beaver secondary that has allowed opponents to complete only 43% of their passes.
Cornerback Aric Williams and safeties Mitch Meeuwsen and Sabby Piscitelli have four interceptions each. Brandon Browner returned an interception for a touchdown last season against the Trojans.
“Brandon Browner and Aric Williams ... those guys can play,” Carroll said. “They do pose great problems for us. They are big safeties and they make plays all over the field. It is a very difficult test and it always has been.”
at Oregon State