Corvallis, Oregon: The place is home to a sports team whose colors are the colors of Halloween. Oregon State home games – football and basketball – are often spooky, scary events when the weirdest and weirdest things happen.
This was again the case for USC at Corvallis on Saturday night.
Find someone – a USC fan or an Oregon State fan – who thought the first half would only feature 10 points, with Chance Nolan throwing a bad interception for the Beavers and Caleb Williams barely able to complete a pass.
The players were nervous and anxious. It’s part of college football. Still, the failure of those offenses to settle was a big part of the story in the first half.
Then came the second half and a supremely dramatic conclusion.
There’s plenty more to say about that night, below:
USC faced no real playing pressure for three weeks. He led by 27 in the second half at Stanford. He led by 18 going into the fourth quarter against Fresno State. He had yet to face a fierce home crowd on the road this season. Additionally, only half of the Reser Stadium was full, due to ongoing renovations on the other half of the stadium. That threw USC? Yes. The Trojans and Caleb Williams just couldn’t settle in the first half.
THE FIRST MISTAKE
Travis Dye gained over 35 yards on USC’s first drive. He and the running backs didn’t get another carry on that drive. The philosophy of “making the State of Oregon stop the race” had to be in place on this drive. More generally, “get the State of Oregon to stop something if it works” was to be highlighted on this player, and in general. It’s a Lincoln Riley mistake.
NOT JUST RILEY
While Lincoln Riley was overly happy at times, Caleb Williams also made some bad decisions. He could have run for a first down in the red zone but tried to make a pitch that was incomplete. USC then missed a basket. Taking what the defense gives you was a central key – and theme – for this game. Williams didn’t come onto the court ready to apply that lesson.
TEMPO WAS SECONDARY
The crowd bothered USC and slowed the pace at which plays were coming, but with a tempo-based approach, the speed of play calls would have been much less of an issue.
EMPTY REAR FIELDS
Empty backfields were meant to stretch Oregon State’s defense and not load the tackle box, but true unpredictability as an offense relies on the ability to run or pass from the same formations. Empty backfields mean passes, not runs. USC was too transparent and allowed Oregon State to focus its defense on the receivers of the Trojans and take them away. Ironically, having a stopper allows the passing game to work better, as linebackers and safeties have to consider the possibility of a transfer and may hesitate just enough at (or after) the snap to snap in the wrong direction. .
USC gave too much thought to the run or the pass and didn’t give enough thought to the idea of breaking the ball quickly before Oregon State could set up or change their defensive lineup.
We talked about this a lot in the days leading up to the game: if the offensive line wasn’t working well, plays had to be quicker to reduce pressure on the line, or passes (screens) had to be thrown in the direction the blitz was coming. We didn’t see much of that.
USC trusted Travis Dye on a big fourth down in the red zone and was rewarded. Don’t complicate things.
AT SOME POINT IT’S NOT ABOUT THE COACHING OR GAMING SELECTION
Faster passes on USC’s late practice fueled the pace for Caleb Williams. This is something to note for the future.