Ervins ran for a career-high 199 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Trojans escaped Ohio Stadium with a 35-26 win. Most of the game between the old nonconference rivals was played in downpour and was eventually halted by an early autumn severe thunderstorm with 2:36 remaining. The game was not restarted.
"If it had just been heavy rain, we would have been alright," Cooper said. "Our field held up real well and it was in good shape. But you just can't take chances with lightning. I would never want to risk getting somebody hurt of killed."
Ohio State entered the game with the nation's third-best run defense, and USC entered the game averaging only 82.7 yards per game on the ground. None of that seemed to matter as Ervins carved through the Buckeye defense. The Trojans, coming off a 31-0 loss against Washington a week prior, ran for 331 yards on the OSU defense.
"They made a lot of big plays with their running game," Cooper said. "They ran the sweep right down our throat. We did a very poor job of tackling and we gave up too many big plays on the defensive side of the ball to have any kind of chance to beat a good football team."
Added OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young: "Of our breakdowns, the most glaring one was obviously our poor tackling. We just did a terrible job. I don't know how many tackles we missed. We couldn't even count them."
The Buckeyes were playing from behind for most of the game. USC built a 14-0 lead after one quarter, and despite a 46-yard field goal by Tim Williams and a 17-yard touchdown reception from Bobby Olive from Greg Frey in the second quarter, Ohio State still trailed by seven at halftime (17-10).
Frey added a 29-yard touchdown strike to Jeff Graham in the third quarter, but that only cut the deficit in half. Scott Lockwood had earlier taken advantage of OSU's defensive struggles against the run on a 66-yard touchdown scamper.
USC quarterback Todd Marinovich made the score 35-18 with a 1-yard rush less than a minute into the final quarter. The game's final touchdown came when Raymont Harris capped an Ohio State drive with a 1-yard plunge. The Buckeyes added a two-point conversion on a Frey pass to Graham.
The decision to not restart the game was made easier when Ohio State attempted an onside kick following Harris' score. OSU kicker Jon Berger's kick was smothered by USC backup safety Bruce Luizzi.
"The official wanted to suspend the game and, with just over two minutes left to go in the ball game, I said, ‘Let's work a deal,' " Cooper said. "We were going to onside kick it, and I said, ‘If we get it, go ahead and suspend the game. If USC gets it, you might as well call it because it's over anyway.' "
While the Trojans had plenty of success on the ground, Ohio State's rushers never got going. The Buckeyes were held to 79 yards on 31 carries. Robert Smith led the attack with 54 yards on 12 carries. Frey completed 19 of his 36 passes for 262 yards.