Everywhere Kiffin looked while QB Matt Barkley was on the field, there was Stephen Paea. And this time, the senior defensive tackle had quite a bit of help from his teammates.
By halftime Kiffin no longer had the Pac-10 leader in passing touchdowns to rely on, Barkley having been knocked out of the game with a high ankle sprain on a sack by Kevin Frahm. Indeed, Paea, Frahm, Dominic Glover and Gabe Miller ripped apart the 'SC offensive line during the Trojans' final drive of the first half.
"Their defensive line was getting after it and it seemed like on a lot of those passes their guys were just right there to make stops," Barkley remarked after the game. "It just wasn't a good night for us."
THE BEAVERS' DEFENSE awoke from an early winter slumber just in time to take out their second ranked team of the season. It was a different defense than the one that got run over by UCLA, and a much improved corps than the one that got dismantled by WSU just a week ago.
"We just came to practice focused this week," safety Jordan Poyer said. "Obviously that loss against Washington State hurt us and hurt us deep. And we just had to come out and take it one day at a time."
The sophomore corner-turned-safety had a big part in Barkley's nightmarish evening. Barkley looked to his left, but failed to notice Poyer waiting to jump the pass. Sixty-five yards later, the Beavers had a 10-0 lead.
"Every game I come out and say I need to be the ‘X-factor,' Poyer said. "I felt that this game was one of the biggest in my career so far."
AT THAT MOMENT, Reser Stadium came back from the dead. The crowd that scattered the air with boos last weekend erupted, as Zombie Nation bumped from the speakers and students danced on the grandstands.
Could it be? Could Mr. Hyde be digressing back to the charming and eloquent Dr. Jekyll on this cold November eve?
Before leaving the game, Barkley rolled out to the right side only to have senior defensive end Gabe Miller chase him down from behind and it was confirmed. The intense, powerful and tenacious defense that ripped the Cal Golden Bears a few weeks back had returned for an encore.
A squad that had allowed 18 of the last 34 third downs to be converted against them, a group that gave up 31 points to a team that hadn't won a conference game in nearly two years, was nowhere to be found against USC -- Four sacks. Two turnovers. Only seven points given up to the No. 20 team in the nation.
THE DIFFERENCE WAS the defensive line. And Paea was relentless.
With his sack in the fourth quarter, he recorded his eighth forced fumble of his storied OSU career, tops in Beavers program history. Even when he didn't make the tackle, he tore apart the USC offensive line. Kiffin must have been counting the seconds that counted down in the fourth quarter, taking some solace in the fact he and USC would never have to deal with the future NFL draft pick again.
"One of our strengths had been not giving up negative yards in the running game, or sacks, too," Kiffin commented after the game. "We were one of the best teams in the country at doing that -- and today we give up four sacks and minus-43 yards."
More like Oregon State produced them, but why quibble.
THE SAME RELENTLESS defensive pressure continued in the second half – ‘SC went three and out on their first two drives. to go three and out on two straight drives.
Eventually, the Trojans put together a drive, overcoming a Glover sack (assisted by who else, Paea). But the Beaver d-line took momentum back, and a third straight Fall of Troy in Corvallis was assured.
The win puts the Beavers in an interesting spot. After the biggest defensive performance of the season, (yes, even better than Cal) the unit will be put to the test in a way they never have before – they face two best offenses in the Pac-10 to close out the season in Stanford and Oregon.
The only question is which one shows up. Jekyll or Hyde?
'SC had no answers for Paea, d-line
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