IT WAS A first half clinic. A beat down. An eardrum-busting anthem of black and orange pride. Oregon State came out and punished the No. 1 team in the land, dominating the battle in the trenches on both lines. But the second half was a nerve-jangling roller coaster, with USC storming back and Beaver Nation was on pins and needles until the very end.

It was a glorious first half, and it ended as the defining game of the '08 college football season to date. After USC came out of the locker room in the second half firing on all cylinders, the Beavs fought back just enough down the stretch to turn the tide and send the Trojans packing on the short end of a 27-21 thriller.

And when it was crunch time, it was the Beaver defense who claimed superiority over the much-celebrated USC offense, stuffing the Trojans twice on critical, successive three and outs.

But that gut-check pair of stops was only a prelude.

Safety Greg Laybourn came up huge at the end, picking off a Mark Sanchez pass and returning it to the USC 2-yard line.

The game's early stars on Thursday night? Take your pick.

Offensive tackle Mike Remmers looked more like a seasoned veteran under consideration for first team All-Pac-10 honors in the first half, rather a redshirt freshman walk-on.

Jacquizz Rodgers gained 113 yards -- in the first half -- against the nation's No. 2 rated defense -- and looked like an All-America player of yore while doing it, as opposed to just a true freshman who was playing high school ball a year ago.

Sammie Stroughter, fighting a leg injury and sidelined virtually all of the second half, was clutch for the first 30 minutes, leaping high for dazzling, twisting grabs on key third down conversions. And when he wasn't making highlight reel catches, he passed the time decaffeinating a 230-pound Trojan safety with a wicked block.

All that only scratches the surface of the game's first 30 minutes..

The Beaver defense, thanks to bruising play by Keaton Kristick, Victor Butler and Stephen Paea, forced USC into a three and out on the Trojan'a opening drive. The Rodgers' boys then lit it up.

Quizz and James Rodgers starred on that first touchdown drive, the Beavs on first down ripping off a 10.2 yards average per on their way to the end zone and a 7-0 lead.

The Beavs forced another three and out on the Trojans' second possession and USC players were already clearly, demonstatively frustrated -- star running back Joe McKnight was seen complaining to the refs after being held to a smallish gain on third down.

The Beavs eventually doubled the advantage, going up 14-0 on a short Quizz run. And then just when it seemed like 'SC was gaining offensive momentum midway through the second period, the Beavs forced a turnover.

And even when the officials blew a call, whistling Quizz' knee down (shown to be incorrect on replay), and missing an egregious facemask call that ripped Quizz' helmet off with such force it was not only removed but launched skyward, you got the feel this would be the Beavs night when lady luck came riding in on an orange and black steed.

A USC defender would have had to have made a sterling grab for an interception in the end zone, but it was a dangerous pass nonetheless. It glanced off his outstretched fingers and an ever alert James Rodgers grabbed both it and opportunity with both hands, planting two feet down on the black paint for his second TD reception on the night.

The score was 21-0 Beavs -- at halftime -- against a USC team the talking heads in the media had already slotted, in red ink, as a BCS title game participant.

Not in our house, said the Beavs. Not on this night.

Oregon State held a 19:46 - 10:14 advantage in time of possession at the break. But it was the way the Beaver defensive line, so maligned early on this season, and the OSU offensive line, so young and untested in spots, smacked their USC counterparts in the mouth that so dropped jaws across the expanse of the college football world on Thursday night.

USC CAME STORMING BACK to open the final half of football, stuffing the Beavs on defense and completing passes at will against an OSU D that had suddenly lost their fine edge.

USC cut the lead to 21-14 with 2:56 remaining in the third quarter. And with Stroughter now out with a leg injury, things were turning a darker shade of gray.

But Lyle Moevao put one square on the money to Shane Morales to convert a key third down, and Rodgers took the next carry for 10-yards plus. The Trojan tide was temporarily stemmed.

Neither offense could put together a scoring drive on the following possessions and the game back and forth, with deciding momentum waiting to be claimed.

With 6:52 left in regulation, the Beaver D rose up and forced the Trojans into a three and out. And gut check time for the Beaver offense started with 5:40 remaining on the clock.

Back to back runs by Quizz moved the chains, netting 18 crucial yards and upping his total to 176 hashes on 34 touches. He finished with 186 yards on 37 carries.

USC battled back to force a punt and with 3:15 to play, the Torjans found themselves backed up on their own 2-yard line.

Enter Laybourn, who picked Sanchez off and weaved his way down to the Trojans' 2-yard line. And cue the victory dance, courtesy of Quizz' second touchdown run on the ensuing play.

The Beavs missed the extra point and a late score with 1:19 remaining pulled USC to within six but it was over when the onside kick was corralled by Taylor Kavanaugh. The throng of Beaver fans were seen racing onto the field soon thereafter to join in a raucous celebration.

Chances are, they'll be dancing long into the night.

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