Bounce back time for Trojans

After thinking about the Boston College game for two weeks, USC's Trojans got the bad taste out of their mouths with an interesting, if imperfect, 35-10 romp over an outmanned Oregon State team as Cody Kessler, Su'a Cravens, Buck Allen, Justin Davis, Adoree Jackson and Darreus Rogers all made plays to make it happen.

It won't go in the time capsule for USC football but the Trojans will take Saturday's bounce-back 35-10 win over Oregon State and not look back.

They'll take Su'a Cravens slipping into the SAM linebacker spot and jump-starting the crowd of 74,521 and the Trojans offense with his route-jumping, quicker-than-Sean-Mannion-realized-he-could get-there 31-yard Pick-Six to start the scoring.

USC will take the Hail Mary 48-yard touchdown pass to end the first half just like they planned it that way for Darreus Rogers to slide in in front of the three-man wall of Juju Smith, Bryce Dixon and Nelson Agholor at the goal line. No OSU Beavers in sight.

"They boxed 'em out," Rogers said. "We work on that play but it's not like we work on it every day." The only thing that matters is that it worked Saturday night, giving a USC team an improbable 21-10 lead at intermission in a sloppy slugfest.

But if there's one thing this team doesn't have to hope for or get surprised by it's the game-after-game work of Cody Kessler, who completed 75 percent of his passes (24 of 32) without an interception for 261 yards and two touchdowns. And made every big play that came his way.

Cody also accomplished that against an OSU team holding opponent quarterbacks to 42.3 percent passing, second-lowest total in the nation.

As he usually does. Especially when he's on the run with his eyes always in the right place. The Trojans coaches talk a lot about eye discipline for the defense but it's the quarterback who shows it game after game after game.

Kessler more than doubled the 123 yards of Heisman-mentioned Mannion, whose yards passing were surpassed by the flag-happy Pac-12 officials who netted out at 124 yards for the Beavers on offense including awarding them seven of their 17 first downs.

Something to clean up? You bet. Maybe even a re-look at how they're teaching pass defense techniques. But again, after Boston College, USC will take it even if the one thing they may have wanted to do before anything -- run the football -- had to wait until the second half when the Trojans against a depleted OSU defensive front -- racked up 187 of their 200 yards for the game.

Justin Davis (15 carries for 82 yards) said it was "our conditioning," not to mention his own emphasis on "lengthening my stride and hitting it in there quicker."

But he also caught it, scoring on a slashing 16-yard catch down the sideline when USC went down the field instead of sideways as they started out.

But even better, Kessler said, was the way Davis bounced back after getting the ball knocked loose for a 21-yard fourth-quarter scoring sprint down the left sideline again to close this one out.

Buck Allen wasn't sure what accounted for his 80 yards on 14 carries after intermission after just 35 on six before. "I was moving faster," he said. As was this USC team. Buck really picked it up on a 17-yard sprint up the gut to start the final quarter and make it 28-10.

"It's been a hard two weeks for the guys up front," Sark said after the game. "It showed our conditioning. The guys are in great shape, physically and mentally."

At 3-1 and a Pac-12-South-leading 2-0, the mental part of this is trending the right way despite all there is to work on. As Cravens said, "If we win out, no one will remember the Boston College game."

And while as pie-in-the-sky as that sounds, no one was even hintng at that sort of possibility the last two weeks. So for Sark, who might have actually faced a do-or-die must-win game against Oregon State just four games into his USC career, it was a chance to get his guys back on the same page with him and his coaches.

"We weren't perfect," Sark said, "and there's plenty of room for improvement and we need to play better next week. We'll enjoy this but it's not the end-all and be-all.

Enjoying it as much as anyone in his return to action was backup right tackle Aundrey Walker, who seemed to be in for a number of plays when things went right. "I'm glad you noticed that," Walker said. "This feels good, it feels really good to be back out there with my teammates. I'm going to enjoy this one."

The USC defense will take another game keeping an opponent out of the end zone passing the ball. And holding Mannion to a career-low passing total as a starter.

"They're a good team with great athletes," Mannion said of USC, "and they adjust just like we do."

"The story of the game," OSU coach Mike Riley said, "is we never really responded by scoring points or controlling the ball and our defense wore down."

And in this game USC needed so badly, the Trojans did not.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.

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