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ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OSU dominated the Trojans for signature win, but Smith's crew can't rest on laurels

PMG PHOTO: JOHN LARIVIERE - Portland State receiver Darien Chase makes a tough catch along the sideline during the Vikings' 30-17 loss to No. 13 Montana State on Sept. 25.This column is designed to look forward.

But, before we get to the weekend ahead, let's take a moment to appreciate what the Oregon State Beavers did on Saturday, Sept. 25.

They beat USC. At the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. For the first time since 1960. They scored the most points ever by an OSU team against the Trojans. And they did it by pounding away, to the tune of 319 rushing yards and 32 first downs.

Suddenly, a OSU team that didn't have a winning record under Jonathan Smith until last week is 3-1 and has cleared one of those hurdles that seemed to get taller with each loss in LA (24 in a row).

Sure, this is a USC team in chaos. But that doesn't diminish the impact of what Smith and his team accomplished on Saturday.

Perhaps this is a ridiculous comparison. But on Oct. 1, 1994, in their Pac-12 opener, the Oregon Ducks won at USC with a backup quarterback (Tony Graziani). They lost the following week at Washington State, then ran the table to reach the Rose Bowl — an accomplishment that lit the fuse that, eventually, turned Oregon into a national brand.

I am not predicting that Oregon State suddenly becomes a football power. But a win like Saturday's can go a long way.

Never mind that these Trojans are in disarray, having fired head coach Clay Helton two weeks into the season. Given the history of the series, it means something that Smith's Beavers not only won at the Coliseum, but dominated. In fact, if not for a slew of penalties, OSU might have finished off USC before halftime.

Quarterback Chance Nolan (15-19, 213 yards, four TDs, two picks, 57 rushing yards on 12 carries) turned in another decisive performance. Jack Colletto's Swiss Army knife performance (two rushing TDs and an interception) was fun, too.

The next challenge for the Beavers is to conquer another nemesis. Washington comes to Reser Stadium for a 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2 contest looking average, at best. If the OSU defense continues to build upon its last two outings, the Beavers could be headed for something special.

Of course, in college football it can be a challenge for teams to handle success. For a reminder of that, the Beavers need to look no farther than down the valley.

The Ducks were supposed to win decisively on Saturday night. The 41-19 score might look comfortable, but struggling Arizona had Oregon and its fans squirming well into the fourth quarter.

It's human nature, I guess, to be less than revved up to play a team that just lost to a lower-division team (Northern Arizona). But, the win at Ohio State aside, these Ducks aren't playing with the swagger of a playoff-caliber team.

The biggest concern isn't the helter-skelter offensive performance. It's the way the defensive front was pushed around.

Even if, as coach Mario Cristobal suggested, the problems were execution based (not setting the edge consistently, for example), the inability to control the line of scrimmage led to 88 defensive snaps for the Ducks. The physical toll from that workload could be a problem this week, with notoriously physical Stanford on the calendar.

Portland State put up a solid fight against 13th-ranked Montana State in its Big Sky opener. But without a ground game, the Vikings are going to struggle. Against a good Montana State defense, PSU netted 54 yards on the ground. Quarterback Davis Alexander continues to climb the PSU career records list, passing Jimmy Blanchard to get to No. 2 on PSU's total offense list (8,582 yards).

Week 5 games

Oregon at Stanford, 12:30 p.m. (ABC/KATU). Trib's take: Stanford won't beat itself the way Arizona did. The Cardinal somehow made a game of it against UCLA despite the Bruins running 26 more plays. Figure Oregon features CJ Verdell and Travis Dye a lot more than it did against Arizona. Figure, too, that the Cardinal will grind on the ground, keep it close, and win it late with a touchdown to a tight end. Stanford 28, Oregon 27.

Washington at Oregon State, 6 p.m. (Pac-12 Network). Trib's take: The Beavers' offense has been much better than the Huskies' attack. UW could use Jonathan Smith calling plays again. As long as OSU doesn't spend too much time celebrating the win at USC, the Beavers should continue to build momentum. Oregon State 31, Washington 20.

Portland State at Southern Utah, 5 p.m. (ESPN+). Trib's take: A pair of 1-3 teams try to break through in the conference. Southern Utah has played a tough schedule, with losses to San Diego State and Arizona State and last weekend to Eastern Washington, which racked up almost 700 yards of offense. To win, the Vikings will need to finish drives, something they struggled with the past two weeks. In what looks like a high-scoring game, the edge goes to the home team. Southern Utah 35, Portland State 30.


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