Corvallis, Ore. -- Over the last few years, Oregon State football hasn't exactly been synonymous with defense. The unit has been among the bottom of the conference in recent seasons but the head coach Jonathan Smith knew this going into the project. That side of the ball had the most talent deficiencies, were most in need of a fundamental overhaul and required the most coaching. Heading into the Pac-12 conference schedule in year 4 of the Smith era, all that work is starting to bear fruit.
Through three games, the Beavers are a top third unit in the Pac-12 allowing 19 points per game and only 94.7 rush yards per game, good for second in the conference. What's been equally as impressive has been the ability to produce takeaways. While they are still waiting on their first fumble recovery of the year, Oregon State has managed five interceptions which is tied with Arizona State atop the Pac-12. Their seven sacks are tied with Oregon and UCLA for second in the conference as well.
But what comes next is one of their toughest tests of the season in terms of offensive talent and ability to score: USC. The Trojans found some success with backup quarterback Jaxson Dart against Washington State, but the true freshman's status is uncertain due to an injury he sustained in the 45-14 win. If he does not play, week one Kedon Slovis will likely get the start against the Beavers at the Coliseum.
It hasn't been since 1960 that Oregon State has headed into Los Angeles and beaten USC. But this current group of players and coaches think they may be the ones to do it.
"I think just getting that first Pac-12 win and then getting the Pac-12 season started correctly for us will be huge for the momentum we have right now," says Oregon State linebacker coach Trent Bray.
"We just keep climbing," linebacker Kyrei Fisher-Morris adds. "We have a goal and we can see it at the end. But obviously here it's 1-0 every week so that's our goal this week. 1-0."