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Published: 9/14/2009

Missed opportunity: OSU defense can't seal win

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

COLUMBUS - Pete Carroll got on a plane in the wee hours of yesterday morning and headed west, knowing his best football is still played on the

opposite side of the Continental Divide.

The Southern California coach had watched his normally explosive and high-scoring team get mired in a defensive sparring match with Ohio State here Saturday night and then rally just enough of its vaunted firepower to slip past the Buckeyes as the curtain came down.

The No. 3 Trojans, who had been held under 20 points just four times in their last 95 games, and had scored 40 or more in 44 games over the last eight seasons under Carroll, were stuck on a measly 10 for most of the night against the Buckeyes.

USC drove nearly the length of the field in the closing minutes for its only touchdown drive and hatched an 18-15 victory over Ohio State that left a record crowd at Ohio Stadium in a stunned state of deja vu.

"Ohio State's defense did a great job, and it took every second to get it done," Carroll said. "The last drive for us ... it took every play and every guy on our team."

Those words did not soften the sting for the Buckeyes, who lost their seventh straight game to Southern California, lost a third straight night game at home to a highly ranked opponent, and dropped a sixth straight game against a team ranked in the top five nationally.

"When you're put on a big stage you want to go out there and get the victory, then the last drive comes along and they just pound it down our throats, it's tough," senior linebacker Austin Spitler said. "We just didn't get it done. That's what it comes down to."

OSU senior safety Kurt Coleman watched USC start its final drive from its own 14-yard line and then take a sack and a penalty that pushed the Trojans back to their five. But Southern California converted a long third down play to get out of that hole and made good on a fourth down conversion and another third down during its 14-play scoring drive.

"We had to stop them on the last drive, and we knew that," Coleman said. "The ball was in our court. We had a couple of third downs - a couple of chances to stop them and get off the field, but we didn't get it done."

Ohio State sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor, whose first-quarter interception allowed the Trojans to start their first possession of the night at the Buckeyes' 2-yard line, fell on the sword after his 11-of-25 passing performance.

"It just comes down to me. I take the whole blame for it," Pryor said. "We had them on the ropes. I thought it should have turned out a different way. We've got a great team. We should have beaten them - point blank. We should have beaten them by two or three touchdowns."

OSU coach Jim Tressel knew his offense, which accounted for three second-half points, did not come close to getting the job done. Neither has the offensive scheme in two years against USC. The Buckeyes have scored one touchdown in eight quarters against the Trojans.

After intermission, OSU got just a safety when the USC punter failed to collect a high snap in the end zone and a 22-yard field goal from Aaron Pettrey.

"We didn't come up with enough of the things you need to do to win a ball game like that," Tressel said. "You need to score more than five points in the second half."

Pryor was apologetic about his performance and the fact the Ohio State offense started three second-half possessions in USC territory and had only the field goal to show for it.

"It was on the offense. We have to get it in [the end zone]," Pryor said. "Our defense played their hearts out. USC - they're so explosive, and we just shut them out. We didn't help the defense enough."

Contact Matt Markey at

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.



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