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Trojans Can't Keep Pace With No. 1 Ducks, Lose 53-32

Patrick Crawley |
October 31, 2010 | 12:18 a.m. PDT

Senior Sports Editor

LaMichael James on his way to a 42-yard touchdown run. (Shotgun Spratling)
LaMichael James on his way to a 42-yard touchdown run. (Shotgun Spratling)
Fast and furious, that’s what Oregon’s offense was on Saturday; too fast and too furious for USC as it turned out.

The No. 1 Ducks (8-0, 5-0) rolled up 599 yards of offense on the on their way to a 53-32 victory at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Trojans (5-3, 2-3) hung tough with Oregon for two and a half quarters but ultimately collapsed, surrendering 24 unanswered points to the nation’s most prolific offense.

“They did a phenomenal job today,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said of Oregon. “Coming in here as the No. 1 team in the country with all the pressure on them, I thought they did a great job."

Standout running back LaMichael James was Oregon’s top producer, torching the Trojans for 239 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Darron Thomas threw for 288 yards and four touchdowns, and Jeff Maehl caught eight passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns.

The Trojans simply couldn’t keep pace.

“We were in a rhythm and for whatever reason we went out of it, got back in a rhythm and got out if again,” quarterback Matt Barkley said. “We needed four quarters of solid football. We had it in the beginning of the first quarter and the start of the second half…but we didn’t finish.”

Barkley finished with respectable numbers (26-49, 264 yards passing, a touchdown), but he also threw two costly interceptions and fumbled a snap. Ronald Johnson and Robert Woods were held to a combined 124 yards receiving. And no USC running back managed 100 yards rushing.

"I thought our offense was terrible today,” Kiffin said.

There were bright spots for the Trojans however.

Jurrell Casey’s first career interception set the stage for USC to take a 32-29 lead in the third quarter after trailing by 12 at halftime. The Coliseum was rocking harder than it had been all season, and for the first time this year it seemed as though USC was an elite program again – sanctions or no sanctions.

"We thought we had this game in the bag after the interception,” Casey said afterward.

In the end, it all came crumbling down, resulting in USC’s third loss of the season, but the fact that the Trojans stayed neck-and-neck with arguably the best team in the nation for three quarters bodes well for their future chances for success.

Key moment: With seven minutes left in the game and Oregon ahead by two touchdowns, the Trojans tried to stage a last ditch drive. A Stanley Havili run advanced USC to the Oregon 29-yard line. On the next play, Matt Barkley forced a pass to Robert Woods that was intercepted by Oregon safety John Boyett, effectively killing any hope for a USC comeback.

Game changer: Oregon dominated USC late in the game, reeling off 24 straight points following Barkley’s one-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Fourth quarter excellence is nothing new for the Ducks. The Ducks have now outscored their opponents 73-7 in the final quarter. 

Player of the game: It’d be crazy not to say LaMichael James, right? The sophomore Heisman contender racked up 239 yards rushing and three touchdowns, including a brilliant 42-yard run in the second quarter. He was just as good as advertised.

Play of the game: As tempting as it is to say Jurrell Casey’s interception, Jeff Maehl’s touchdown catch in the second quarter was too good to ignore. Maehl tipped a 45-yard pass from Darron Thomas to himself at the goal line before hauling it in mid-dive and maintaining possession for the score. The play was reviewed but ultimately stood the test of replay to put Oregon ahead 22-17.

Unsung hero: The entire Oregon secondary played exceptionally well, but cornerback Cliff Harris was particularly good. The sophomore DB was a constant thorn in Matt Barkley’s side, picking Barkley off late in the first half and blanketing his favorite receiver (Robert Woods) like his last name was Jackson.

After the game, Harris talked about his willingness to step up and be the man. "Every play I feel like I need to make the play that's gonna help us win,” he said. “Once I make it, the game's not over so I gotta make another one."

Key stat: USC converted just eight of its 17 third down attempts. It was the Trojans’ worst performance in terms of third down conversion since they lost to Washington in Week 5. "We did a terrible job on third down,” Kiffin said. “We gave them the ball back way too many times."

Best coaching decision: Chip Kelly’s defense flustered the Trojans all night. Using stunts at the line and disguising coverages in the secondary, Oregon held the Trojans below 400 yards of total offense and forced Barkley into two interceptions. In the end, Oregon’s defense was simply too much for the Trojans.

"They played better in the front seven than people expected them to,” Kiffin said after the game. “That defense is better than they're given credit for."

Worst coaching decision: Lane Kiffin’s insistence on running the ball in 3rd-and-long situations. The first time this happened was on USC’s second drive of the game. Kiffin decided to run the ball with Stanley Havili on a 3rd-and-11. Havili picked up four yards and the Trojans punted. Later in the game, Kiffin did it again. This time on a 3rd-and-5 in the fourth quarter. Barkley pitched the ball to Havili, who was promptly mauled in the back field, killing a potential scoring drive. Keeping the defense guessing is important, but this game was too close to squander opportunities. Lane, what were you thinking?

"They weren't very good plays.” Kiffin said after the game. “I agree."

To reach editor Patrick Crawley, click here. Follow him on Twitter, @BasketballFiend.



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