USC vs. Oregon: Ducks 53, Trojans 32 (final)
On the bright side for USC, at least its loss to Oregon on Saturday night at the Coliseum didn't come on a last-second field goal.
The defeat at the hands of the Ducks was crushing in an entirely different manner.
Oregon showed why it's top ranked in the Associated Press media poll, and running back LaMichael James showed why he's a top candidate for the Heisman Trophy as the Ducks routed the Trojans.
James ran for 239 yards and three touchdowns in 36 carries as Oregon rushed for 311 yards and averaged 6.2 yards a carry.
Quarterback Darron Thomas completed 19 of 32 passes for 288 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. Three of his scoring passes went to Jeff Maehl, who made eight receptions for 145 yards.
Thomas also ran for 42 yards in eight carries as Oregon accounted for 599 yards and ran its record to 8-0 overall, 5-0 in Pacific 10 Conference play. USC dropped to 5-3, 2-3 -- its other losses both in the final seconds to Stanford and Washington.
Matt Barkley completed 26 of 49 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions for USC. Ronald Johnson had four catches for 65 yards and a touchdown, and Robert Woods made seven receptions for 58 yards.
Johnson and Woods were also busy with kick returns. Johnson returned four punts for 94 yards and Woods brought back eight kickoffs for 200 yards.
Marc Tyler led the Trojans in rushing with 71 yards and two touchdowns in 17 carries.
USC trailed at the half, 29-17, but took a 32-29 lead with two quick third-quarter touchdowns.
However, it was all Oregon after that.
Oregon 53, USC 32 (late in fourth quarter)
LaMichael James just added to the strength of his Heisman Trophy candidacy.
His eight-yard run up the middle just made it officially a blow out. It was his third touchdown of the game.
James has 239 yards in 36 carries.
Oregon 46, USC 32 (midway through fourth quarter)
Rob Beard has added a 34-yard field goal to push Oregon's lead to two touchdowns.
Oregon 43, USC 32 (late in the third quarter)
After USC scored two touchdowns to open the second half, Oregon decided it wanted to do the same. And low and behold, the Ducks have, adding another score on running back LaMichael James' two-yard run.
Oregon now has 473 yards of offense: 282 passing, 191 rushing (including 128 by James). By comparison, USC has 252 yards of offense: 180 passing, 72 rushing.
Oregon 36, USC 32 (midway through the third quarter)
You might say it took Oregon a lifetime to counter USC’s two touchdowns this half. After all, the 4:46 the Ducks required to march 69 yards to retake the lead is longer than their usual scoring drives. Quite a bit longer, in fact.
Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas just threw his fourth touchdown pass of the night, a 30-yard score to receiver Jeff Maehl, who now has six catches for 120 yards and three scores on the night.
Maehl made an impressive run after catching the ball up the middle and then breaking down the left sideline.
Oregon now has 398 yards off total offense, and we still have a quarter and a half to go. In other news,LaMichael James has passed the 100-yard rushing mark for the 15th time in his career, giving him the school record previously held by Jonathan Stewart.
USC 32, Oregon 29 (midway through the third quarter)
We’ve got a wild one here at the Coliseum.
USC has retaken the lead, and would you believe that it came largely on another big special-teams play? No, of course you wouldn’t, because you’ve been paying attention enough to know that special teams has played a huge role for both teams tonight.
USC’s latest big play was a 55-yard punt return by receiver Ronald Johnson, plus a 10-yard penalty thereafter on Oregon, that set the Trojans up with prime field position in the red zone. And that field position improved further after a 15-yard personal foul penalty on the Ducks on the next play.
With third and goal from the one-yard line, USC quarterback Matt Barkleytook it in for the score, giving USC the lead right back. Barkley found Johnson for a two-point conversion. The scoring drive spanned 11 yards in four plays, lasting 1 minute 23 seconds.
Barkley is now 14 of 23 for 162 yards and a touchdown.
Oh, and the crowd is going wild.
Oregon 29, USC 24 (early in the third quarter)
Just as USC made a crucial mistake late in the first half, the Trojans created one early in the second half, and capitalized with a five-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Barkley to receiver Ronald Johnson to pull the Trojans to within five points.
USC got the ball at Oregon's 21-yard line after Ducks quarterback Darron Thomashad a pass tipped by USC defensive tackle Jurrell Casey that was intercepted by defensive end Armond Armstead.
After a facemask penalty moved USC closer to the goal line after a Marc Tyler run, Barkley sandwiched a pass between some defenders to find Johnson for the score. And the scoring drive lasted only 18 seconds. Eat your heart out, Oregon.
Oregon 29, USC 17 (halftime)
A few halftime observations here at the USC-Oregon game:
--USC mgiht be winning time of possession (21:11 to 8:49) and it might have more first downs than Oregon (14-12), but the Ducks had scoring drives of two plays, one play, and two plays in that first half. Yeah, time and first downs don’t really matter to Oregon. Give the Ducks a little, and with it they can do a lot.
--The Ducks main weapon has been play action, which USC defensive backs have been biting on big time, leaving Oregon receivers streaking down the middle as wide open as wide open gets.
--USC’s most effective area of play has been special teams, where it has 132 yards on kick returns from Robert Woods, who is averaging 26.4 yards per return, and another 39 on punt returns from Ronald Johnson.
Lastly, some interesting stats …
--Oregon’s total offensive yards, 313 on 34 plays, an average of 9.2 aplay. USC, on the other hand, has 210 yards on 45 plays, an average of 4.6.
--Ducks running back LaMichael James has 65 yards on 10 carries, most of them coming on a 43-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
--USC quarterback Matt Barkley is 12-of-21 passing for 152 passing yards with one interception, including five passes for 51 yards to Woods. Oregon’s Darron Thomas is 11-of-18 passing for 208 yards and three touchdowns, including two to receiver Jeff Maehl, who has four catches for 82 yards.
Oregon 29, USC 17 (late in the second quarter)
It's all about the special teams tonight, or at least a big play by either team in that area seems to be foreshadowing the game's events.
Oregon's Cliff Harris made a dazzling, cross-the-field, defender-dodging 34-yard punt return that set up the Ducks in pretty good field position with little time left before halftime.
ut what time was left was more than enough for the speedy Ducks, who, two plays later, scored a touchdown on a 33-yard pass from quarterback Darron Thomas to a really, really wide open receiver Lavasier Tuinei, who streaked down the middle of the field with nary a defender in sight.
The scoring drive lasted 28 seconds. Yep, that sounds like Oregon.
Oregon 22, USC 17 (midway through the second quarter)
USC had yet to make any crucial mistakes against Oregon, instead doing its best to play keep-away from the Ducks' never-let-up offense.
But on second-and-10 from Oregon's 44-yard line, USC made it's first mistake of the night, and Oregon made the Trojans pay for it on the next play.
Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley appeared to look at the sidelines when the ball was snapped, and the ball hit him in the leg. Oregon quickly jumped on it, and on the next play, Ducks quarterback Darron Thomas went deep for receiver Jeff Maehl, who made an impressive, juggling 45-yard scoring grab, his second visit to the endzone tonight.
USC 17, Oregon 15 (midway through the second quarter)
Once again, the Trojans used a strong special-teams return to set up good field position, then converted that into points, using running back Marc Tyler’s eight-yard touchdown run to move ahead of the top-ranked Ducks.
The drive began with a 39-yard kickoff return by Robert Woods, who is doing pretty much whatever he wants when he gets the ball tonight.
And on a third-down-and-five play from Oregon’s 42-yard-line, quarterback Matt Barkley found another returner-extraordinaire, Ronald Johnson, who dragged a few Oregon defensive backs during a 25-yard gain.
Fullback Stanley Havili pounded into the Ducks line a few times after that, and Tyler finished it off.
Oregon 15, USC 10 (early in the second quarter)
Oh yeah, that LaMichael James fellow, Oregon’s elusive 5-foot-7 sophomore tailback who’s in the Heisman hunt, he’s pretty good.
James just took it 43 yards to the house, virtually untouched down the right sideline to give the Ducks the lead. Oregon’s scoring drive: two plays, 46 yards, 22 seconds. Whew.
With the run, James has now surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season.
USC 10, Oregon 8 (end of first quarter)
The first quarter just expired for this nationally televised USC-Oregon bout, so it’s time for a few observations:
--USC’s offense is out-gaining Oregon's 116 yards to 82. The Trojans have also had two fewer plays, but they’ve been doing exactly what they want by keeping the Ducks’ powerful offense off the field. Case in point: USC has a time of possession edge, 10:22 to 4:38 for Oregon.
--Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley has complete five of eight passes for 48 yards, and four of those passes have gone to his favorite target, receiver Robert Woods, for 37 yards; Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas is six for 10 for 57 yards and a touchdown.
--Oregon running back LaMichael James, who tends to pile up yards in huge bunches, has just four carries for 25 yards. Granted, that's a nice average of 6.2 yards a carry, but thus far anyway, USC has been keeping him from reaching the perimeter on runs, and he hasn't had much luck up the middle.
USC 10, Oregon 8 (late in the first quarter)
The Trojans have retaken the lead against Oregon on a one-yard rushing touchdown by running back Marc Tyler. The five-play, 48-yard drive that spanned 2:43 began, like USC’s last scoring drive, with a nice play from the Trojans’ special teams unit.
Receiver Ronald Johnsonreturned a punt 24 yards up the right sideline, and then, after back-to-back penalities on Oregon, USC had the ball on the 28-yard line.
Matt Barkley then found receiver Robert Woodson a screen pass for a pickup of 17 yards. Another short pass to Woods and a few short runs by Tyler put USC in the end zone.
USC’s score followed an impressive three-and-out stop by its defense, which is getting pretty good pressure on Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas. It’s also done a nice job of bottling up the otherwise slippery Ducks running back LaMichael James.
Also, for a great read on James, check out this profile by Times college football scribe Chris Dufrense.
Oregon 7, USC 3 (midway through the first quarter)
Well, that didn’t take long, but then again, it wasn’t supposed to.
It took Oregon’s point-a-minute offense just 2:21 and nine plays to march 76 yards to paydirt, which came in the form of a way-too-wide-open 15-yard touchdown pass from Ducks quarterback Darron Thomas to receiver Jeff Maehl.
The drive began (surprise, surprise) with a 19-yard run from LaMichael James, who is now 10 yards from reaching 1,000 on the season. USC nearly made a stand in the middle of the field, twice getting the Ducks into third-down situations with more than five yards to go.
But with Oregon’s fast-paced attack, those yards were picked up quickly, mostly on passes from Thomas to Maehl, who had three catches on the drive. Oregon completed a two-point conversion with a short pass.
USC 3, Oregon 0 (early in the first quarter)
It wasn't lightening fast, but the Trojans are on the board after a 32-yard field goal from Joe Houston. That kick completed an eight-play, 61-yard drive that lasted 3 minutes 18 seconds.
The drive was mostly all USC's stud freshman receiver Robert Woods, who returned the opening kickoff 32 yards and then caught a pass of 17 yards on the first play to move the ball into Oregon territory.
Greetings and salutations, college football fans and general Internet users from around the world (and maybe farther, assuming they get Wifi on Mars).
Coming to you from the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, where No. 24 USC is hosting No. 1 Oregon and its heavily caffeinated offense for homecoming. No word yet on whose the favorite to get crowned king or queen, but as for the game itself, the oddsmakers in Vegas have the fast-break Ducks as a 6.5-point favorite.
Thus far, both teams are on the field for their walk-through. The stands are still filling up. And it's also a postcard Southern California Saturday afternoon with a few clouds in the sky and visibility for miles.
Here are a few pregame tidbits to hold you over until kickoff at 5:12 p.m.:
--You've probably heard about Oregon's offense. Word is, it's kind of good, to the tune that it leads the nation in scoring offense (55.1 points a game) and total offense (569.1 yards a game). What's more is the pace at which the Ducks operate. They play as if time is money and they're flat broke with a rent check to earn. So far this season, they have 16 touchdown drives of less than 56 seconds and 22 TD drives of five plays or less.
--All that running without catching a breath seems to wear their opponents down, too, as the Ducks have outscored their opponents, 156-23, in the second half this season and have allowed only seven fourth-quarter points. If you want a comparison, think of how the Phoenix Suns play basketball, then translate it to a football field.
--One more thing reagarding Oregon's offense. The linchpin there is slippery sophomore running back LaMichael James, who is ranked No. 1 nationally in rushing offense (161.8 yards a game) and is only 29 yards shy of 1,000 for the season. Odds are, he'll have that in the first quarter, maybe on his first carry.
--It's worth noting that No. 1 teams don't come into the Coliseum that often. The last time it happened was 1992 when top-ranked Washington strolled in and won, 17-10.
--This season, home teams are 7-0 when ESPN's GameDay crew is on campus. Not only that, but the No. 1 team in the country has lost each of the last three weeks. Just saying.
--And lest we forget what happened last year around this time, when No. 10 Oregon spooked then No. 4 USC, 47-20, on Halloween night by racking up 613 yards of offense, including 25 plays that gained 10 yards or more.
--With that above whooping in mind, plus the fact that USC is ineligible for postseason play this year, this is the Trojans' bowl game. It probably helps that USC had an oiff week to help prepare for the Ducks' offense, but even then, this should be a high-scoring affair. Stay tuned here for updates throughout the night.
-- Baxter Holmes
Photo: USC's Robert Woods is upended by an Oregon defender on a kickoff return in the second quarter at the Coliseum on Saturday. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times