The USC football team took a serious step backward last Saturday night at Eugene, and pretty much ended any chance of playing for the National Bowl Championship Series title game, which will be held at the Rose Bowl, January 7th.
No. 10 Oregon was the culprit, and the 47-20 Pacific 10 Conference rout was wholly convincing, and jaw-dropping.
The 27-point loss marked the first time since Trojans Head Coach Pete Carroll took over the program in 2001 that his team has suffered such a one-sided defeat.
The No. 4 Trojans were hit in the mouth and never recovered. Vaunted and talented, the defense was set on its collective ear by a Ducks’ team that compiled 31 first downs and 613 total net yards.
If Oregon (7-1 and 5-0 in conference) can run the table, it could end up in a BCS game, even if it’s not the title match.
Right now, it appears that Florida, Alabama or Texas will play for the big prize. All are undefeated after eight games.
USC trailed 10-3 after the first quarter, but bounced back and tallied two touchdowns in the second quarter.
Wide receiver Ronald Johnson (28 yards and three receptions) caught a three-yard pass from freshman quarterback Matt Barkley, who connected on 21 of 38 attempts for 187 yards, with one interception, as 10:55 was left in the quarter, and then found wide receiver Damian Williams (nine catches for 82 yards) with a four-yard strike and 3:17 left before the half.
The only other points that the Trojans (6-2 and 3-2 in conference) put on the board were two Jordan Congdon field goals.
His 28-yard attempt came with 8:32 left in the first quarter, and a 39-yard kick was converted with 8:26 remaining in the third quarter.
Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli did everything and anything he wanted. Masoli hit 19 of 31 passes for 222 yards and tossed one touchdown to former USC wide receiver Jamere Holland late in the second quarter to make the score 24-17.
When Masoli wasn’t throwing the ball, he was running it to the tune of 164 yards on 13 rushes. Masoli’s three-yard scoring jaunt late in the first quarter made it 10-3.
“The runs that he popped, whether they were scrambles or by design, just broke our back,’’ said Carroll.
Oregon running back LaMichael James was a show by himself, rushing for a game-high 183 yards on 24 carries. He scored on a five-yard run with just under six minutes left in the third quarter to make it 34-20.
The Trojans have four regular-season games left on the schedule, including one with cross-town rival UCLA on Nov. 28 at the Coliseum. The Bruins began with three consecutive wins, but have dropped five in a row.
“We ran out of juice to finish the game,’’ said Carroll. “We needed some plays, we needed some things to happen and they weren’t there.”
It’s not often that a Carroll-coached team has two losses, but perhaps one could see this coming, what with the Trojans defeating Notre Dame 34-27, and then downing Oregon State 42-36. That’s too many points to give up.
Then again, in fairness, the Trojans are a very young defense led by safety Taylor Mays.
USC running back Joe McKnight paced his club with 95 yards on 15 carries, but the next high was C.J. Gable with 32 yards.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a contributor to trufanboxing.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.