Saturday, October 31, 2009

Knocked the FuDuck out: USC 20, Ore 47

The folks at ABC made a big deal about the Trojans' troubles in the state of Oregon over the past three seasons. Guess they were right to do so as USC was beaten by Oregon Ducks on Halloween night. And while this 47-20 loss was the worst in Pete Carroll's tenure and biggest defeat since 1997, it is not as disturbing as any other loss that USC has suffered in recent years. The reasoning is simple: the Ducks are simply better this year.

The game doesn't have to mean the end of a Pac-10 dynasty as we know. Perhaps the streak of seven straight Pac-10 titles and BCS bowl games is just going to be taking a one-year hiatus to make way for the Ducks. Maybe Chip Kelly's ugly-uniformed army is going to be the real deal for years to come. Whatever the case, on this night, and in this season, the Oregon Ducks gave the Trojans too tough a challenge, and USC couldn't respond.

The most shocking aspect of the game was not that the Trojans offense couldn't keep up, it was that the defense didn't allow the offense a chance to keep up. With each possession, the Ducks made their way into the red zone and onto the scoreboard. USC allowed Oregon to march down the field to the tune of 613 yard, including almost 400 yards on the ground -- 392 to be specific. USC hadn't been allowing a fourth of that this season, but a pair of 160+ rushers didn't help the Trojans' cause. Ducks QB Jeremiah Masoli proved too versatile, too quick, too elusive for the USC front seven. He was Vince Young light, a smaller package containing the same toxic results that the Longhorn delivered in the 2006 Rose Bowl.

If USC (now 6-2) had lost its game at Notre Dame two weeks ago, Trojans fans would have reason to lash out. The Trojans were overly penalized and utterly sloppy - albeit in victory - in South Bend. It was a game that USC could have lost because it played poorly. The disappointment in Seattle could be pinned on Aaron Corp's offensive abortion of a performance at the quarterback position.

But while it would be easy to blame the Trojans loss in Eugene on the handful of injuries leading up to or suffered during the game, the sheer lopsidedness of the outcome makes the difference seem somewhat negligible. How much could a healthy Anthony McCoy or any other single Trojan really helped to lessen that gap. Nothing short of the Wild Bunch up front would have stopped the Oregon running game; the Ducks knew it, and the Trojans found out soon enough.

Freshman QB Matt Barkley played about as well as he could be expected to at one of the most raucous stadiums in the nation. He completed 21 of 38 passes for 187 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He was intercepted on the final play of the game, shutting the door on the Trojans hopes for a record-extending eighth straight Pac-10 title.

Oregon was better. Arguably, they were better two years ago before then-QB Dennis Dixon got hurt and the Ducks went into a tailspin down the stretch, making way for the Trojans to win the conference. You could say this is a win two or three years in the making. After nearly a decade of dominance on the West Coast, the Trojans faced the a better team that was too tough to stop. The Oregon offense ran wild. The defense held USC to 4-of-14 on 3rd down conversions. The Trojans punted six times and four times went three-and-out.

The Ducks are now atop the Pac-10 and firmly in control of their own destiny in terms of a BCS berth and Pac-10 title. Their only loss is to BCS-contender Boise State in the first game of the season. Expect Oregon to crack the top 5 in the rankings this week. As for the Trojans, two losses knocks them from the ranks of the elite, and now their slip up at Washington is much less forgivable. Pete Carroll's Trojans won't be Kings of the conference in 2009, and while future seasons remain uncertain, Saturday night's game put the west coast on notice.

Duck season now is open.

Recent USC losses:
The Trojans have lost just eight football games since the undefeated 2004 season that culminated with a national championship drubbing over Oklahoma. Beginning with the heartbreaking loss to Texas in the BCS championship game one year later, the Trojans haven't been in too many positions to concede that USC lost to a better team. It happened Saturday for the first time in a long time.

Date Opponent ScoreWhat happened?
Jan. 4, 2006Texas (Rose Bowl)41-38USC had a chance to close the game out but couldn't convert on 4th and 2. Vince Young drove Texas down the field for the game-winning touchdown.
Oct. 28, 2006at Oregon State33-31USC failed to convert a 2-point conversion to tie the game in the final seconds as John David Booty struggled.
Dec. 2, 2006at UCLA13-9USC offense held under 20 points for the first time since 2001 costing Trojans a BCS Championship game berth.
Oct. 6, 2007Stanford24-23Trojans stunned at home by 41 point underdog.
Oct. 27, 2007at Oregon24-17Mark Sanchez filling in for the injured John David Booty can't get the Trojans a win at Autzen Stadium.
Sep. 25, 2008at Oregon State27-21Sanchez again baffled in state of Oregon as Trojans underestimate Beavers.
Sep. 19, 2009at Washington27-21Backup quarterback Aaron Corp passes for lowly 110 yards as former Trojans offensive coordinator leads Huskies to upset win as head coach.
Oct. 31, 2009at Oregon47-20Ducks dominate on the ground for almost 400 yards at USC is beat by a team that can truly be described as better, not just catching them off-guard.

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