That’s right, ladies and gents—the USC Trojans are back at the top, almost as if they never even left. They entered the hostile territory that is Autzen stadium fully equipped and ready to go duck hunting, and they left it munching on feast of roast Duck with a side of mango salsa.
The Trojans upset the Ducks at home, ending the nation’s longest running home winning streak (21 games)—as well as the “Oregon Curse” that loomed over ‘SC for six years—and stunned all those Duck fans that just knew they were headed to the championship game. They shocked all the sports media people who doubted USC’s game during these two sanctioned years. And most importantly, they shocked—and silenced—all of the USC haters in the world (we’re looking at YOU, Larry Scott and the NCAA).
I feel like its necessary to note that not only was I right about us winning, but I was right about HOW we would win too. Yep, we here at Reign of Troy call our own shots like BOSSES.
When it came time for kickoff in the Pac-12 Championship game—yeah, you read that right: this WAS the championship, regardless of what Larry Scott says—the Trojans were ready to roll. Like we have seen at other points in the season, the defense came out much stronger than the offense at first, neutralizing Oregon’s speed and keeping them from breaking off huge plays. Once Matt Barkley connected with Marquis Lee for a 59-yard touchdown late in the first quarter though, the fury that was the Trojan’s desire to win this game was unleashed.
And they never looked back.
At the beginning of the second quarter Barkley connected with Robert Woods for a 12-yard touchdown pass, and the Trojans found themselves up 14-0. Lee went on to record 187 total yards and one touchdown, and his buddy Woods—who had been limited in practice because of his ankle—got himself 53 yards and two touchdowns. The Ducks didn’t look anything like themselves until later in the second quarter, where they did what they do best: hit freshman running back De’Anthony Thomas for 29-yard touchdown run.
Their total drive for that score was just seven plays, in 2:15. So the Ducks are still a fast, well oiled machine, which is something the crowd had almost forgotten about at this point in the game.
USC responded though immediately after, and Barkley hit Woods again for his second score of the day. The Ducks did have a chance to narrow the lead before halftime, but LaMichael James got blasted by George Uko and fumbled the ball near the endzone, which USC safety Jawanza Starling recovered.
SO not clutch!
The Trojans opened the second half with a 26-yard field goal by Andre Heidari, to bring the score to 24-7, USC. The quack attack was nowhere to be found, and the great Wall of Troy was doing a fine job of clearing up that Blur. Duck fans in the stadium had their faces buried in their hands, and were silent. That’s right—a USC team crippled by sanctions and getting no kind of love from its own conference had silenced the Ducks.
But honestly—did you expect anything less?
The Ducks did retaliate after Heidari’s kick, with a quick, flashy drive that resulted in a 10-yard score from Kenjon Barner, but the Ducks really had no counter to the momentum and the speed that USC played at.
Which is funny, because all week the questions were about whether USC would be able to slow down Oregon. Considering that they held them scoreless through the first quarter for the first time all year long, it would appear as though the Trojans had that figured out all along.
The Trojans scored on two consecutive drives with a 3-yard run from Marc Tyler and a 5-yard pass to Randall Telfer, and the scoreboard at Autzen read 38-14.
38-14. USC. On the road. In one of the most hostile stadiums in the country.
Yeah. THAT happened.
It was beginning to look like USC was about to blowout the Ducks, which no one—not even me, who picked USC to upset—expected. But just because USC fans could get set to celebrate a victory, the Oregon Ducks remembered who they were.
In the 4th quarter, the Ducks scored 15 unanswered points, including an amazing kick return by LaMichael James, and Matt Barkley threw a costly interception to Ducks safety John Boyett. On the ensuing drive, the Ducks scored and went for two—which was counted after being reviewed—and the score was now 38-35, USC. There was under five minutes to play, and USC had the ball. So no worries—they just had to hold onto it and score maybe once more to put this game away.
If only it were that simple.
Just when the Trojan faithful are primed to go nuts in upsetting Oregon, running back Marc Tyler—because of a miscommunication between him and Barkley—fumbled the ball inside the Oregon 10-yard line. The Ducks recovered ith with around two minutes left, just enough time for them to strip away USC’s victory.
Now, if you had watched the USC/Stanford game a few weeks back, you were thinking the same thing the rest of the Trojan family was thinking: there is NO way that USC is about to lose to a Top-5 team because of a fumble. It just can’t happen.
Autzen stadium got louder than it had been all season as Oregon quickly moved the ball down the field. They got within the 20-yard line with under 15 seconds on the clock. Oregon could score, and everyone knew it. USC’s upset was hanging in the balance.
It was at that moment when the USC defense had had enough, and they emphatically said to themselves, “NOT TODAY!”.
Oregon Quarterback Darron Thomas threw a swing pass to one of his receivers, and Starling again came up SUPER clutch with the stop behind the line of scrimmage, and USC fans the world over went bananas. Oregon no longer had enough time to get a touchdown to win the game, so they had to settle for a tying field goal to go into overtime.
Or they could miss the field goal entirely, giving USC one of the biggest (based on rank, definitely not talent) upsets in the history of USC upsetting people.
When the kick sailed wide, the entire USC team swarmed the field, and the Ducks fans stood in the stadium, shocked. NO ONE beats Oregon at Oregon, especially not a “nationally irrelevant” USC team. Especially not a team burdened by some of the most egregious NCAA penalties of all time. Especially not a team that was 15-point underdogs coming into this game.
So what have we learned?
First, we learned that Lane Kiffin is a pretty damn good coach. He created a very well executed game plan, and his team did everything right that needed to happen for USC to upset. We learned that the Oregon Ducks might be flashy and fast and have a crazy good offense, but when it comes to games that matter, and against teams with dominant defensive lines, they have fallen short every single time (see Rose Bowl 2010, National Championship 2011, and LSU season-opener 2011, to be sure). We learned what it feels like for the Trojan faithful to be on the other side of a BCS upset, and let me tell ya, it feels pretty awesome.
Most importantly though, we learned that this USC team will never give up, will never back down from a challenge, and will bend, but will most certainly not break.
So those 15 scholarships that the Trojans gets to dole out after losing 10 to the sanctions? Looks like they might be THAT much more sought after now. If this season is a testament to anything, its that the Trojans will Fight On, and they will Win Forever.
It’s what they do.
Tags: Andre Heidari Darron Thomas Ducks George Uko Jawanza Starling John Boyett Kenjon Barner LaMichael James Lane Kiffin Marc Tyler Marqise Lee Matt Barkley Oregon Randall Telfer Robert Woods Trojans