SCORE: Oregon 14 USC 3
In one minute and five seconds, Oregon did what Oregon does best: moved the ball stealthily and scored. Oregon QB Marcus Mariota hit Ducks phenom De’Anthony Thomas from 16 yards, where he was wide open in the endzone. As Oregon has been doing this to teams for the past few years now, this came as no surprise. Either way, the Trojans were tasked with responding, and doing so quickly.
But in true 2012 USC fashion, they earned a holding penalty on their kick return to start their drive.
The Trojans settles down after that and got to work creating a rhythm of their own. On his first carry, Silas Redd burst through the line for an 18-yard gain and later, while in the Wildcat formation, he darted ahead for the one-yard, third-down conversion. Redd got the ball rolling, and he just kept on going. On their next set of downs Redd broke a few tackles to rush for the first down, setting up Matt Barkley to heave it 44-yards to WR Nelson Agholor. Agholor made what looked like a spectacular touchdown pass, but upon further review it was evident that the ball came loose as he came down.
The Trojans would ultimately have to settle for a 39-yard field goal, bringing the score 7-3 in favor of the Oregon Ducks. But on their first drive they converted on third down both times, have thrown to two different tight ends and have shown that they aren’t afraid to mix it up.
Surely that ability and wisdom to make in-game adjustments will decide if the Trojans have what it takes to stay in this game.
On their next possession, Oregon opted to rush the ball more than pass, the opposite of how they opened this game. RB Kenjon Barner and QB Mariota had rush after rush against the Trojan defense and the drastic switch from passing to rushing likely threw the Trojans off a bit. DE Wes Horton came up with a big sack, but on the following play Mariotta connected with Josh Huff, who sprinted into the endzone for a 21-yard score. The drive took nine plays and three minutes off the clock.
In just two drives, the Trojan defense–which is supposed to be up the task of containing this high-octane Duck offense–already looks gassed.
When the Trojan offense took the field again, they took to the air by way of Lee and Agholor. Lee made another big-time catch, landing a 15-yard catch near the sideline. Then, Agholor caught a 34-yard pass to give USC a new set of downs, and the Trojans were threatening to score again themselves.
But then Barkley threw a bad pass to Lee–who was being held but didn’t get the call–and he was picked off for the ninth time this season, in the endzone.
The Trojan D had to take the field again as the clock wound down in the first quarter. LB Dion Bailey brought down Mariota for USC’s second sack of the day, but beyond that, they are not having much luck slowing down Oregon’s third possession.
The Trojans haven’t played terribly, but they will need to crank up the defensive pressure if they are going to defeat the Ducks this evening. Barkley will need to make better decisions, especially when he has a reasonable amount of time to throw. Though one quarter, it is clear that Oregon has no intention of having a repeat of last season’s outcome.