Saturday afternoon’s USC vs. Oregon score of 48-28 is an all too familiar one for the Trojans, given their history with the Ducks since 2009. The Trojans trailed by as many as 24 points and couldn’t capitalize on a late comeback attempt to fall to 7-4 on the season.
The lowdown: From jump, the Ducks offense was firing on all cylinders in the passing game and the Trojans never could find an answer to stop it. Vernon Adams had four touchdown passes in the first half alone, while USC struggled to find consistency on the offense despite a pair of methodical touchdown drives early on. JuJu Smith-Schuster injured his ankle and the running game of Ronald Jones and Justin Davis couldn’t get into a rhythm early in the game. Oregon roared out to a 28-14 lead just before the half and would bookend the break with 10 points that would eventually prove to be too much for the Trojans. After USC punted with 18 seconds left in the second quarter, Adams and company marched down the field on a 3-play, 60-yard drive to set up a field goal. In the first drive of the third quarter, the Ducks moved just as easily, scoring on their fourth-straight drive and for the sixth time in seven tries, to go up 38-14. It was a lead entirely built upon the Trojans’ inability to form a steady pass rush and gaping holes in the secondary. However, USC would start to rally, which coincided with three straight four-and-outs for Oregon. Adoree’ Jackson’s first ever punt returned for a touchdown cut the Ducks’ lead to 10 points going into the fourth quarter, but a Cody Kessler fumble with 13 minutes to play all but ended it. Adams threw his sixth touchdown on the very next play and Oregon would never look back.
The takeaway: It was clear going into the game that the Trojans could not afford to fall behind to the Ducks. Oregon has too explosive of an offense and USC has too many injuries to overcome for Helton’s squad to keep pace in a shootout or need to string together scores for a comeback. That proved to be the case. The USC secondary couldn’t defend downfield, leaving Adams with wide open receivers to throw to, while the injury to Smith-Schuster forced the Trojans to be predictable on offense. Put it all together and it was a recipe for Oregon to jump out to the huge lead they had. While the Trojans had a serious comeback attempted that included back-to-back touchdowns in the third quarter, they just couldn’t get out of their own way on offense long enough to buy the defense time to make stops. Costly penalties, including 15-yard personal foul on Chad Wheeler to negate a 4th down & 1, followed by a mostly unforced Cody Kessler fumble following a bad snap ended any hopes of a miracle in Eugene. It’s trouble for USC, because they now have to play a UCLA Bruins team has owned them of late. Can the consistently inconsistent Trojans battle through injuries and bouts of mental breakdowns to beat UCLA? They’re capable of it but as with everything about this team, it’s a wait and see situation for USC.
Player of the game: Justin Wilcox and company dared Vernon Adams to beat them and he gladly obliged with the game of his career. He finished by going 20 of 25 for 407 yards and six touchdowns. Pretty much all of it after throwing an interception to Chris Hawkins on the first drive of the game.
Stat of the game: Six. Adams’s six touchdowns against the Trojans’ secondary was the most USC has ever surrendered.
Next on tap: USC will finish up the regular season next Saturday at the Coliseum against arch-rival UCLA in what has become a de facto Pac-12 South Championship Game. The Bruins were winners over Utah in Salt City, eliminating the Utes from contention for the division.