No. 1 Oregon runs past USC 53-32 to stay perfect
LOS ANGELES (AP)—Southern California really thought it had figured out how to stop Oregon's high-octane offense when the Trojans took a third-quarter lead on the nation's top-ranked team.
Turns out the Ducks were only pausing on the way to another convincing win.
LaMichael James rushed for 239 yards and three touchdowns, Darron Thomas threw three of his four scoring passes to Jeff Maehl and No. 1 Oregon roared back from a second-half deficit with a 53-32 victory over the 24th-ranked Trojans on Saturday night.
Thomas passed for 288 yards and Maehl had eight catches for a career-high 145 yards for the fleet-footed Ducks (8-0, 4-0 Pac-10), who racked up 599 total yards in yet another barn-burning offensive performance. Oregon still trailed in the third quarter for just the second time all season after USC scored two touchdowns in 2 1/2 minutes to take a 32-29 lead.
"We have a tendency to wear people down," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. "I'm not into statements. I'm just into winning games."
Indeed, FBS rushing leader James led the Ducks to 24 consecutive points to close their first win at the Coliseum since 2000.
Matt Barkley passed for 263 yards and Marc Tyler rushed for two scores for the Trojans (5-3, 2-3), who used trickery and big defensive plays to stay competitive until the third quarter.
"We thought we had this game in the bag, but they played a hell of a game," said USC defensive lineman Jurrell Casey, whose interception set up the Trojans' first score in the third quarter.
The role reversal atop the Pac-10 is essentially complete with this victory for the Ducks, who toiled for much of the past decade in the shadow of USC's seven consecutive conference titles. Oregon shoved its way into the Rose Bowl last season after a 27-point win over USC on Halloween night, and these speedy Ducks finally outran the probation-afflicted Trojans in the rematch.
Despite a vibrant homecoming crowd cheering on its underdog Trojans, USC lost at the Coliseum for the fourth time in seven games. Ronald Johnson caught a TD pass while making a handful of big special-teams plays for the Trojans, and freshman Robert Woods had seven receptions in what's likely to be the biggest game of USC's bowl-less season under NCAA sanctions.
"I thought it was two different teams, as far as us," USC coach Lane Kiffin said. "Our defense played well enough to win. Our offense wasn't very explosive, and they did a great job against us."
Lavasier Tuinei had seven catches for 78 yards and a score for the Ducks, who are likely to keep the first No. 1 ranking in school history for a third straight week and hold on to second place in the BCS standings behind Auburn. They're four games away from a perfect regular season, with Arizona the only ranked team left on their schedule.
After a slow start, James rolled to his third 200-yard game of the season. Maehl had a juggling, one-handed TD catch during his career day, and Thomas shook off a few early mistakes to go 19 for 32 with three TD throws of at least 30 yards.
USC thought it still had a shot early in the third quarter. Casey intercepted a tipped pass on Oregon's opening drive of the second half, and the Trojans swiftly drove for Johnson's short TD catch just 1:17 in.
Johnson then made a 51-yard punt return, and two Oregon penalties set up Barkley's 1-yard TD dive and a 2-point conversion pass for a 32-29 lead.
"You could feel the momentum on our sideline," Barkley said. "We had it, and we didn't capitalize on it."
But the Ducks came back with a 30-yard TD throw to Maehl and a scoring run by James to cap an 82-yard drive, all before the third quarter ended. Oregon's defense, shaky in the first 35 minutes, shut out the Trojans in the final 25 as the Ducks extended their second-half scoring advantage for the season to 180-38.
USC entered the Coliseum as an underdog for the first time in 51 games since 2001, but the homecoming crowd blanketed the Coliseum in USC's cardinal color.
Oregon unleashed its quick-strike offense immediately after USC's opening field goal, with a 76-yard drive in 2:21 for Maehl's 15-yard TD catch and a 2-point conversion.
But USC's defense survived the first half allowing a mere four touchdowns and forcing four punts among two more lightning-quick scoring drives, including James' untouched 42-yard run for a second-quarter score.
USC led 17-15 and had the ball in Oregon territory midway through the second quarter, but Barkley fumbled a shotgun snap after getting distracted by his sideline. On the next play, Maehl made a 45-yard TD catch, artfully tipping the ball before catching it with one hand.
Oregon then capitalized on a 41-yard punt return by Cliff Harris, with Thomas finding Tuinei alone down the middle for a 33-yard score 1:10 before halftime for a 29-17 lead.
"Everything that we saw on film, we saw in the game," USC defensive lineman Wes Horton said. "We just got gashed too many times."