LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Southern California relied on their defense Saturday, stifling Oregon’s offense, 45-20. Ronald Jones II paced the Trojan attack with 171 rushing yards and four TD’s from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
USC possessed the ball on offense for a total of 35:36. SoCal amassed 579 total yards and six offensive TD’s against Oregon. The Ducks weren’t going to dominate TOP when their offense scored just six first-half points.
Jones was the workhorse. He rushed for 171 yards on 20 carries, including four TD’s. He was the difference maker (8.6 YPC) in a game that lacked big plays from the Oregon offense.
Quarterback Sam Darnold completed 28 of 40 attempts for 309 yards. He secured two passing scores, while throwing one interception. He didn’t do anything in spectacular fashion, but he was solid enough for the victory.
Southern Cal wasted little time continuing their momentum from the first half. Jones accelerated through the Duck defense for the 66-yard touchdown. His third time in the end zone placed the Trojans up handily, 31-6.
“They’re talented and very well coached,” uttered Helfrich. “They’re playing as a team very well right now.”
Following their lowest scoring first half output of 2016, the Ducks mustered a strong opening drive to begin the second half. Pharaoh Brown continued his Comeback Player of the Year effort with his five-yard scoring catch, 31-13. Oregon traveled 80 yards on 12 plays in 3:54.
“I think we just had to get things started,” said Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert. “It was pretty stagnant for the first couple drives. We never got off the ground.”
Since the second half of the Cal game, Oregon’s defense has been playing much better. Unfortunately, the box score is not always the best reflection of a team’s effort.
“We grind every day and you don’t come out with that W,” Schooler reiterated. “At the end of the day, you just got to take your L’s and get back to grinding on Monday."
Brenden Schooler intercepted his fourth pass of the season following the Duck score. His team-leading turnover came in the third quarter, but could have been his second of the day. His turnover led to another turnover-on-downs by the Oregon offense.
Schooler dropped an interception in the first quarter, but the play we negated by penalty regardless. The freshman is showing true signs of becoming an elite defensive back. It will be exciting to watch his game evolve over the next few years.
“Anytime you get a turnover like that, it can be a momentum changer," said Schooler.
Following a field goal to open up the scoring, USC quickly added to their lead three minutes later. Jones scampered 23 yards to the house, 10-0. The Trojans’ second scoring drive amassed 60 total yards on seven plays. SoCal possessed the ball for 2:32.
“It is disappointing because we put in all this work,” Schooler responded.
After Darren Carrington dropped a sure touchdown pass from Justin Herbert, Oregon was forced to punt once again.
“It would have been pretty big,” said Helfrich. “They were bringing perfect pressure for what we had called. You got to seize those moments.”
Jones hit pay dirt for his second TD of the first quarter, and placed his USC team ahead of the Ducks, 17-0.
“I just think it was a missed opportunity that we should of had,” Herbert stated. “We’ll get it next time. I know he (Carrington) was bummed about it after, but he’ll get that nine times out of 10."
The Ducks’ offense sputtered out of the gate with an ultra conservative approach. Oregon did not score their first points of the day until :15 seconds left in the first quarter.
When they finally did punch it in, Charles Nelson was the beneficiary. The elusive athlete took the handoff 25 yards for the Duck touchdown, 17-6. The PAT was missed by Aidan Schneider.
“We couldn’t get in any rhythm offensively,” Helfrich stated.
In the first half alone, the Ducks punted six times with four three-and-outs.
“They just brought a bunch of stuff we haven’t seen yet,” Herbert replied. “We did our best to try and get guys to block them. At the end of the day, we just couldn’t."
Herbert suffered from an unimaginative game plan. The true freshman was held to 162 passing yards, alongside a number of drops from his receivers. He threw one TD pass without an interception. Herbert completed 18 of 33 attempts against a stiff Trojan defense.
“I thought they (offensive line) did well. I just didn’t get the ball off quick enough,” said Herbert in reference to his performance Saturday. “They did a good job of protecting me. We just didn’t get things rolling.”
USC’s Deontay Burnett led all receivers in the contest with his 87 yards on seven grabs and a tally.
Johnny Mundt and Brown continued their consistency from the tight end position. The duo combined for eight catches, 58 yards and a touchdown.
The Ducks extended their streak of scoring 20+ points to 38 games. Dakota Prukop plunged in from 15 yards during mop-up duty. It is currently the longest active streak in FBS.
It was Prukop’s first appearance since the Washington State game, when he was replaced by Herbert. The transfer completed two passes for 41 yards. He also ran the ball twice for 16 yards. Don’t worry, there is no QB controversy here!
“No loss is a good outcome,” said Herbert. “Any loss is something you should be upset about.”
On a side note, Tony Brooks-James started at running back for Oregon. Royce Freeman was his back-up. Apparently, the coaching staff has been unimpressed by Freeman’s play this season. However, the move could be viewed as an unsuccessful motivational tactic for Freeman. He did lead all Duck backs with 38 yards on 10 carries.
“Tony (Brooks-James) deserved to start,” expelled Freeman. “I need to improve.”
The Duck backfield combined to rush the ball 30 times for 85 total yards. That is not the showing Oregon expected from the top rush attack in the Pac-12 this year.
The Ducks (3-6) will head back to the drawing board before their tilt with Stanford (6-3) next weekend. Oregon will host the Cardinal for their final home game from Autzen Stadium this season. The Ducks will conclude their season with back-to-back road contests against Utah and Oregon State, respectively.
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