LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
DUCKS 56 - USC 24
The #7 Oregon Ducks (8-1, 6-0) decimated the USC Trojans (5-4, 4-2) by a score of 56 to 24 in the Coliseum, a beatdown that could pay dividends when the playoff committee makes their final decision.
It seemed like a pipe dream at the beginning of the season, but in Mario Cristobal’s second season as head coach of the Oregon Ducks the playoffs are a real possibility. Odds are still against the Ducks making the top four for a number of reasons, mainly due to the strength of the PAC-12 as a whole, but there’s a clear path for Oregon.
It obviously involves winning all three of their final conference games (Arizona, @ Arizona State, Oregon State) which is likely but still a challenging feat to avoid an upset in three consecutive games. They also need some outside help, both in conference and out of conference. Utah needs to continue their winning ways to set up an epic PAC-12 Championship game between two one-loss division champions, a game which Oregon has to win and possibly in deciding fashion as the SEC and BIG 10 are almost guaranteed a spot (and possibly two as Georgia and Alabama taught us) along with last year’s national champion Clemson, and the BIG-12 shouldn’t be counted out just yet due to one-loss Oklahoma and undefeated Baylor.
And all this playoff talk is thanks in large part to a dominant performance against the mediocre but forever talented USC Trojans,
Justin Herbert: 21/26 - 225 YDS - 1 INT - 3 TD
Tyler Shough: 2/3 - 41 YDS - 1 TD
It seems silly in retrospect, but after one quarter of play Justin Herbert looked like a weakness for this Duck team. The first drive consisted of a one-yard loss on a CJ Verdell carry, a sack by Kana’i Mauga for a loss of six yards, and an incompletion on 3rd-and-17 due to a talented Trojan defensive back swatting away a potential deep pass to Jaylon Redd.
Oregon’s next drive started at their own 8 and began with an incompetion on first down and ended with an interception by Isaiah Pola-Mao two plays later. Herbert’s second pick of the season was clearly due to some miscommunication with his receiver, but whether the fault lies with Herbert or Redd the turnover resulted in a double-digit lead as the Trojans hit a 24-yard field goal. And Oregon’s third and final outing of the first quarter was more successful than the previous two but only picked up 18 yards and resulted in a punt after a 10-yard sack on second down doomed the drive.
But in the second quarter, Oregon used all three phases of the game to break the Trojans, including a performance from Herbert in which he threw for 66 yards and was a perfect 8-of-8. In fact, after his interception, Herbert completed his next 16 passes.
The third quarter started with a 7-play, 80-yard drive that ended when Herbert threw a 15-yard touchdown to Juwan Johnson to go up 35 to 17. The following drive added to the momentum thanks to excellent field position after Deommodore Lenoir’s interception on the USC 45 that was returned to the 34-yard line; it took six plays for the Ducks to score on an 11-yard fade route to Johnson.
Herbert’s final touchdown drive went for 92 yards in 9 plays, finished out the third quarter and put the Ducks up 49 to 17 via a 37-yard touchdown pass to, you guessed it, his new favorite target Juwan Johnson.
Cristobal left Herbert in the game until about the eight minute mark in the fourth quarter, which was later than many felt comfortable with considering the star quarterback had been hit a handful of times already, including a late hit to the knee that had Herbert visiting the injury tent for a moment before throwing his second Juwan Johnson touchdown.
Tyler Shough did more than just hand off the ball in the fourth quarter; the future starter looked poised in garbage time (which came surprisingly early) and even connected with Mycah Pittman for a 35-yard score to give the Ducks 56 points to end the night. The young QB’s totally unnecessary block on the final play of the game is also noteworthy for the effort alone.
Juwan Johnson: 7 rec - 106 YDS - 37 long - 3 TD
Mycah Pittman: 3 rec - 36 YDS - 35 long - 1 TD
Jaylon Redd: 4 rec - 31 YDS - 19 long
Darrian Felix: 2 rec - 30 YDS - 27 long
Spencer Webb: 2 rec - 19 YDS - 13 long
Josh Delgado: 1 rec - 14 YDS
Travis Dye: 2 rec - 11 YDS - 9 long
Hunter Kampmoyer: 1 rec - 9 YDS
Daewood Davis: 1 rec - 6 YDS
The most exciting development of the night was Juwan Johnson’s huge performance. His seven receptions for 106 yards gave this team momentum throughout the contest and his hat trick broke the game open. The 6’4, 231 receiver was a speedy and physical runner which the gassed/unmotivated Trojan defensive backs wanted no part in tackling. His emergence as not only a valid option but a go-to target could be huge for a Duck team that has its eye on not just the PAC-12 championship game but the playoffs.
Mycah Pittman continued to add to his already impressive freshmen year by catching three balls for 36 yards and a touchdown. A good day made better by the fact that the young Pittman kept up with his older brother (3 receptions, 36 yards, one touchdown for Mycah compared to 8 receptions, 37 yards, one touchdown for Michael) for bragging rights at the Thanksgiving dinner table. His chemistry with Tyler Shough, who threw the 35-yard touchdown pass, could be a glimpse into the post-Herbert future.
Jaylon Redd was a threat every time he was on the field and even managed to pull off a pretty sweet lateral to CJ Verdell that went for four yards. His four receptions were the second most by a Duck receiver and his presence helped open up some space for Johnson.
Darrian Felix, Spencer Webb and Travis Dye each caught two passes and Josh Delgado, Hunter Kampmoyer, and Daewood Davis ended their nights with one reception apiece.
Travis Dye: 12 car - 75 YDS - 16 long
Darrian Felix: 10 car - 43 YDS - 11 long
CJ Verdell: 6 car - 12 YDS - 5 long
Justin Herbert: 4 car - 8 YDS - 1 TD - 14 long
Jaylon Redd: 1 car - 2 YDS - 1 TD -
Cyrus Habibi-Likio: 1 car - (-1) YD
Oregon was effective on the ground but their success through the air led to a focus on the passing game. Still, Travis Dye was able to earn 75 yards on 12 carries, fully taking advantage of his change-of-pace role not just through screen passes but as a running back, as well.
Darrian Felix entered the game in the second half, leading some to believe that CJ Verdell was possibly injured, though at this point that is unconfirmed and most likely nothing to worry about.
The two rushing touchdowns weren’t scored by running backs; Jaylon Redd was able to power through two attempts at a tackle for a Cyrus-Habibi-Likio-esque score and Justin Herbert ran in Oregon’s first touchdown.
The Trojans built a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, but were outscored 56 to 14 in the final three. Oregon’s 32-point win was their largest margin of victory over USC since their first matchup in 1915.
Kedon Slovis: 32/57 - 264 YDS - 3 INT - 3 TD
Kenan Christon: 15 car - 79 YDS
Tyler Vaughns: 8 rec - 75 YDS
Amon-Ra St. Brown: 7 rec - 61 YDS
Drake London: 4 rec - 51 YDS - 1 TD
Michael Pittman Jr: 8 rec - 37 YDS - 1 TD
Kyle Ford: 1 rec -20 YDS - 1 TD
John Houston Jr: 9 tackles - 5 solo - .5 TFL
Kana’i Mauga: 7 tackles - 1 solo - 1.5 TFL - 1 sack
Isaiah Pola-Mao: 1 tackles - 1 solo - 1 TFL - 1 INT
The Trojans couldn’t have written up a better first quarter performance against the #7 Ducks. Kedon Slovis led his team on two scoring drives thanks to his talented receiving corps and some impressive moves in the pocket to avoid pressure. Meanwhile, the USC defense held Oregon scoreless going into the second and even collected a rare Herbert interception.
But as good as the first quarter was, the second proved disastrous for the home team. Slovis’ first pick led to Herbert’s touchdown run. His following outing looked promising, but his fumble in the red zone led to another Oregon score. Then, two plays after falling behind, Slovis threw his pick six and suddenly the Ducks had an 11-point lead. Hope was given back to the Trojans after a 9-play. 74-yard drive, but was quickly demolished with Mykael Wright’s 100-yard touchdown return.
They turned the ball over four times, including a pick six. Oregon had seven tackles for a loss and three sacks as they terrorized Kedon Slovis once the score became so lopsided that USC had no option but keep him in the pocket and throw. The Trojans also had a terrible time finding explosive plays, something they’ve heavily relied on over the years.
Every team has their bad days, but USC’s second half performance is extremely troubling for fans of the program. It was clear by their 57 passes (a record for the program) that the gameplan was to imitate Washington State and fully utilize the air raid that Graham Harrell was brought in to establish, due in equal parts to their talented receiving corps and their three major losses to the running back room, but putting the fate of the offense on a true-freshman didn’t turn out well for Helton last year and it certainly didn’t work out against Oregon either.
The Trojan defense did well to slow down the Ducks for the first half, but back to back turnovers by their counterparts put them in a bad spot and Wright’s touchdown return seemed to break the will of the team as a whole. Honestly, the Trojans’ second half performance looked like a team playing for a new head coach, and thanks to Oregon they just might get their wish.
TROJAN PASSING: 32/57 - 264 YDS - 3 INT - 3 TD
TROJAN RUSHING: 25 car - 91 YDS
TROJAN 3RD DOWN: 9 of 16
TURNOVERS FORCED: Ducks 4 - Trojans 1
After an impressive five-game stretch in which the Oregon defense did not allow more than seven points against an opponent, the Washington schools scored a combined 66 points against the Ducks. But USC had no answer for this Oregon pass rush and turned the ball over four times while only scoring 17 points in non-garbage time.
Both teams were called for a slew of penalties, and some of the Trojan’s most successful drives were aided by Oregon mental errors; on USC’s opening touchdown drive, Deommodore Lenoir fell and was forced to trip Michael Pittman Jr. on 3rd-and-10 to prevent an easy score.
And on the drive in which Slovis led his team 74 yards in nine plays the Ducks nearly forced them to a field goal on 3rd-and-8 but a boneheaded hit by Isaac Slade-Matautia led to an unnecessary roughness call that extended the drive. Austin Faoliu also was removed from the game after back-to-back unsportsmanlike penalties got him ejected.
Only so much of the uptick in penalties can be blamed on the PAC-12 refs. Hopefully the bye week will give Cristobal some time to recollect his team’s discipline so we don’t have another game like this in which we had 12 penalties for 157 yards.
The Duck defense allowed a touchdown on the opening drive, but after that got progressively more ferocious. They forced a punt after the early score, and even after Herbert’s red zone turnover, the Duck D was able to hold them to a field goal.
Oregon’s defensive playmakers came alive in the second quarter: Verone Mckinley’s pick set up the Ducks’ first score, Drayton Carlberg sacked the quarterback on the Oregon 8 resulting in a fumble, and Brady Breeze’s 32-yard pick six was set up by Kayvon Thibodeaux reaching the arm of Slovis mid throw.
Deommodore Lenoir made an athletic interception to start the third quarter (though, to be honest, the refs somehow missed a pass interference on Brady Breeze that set up the pick) and once Oregon built a 42-17 lead Avalos was able to dial up the pressure and rattle the freshman quarterback.
Over the last couple of weeks, this defense has looked more like the bend-don’t-break defenses of Nick Aliotti, but with more beef in the trenches and talent overall. They currently rank first in the country with 17 interceptions, and just like the Duck teams that competed in National Championships, this offense is becoming spectacular at scoring on turnovers - just ask Clay Helton.
The road is still treacherous, but this Duck defense makes anything possible.
ALL-GANG GREEN TEAM
- Brady Breeze: 7 tackles - 3 solo - 1 INT
- Nick Pickett: 6 tackles - 3 solo
- Jevon Holland: 6 tackles - 3 solo
- Deommodore Lenoir: 5 tackles - 3 solo - 1 INT
- DJ Johnson: 5 tackles - 2 solo - 1 TFL - 1 sack
- Kayvon Thibodeaux: 4 tackles - 2 solo - 1.5 TFL - 1 sack - 1 PD
- Drayton Carlberg: 3 tackles - 2 solo - 2.5 TFL - 1 sack
- Verone McKinley III: 3 tackles - 1 solo - 1 INT