Ever-improving Oregon dismantles USC like few could have imagined
EUGENE, Ore. -- In the stands above the Oregon end zone, a lone Ducks fan held up a yellow posterboard sign that perfectly summed up what took place here Saturday night. "Welcome," it said, "To the Fall of Troy."
With three seconds left and the outcome long since decided, Oregon safety
"I haven't felt this good in a while," said Ward, a fifth-year senior. "We made a statement that 'SC does not have a lock on [the Pac-10] anymore. There's a new team, and we're coming to win."
The Ducks (7-1, 5-0 Pac-10) didn't necessarily wrap up a Pac-10 championship here, but they likely assured that the seven-time defending champion Trojans (6-2, 3-2) will not. They took the most remarkable step yet in their improbable rise from the ashes of an opening-night debacle at Boise State, racking up an astonishing 613 yards of offense against a program that's been a defensive juggernaut for much of this decade.
The Ducks ran for 391 yards against the nation's fifth-ranked rushing defense.
"They did everything they wanted to," said USC coach
Oregon had provided flashes of dominance the past several weeks, most recently a 43-19 win at Washington. And USC had certainly shown signs of shakiness, from its Sept. 19 loss to the Huskies to their second-half defensive lapses against Notre Dame and Oregon State. But few outside of the Ducks' locker room -- or at least outside the state of Oregon -- could have foreseen such thorough domination.
On the other hand,
After a miserable 135-yard night against Boise, Masoli, a preseason Heisman candidate, had seen his production gradually rise over the course of the season. Saturday night, he did his best
And Oregon's largely unsung defense, which continues to defy all reasonable expectations of even its own coaches, held the most talented offense it has yet faced to just 327 total yards.
"We just outworked them," said defensive tackle
It was a night for both schools' record books. Oregon had never previously exceeded the 40-point mark in 56 meetings with USC. The Trojans hadn't lost by 27 points in 12 years, hadn't allowed 613 yards since
"One game at a time -- it's a cliché, but it works," said Ward. "After that first week, we couldn't get any lower. Even after Boise, we weren't blowing people out. We barely beat Purdue. Utah came down to the last second. Every week we keep getting better. We haven't hit our limits."
Blount, a power back, was a 1,000-yard rusher last season. Oregon gained 613 yards Saturday without him. Imagine the possibilities with him.
Against the Trojans, the 5-foot-9, 180-pound James continually shook off tacklers and broke into the USC secondary. His diminutive frame and elusiveness may have reminded some of another notorious Trojans-killer, Oregon State's
"They did all the zone plays we'd practiced for," said Trojans safety
Mays, a four-year starter, called the loss the worst of his career, and understandably so. While the Trojans have lost seven conference games over the past four seasons, they've never experienced the pain of an opponent so thoroughly dominating them. USC's defense, which lost every full-time starter but Mays from last season, finally failed to fully reload. The Trojans have played in four straight Rose Bowls, but the Ducks are on course to take their place.
But before you go etching either team's fate in stone, remember that a similar event occurred here two years ago, when Dixon and the Ducks beat the injury-depleted Trojans 24-17 to move a game ahead of them in the Pac-10 standings. A "changing of the guard" appeared to be in store then, but Dixon tore his ACL the following week. Oregon wound up losing three straight, and USC landed back in the Rose Bowl.
This time, however, Oregon has a two-game lead. And scarily, the Ducks' best days still seem ahead of them.
"We are already getting ready for our next game [against Stanford]," said defensive end
Have mercy for the Cardinal if Oregon's meteoric progression continues.