Adams throws for 6 TDs and Oregon beats USC 48-28
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. had a bit of added inspiration Saturday against USC.
''I was a big USC fan growing up, being from that area,'' said the senior, who even has an interlocking S and C tattooed on his arm. ''It's an awesome feeling.''
Adams threw for 407 yards and six touchdowns - the most ever for an opposing quarterback against USC - and the No. 23 Ducks downed the No. 22 Trojans 48-28.
Adams' touchdowns tied him for the most thrown in a single game by an Oregon quarterback. And they each went to a different receiver.
''Honestly, I was trying to get everyone,'' he said with a smile.
The Ducks (8-3, 6-2 Pac-12) have not dropped a game since Adams returned from a finger injury he sustained in the season opener against Eastern Washington. It was the third game since coming back that he's thrown for 300 or more yards and at least four scores.
Royce Freeman rushed for 147 yards. He's now gone over 100 yards in seven straight games for the Ducks, who had to wait for the outcome of Saturday night's game between Stanford and California to see if they were still alive for the Pac-12 North title.
''Go Bears!'' defensive end DeForest Buckner said.
But it wasn't to be. The Cardinal defeated the Golden Bears 35-22 in the Big Game to clinch the North and earn a spot in the Pac-12 championship game.
The Trojans (7-4, 5-3) were still vying for a spot in the conference title game. Because of UCLA's 17-9 victory over No. 18 Utah on Saturday, the rivalry game between USC and the Bruins next week will decide the Pac-12 South.
Cody Kessler completed 30 of 41 passes for 248 yards and two scores for USC.
''They were getting pressure on me but at the end of the day, we've got to make our plays,'' Kessler said. ''It's on all of us.''
A Southern California native, Adams was intercepted in the end zone on Oregon's first possession of the game, but he hit Bralon Addison with a 48-yard touchdown pass on the next one.
USC evened the score on Kessler's 27-yard pass to Darreus Rogers. The Ducks scored on the first play from scrimmage on the ensuing drive on Evan Baylis' 52-yard catch from Adams.
Kessler's 12-yard TD pass to Tyler Petite evened it again. But the Trojans got a scare in the second quarter when receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster left the game after a non-contact injury.
Trainers taped Smith-Schuster's left ankle on the sideline and he returned. The sophomore, who now has 68 catches for 1,217 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season after catching five for 57 yards on Saturday, was named one of the 10 semifinalists for the Biletnikoff Award for the nation's top receiver this week.
Oregon pulled back ahead on Adams' 37-yard scoring pass to Darren Carrington, then padded the lead with a 30-yard TD pass to Kani Benoit. The Ducks closed out the first half with Aidan Schneider's 37-yard field goal for a 31-14 lead.
Adams had 313 yards passing and four touchdowns in the first half alone, his third game with as many yards and TDs since returning from a broken index finger. The senior transfer was hurt in the opener against his former school, Eastern Washington, then struggled until Oregon shut him down for a couple of games to heal.
Last weekend in Oregon's 38-36 victory at Stanford, Adams threw for 205 yards and two touchdowns, and the Ducks all but spoiled the Cardinal's shot at playoff spot.
''He's more smooth,'' Addison said of Adams' ever-improving play. ''He's not as rushed and he's making his throws. He's more comfortable.''
Adams hit Dwayne Stanford with a 21-yard TD pass early in the third quarter, but USC closed the gap with consecutive touchdowns: Ronald Jones' 12-yard rush and Adoree Jackson's 41-yard punt return.
But Adams then found two-way player Charles Nelson in the end zone with a 26-yard pass and the Ducks pushed their lead to 45-28. Schneider added a 22-yard field goal to cap it.
The loss dropped USC to 4-2 under interim coach Clay Helton, who took over at Southern California after the dismissal of Steve Sarkisian.
Helton praised Adams.
''Tremendous football player. We knew we would have to get him on the ground and we just didn't get him on the ground enough,'' Helton said. ''Credit to him, I have a lot of respect for the young man.''
The two teams hadn't met since 2012, when the Ducks won 62-51 in Los Angeles.
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org