Ducks finishing strong but can't rewrite season
The No. 18 Ducks (8-3, 6-2 Pac-12) need to prepare for the regular-season finale, the annual Civil War against Oregon State, and then await word on where they'll go in the postseason. An eighth straight season with at least 10 wins is still within reach.
Oregon has won five in a row, but three losses this season - to Michigan St., Utah and surging Washington State - thwarted a consecutive Pac-12 North title. The Ducks took care of their end Saturday with a 48-28 victory over then-No. 22 USC, but Stanford won the Big Game against California to clinch the Pac-12 championship game berth and a shot at the Rose Bowl.
''We are where we are,'' receiver Bralon Addison said.
Adams threw for 407 yards and six touchdowns in the win, the most ever thrown against USC by an opposing quarterback. The senior transfer also shares the Oregon record for most touchdowns thrown in a game.
As a result, the Ducks jumped five spots in the AP Top 25.
Oregon's winning streak coincides with Adams' return from a finger injury on his throwing hand. He was hurt in the season opener against his former team, Eastern Washington, and he struggled - even donning gloves for the first time against the Spartans - before the Ducks shut him down.
''I honestly think that if Vernon's healthy all season, and our defense is healthy all season, I think we might be talking about a big-time playoff run right now,'' Addison said. ''But we can't worry about that.''
In the five games since he's been back, Adams has thrown for 300 or more yards and four or more quarterbacks in three games.
Adams was a record-breaking quarterback over three seasons for the Eagles before he transferred to Oregon for his final season of elegibility. There were high hopes that he'd pick up right where Heisman Trophy-winner Marcus Mariota left off.
Now healthy and able to show his abilities in the Pac-12, Adams is winning praise.
''Tremendous football player,'' said USC interim coach Clay Helton. ''We knew we would have to get him on the ground and we just didn't get him on the ground enough. Credit to him, I have a lot of respect for the young man.''
Said Stanford coach David Shaw: ''He's like improvisational jazz. It just starts, and you don't know where it's going to go.''
The Ducks will host struggling Oregon State (2-9, 0-8) in the annual Civil War rivalry game on Friday. The Beavers, rebuilding under first-year coach Gary Andersen this season, fell 52-7 to Washington on Saturday.
Huskies freshman quarterback Jake Browning threw for 211 yards and four touchdowns against the Beavers, who are looking at its worst season since they went 1-10 in 1995. Oregon hasn't gone winless in conference since 1997.
Given Browning's success, Adams should have no trouble in his first - and last - Civil War. Oregon State's pass defense is ranked 89th in the country, allowing an average of 246 yards a game.
''I'm just happy we're starting to get it together now,'' Addison said, ''and we'll continue to roll.''
Following the victory against USC, Adams was asked if he thought he would have played this well at the start of the season - if only he'd been healthy.
He was succinct.
''Yes,'' he said. ''Yes, sir.''