3 takeaways from No. 6 Oregon's wire-to-wire win over USC
Oregon didn’t exactly put the hammer down on USC the way it looked like it would, but the Ducks led from start to finish in front of a raucous Autzen Stadium crowd on Saturday night and eliminated the Trojans from Pac-12 title contention with a 36-27 win.
The victory moved the sixth-ranked Ducks to 9-1 on the season. USC fell to 7-4.
Here are three takeaways from the game
Oregon jumps all over USC early
The atmosphere inside Autzen was absolutely electric. USC took a timeout before the third play from scrimmage, if that’s any indication of the kind of hostility facing the visitors. And it only grew as the first quarter moved along.
The Trojans first possession saw Caleb Williams brought down twice. (The first sack didn’t count.) When the Trojans punted away to Oregon and put its defense on the field for the first time since firing Alex Grinch, it took absolutely no time at all for Bo Nix and Tez Johnson to supercharge the crowd.
Johnson caught a ball at the Oregon 43, spun out of a high arm tackle, and raced for a 77-yard touchdown.
After USC answered the score with a touchdown drive of its own, Oregon scored again on its fifth offensive play — an 84-yard bomb to Troy Franklin.
Nix fired a 15-yard pass down the seam to Terrance Ferguson four minutes and 11 seconds into the second quarter and it looked like the Ducks were going to roll.
That didn’t end up being the case, but USC had the worst start possible. Given the Trojans’ defensive issues — which were all still present, by the way — they couldn’t afford to spot Oregon a 19-7 lead after 20 minutes. Repeated miscues fired up the Oregon crowd and let the Ducks play from the front.
Oregon scored points on its first four drives and went into the halftime break leading 22-14. The Ducks came out and began the third quarter with a 12-play, 85-yard drive that spanned almost seven minutes and ended with Nix finding Johnson all alone in the endzone for a 29-14 lead and USC just never recovered.
Fourth-quarter mistakes highlight the work left to do
Jackson Powers-Johnson snapped a ball into the dirt on second-and-7 in the fourth quarter. Bucky Irving just had to jump on the ball and try to make something out of nothing.
On third-and-13, Bo Nix hit Tez Johnson in the hands and the pass fell incomplete.
On fourth down, Camden Lewis pushed a 41-yard field goal wide right.
USC took over with 6:27 to play, trailing by 15.
Oregon could have administered the killshot on that drive. Instead, a pair of penalties on Steven Jones, a bad snap, a drop, and another special teams miscue from Lewis all did their part to keep USC off the mat.
Penalties continue to be an issue. Oregon was flagged 13 times for 120 yards.
Powers-Johnson had a bad snap earlier in the game as well, one that nearly led to a turnover. And that came on the heels of an errant snap last week in the Cal game that resulted in a scoop and score defensive touchdown the other way.
Lewis has now missed five of his 14 field goal attempts this year.
Oregon wants to prove it belongs in the College Football Playoff. It needs to iron out some things over these last two weeks to make that case as bulletproof as possible. Details are going to be a big focus of this upcoming doctor’s visit for the Ducks.
The ghost of Grinch
There was a pocket of fans who wondered if USC could move on from Alex Grinch, simplify the defensive approach, and actually catch Oregon off-guard with a strong defensive game. It wasn’t an absurd prospect; USC has decent talent at every level of the defense.
The reality was laid bare by Oregon. Firing the coordinator was only the start, not the fix. The bulk of the work still needs to be done.
USC gave up 9 yards a play to the Ducks. Bo Nix completed 23 of his 31 passes for 412 yards and four touchdowns. Bucky Irving ran for 118 yards and a touchdown. Tez Johnson (126, two scores) and Troy Franklin (147, one score) each had huge days receiving.
Oregon had absolutely no fear of the USC defense. It went for two after early touchdowns because why wouldn’t it? The Ducks knew they were going to keep scoring. The touchdown to Franklin came on a third-and-13 with USC playing so far off Franklin could have just sat at the marker and converted.
The Trojans still have communication issues in the secondary. They are constantly going too high for tackles and whiffing. They’re not big enough at the line. They’re not deep enough at any spot.
Oregon became the third consecutive opponent to top 500 yards of offense against USC. From a statistical standpoint, this defense might very well go down as the worst in recorded program history.