Lincoln Riley reiterated the same line he has uttered in the aftermath of losses over the last few weeks. USC is close.

The Trojans lost their fourth game in five outings Saturday night, falling 36-27 to the sixth-ranked Oregon Ducks on the road. USC covered against a team that had been bludgeoning opponents, if that’s any solace, but the score probably wasn’t all that indicative of the competitiveness of the game.

Oregon rolled early and jumped out to a 19-7 lead. Huge plays gashed the USC defense in the first quarter. Oregon scored touchdowns on each of its first three possessions and ballooned its lead to as large as 22 points in the fourth quarter.

The Ducks looked like the faster, more physical team. Riley was asked after the game if there was a gap between the two programs.

“We were the team sitting in the conference championship game last year and beating everybody other than Utah,” Riley said. (USC did not face Oregon.) “Tonight they were a deeper football team. I thought tonight they played better on the lines of scrimmage than we did. We threw some good shots in there but there are still some depth issues that showed up.

“They are probably a deeper roster than us right now, but also a much healthier roster than we are right now, too. I think that compounded a little bit.”

USC was without starting linebacker Eric Gentry. Nickelback Jaylin Smith and cornerback Ceyair Wright also missed the game. Corner Jacobe Covington didn’t play either. Riley said they had issues practicing throughout the week because of the injuries on defense.

Oregon sought out the secondary right away. Quarterback Bo Nix went deep to Tez Johnson on the second offensive play of the day for Oregon, resulting in a 77-yard touchdown.

On the third play of Oregon’s second drive, Nix hit Troy Franklin for 84 yards.

Oregon ended the day with a 19% explosive play rate and an average of 8.8 yards per play.

“Looking big-picture, we’ve gotta continue to make gains, we know that,” Riley said. “We gotta continue to address some of the areas within the program and within the roster that we’ve got to get better. We realize that.

“We’re not that far off. I mean, we’re not. We’ve got work to do, but that’s kind of big-picture right now. We got a big game coming up here against UCLA and we need to be ready to go.”