Oregon vs. USC - First Half Recap

As it has been the last few years, Oregon has not been able to get over the hump that is the USC Trojans. In the first half, an inspired Oregon team came out ready to play and ready to establish themselves as a dominant force in the Pac-10.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, the #12 USC Trojans traveled to a raucous Autzen Stadium to take on the #5 Oregon Ducks. Today's game has not only Pac-10 title implications, but national title implications as well. In front of a loud and inspired crowd, the Ducks came out with just as much passion hitting on all cylinders to take the lead into halftime.


The opening kickoff didn't bode well for the Oregon Ducks. An Andre Crenshaw fumble on the kickoff return silenced the crowd and put the Trojans in great field position at the Oregon 21-yard line. The defense, however, would respond. A swarming Oregon defense combined with a pass interference penalty backed the Trojan offense up. On 4th-and-1, the Ducks made a statement stuffing USC running back Joe McKnight on a reverse attempt for a one-yard loss and a critical turnover.

Oregon took over at their own 13-yard line and put together a decent drive under the direction of Dennis Dixon. Dixon used his speed and quickness to escape from USC defenders on several plays, chalking up big yardage on the ground. The drive was stalled as the heralded offensive line was beaten on a third-down play by Sedrick Ellis for a 3-yard sack of Dixon. The defense would reassert itself after a huge 4th down stop on the previous USC possession and force a three and out to get the Duck offense back on the field.

After moving the ball effectively the previous drive, the Oregon offense finally got on the scoreboard. Dixon and Stewart combined on several big runs to get all the way down to the USC 2-yard line. On a perfectly executed fake, Dixon fooled the defense and rather than handing the ball off to Jonathan Stewart, scampered into the endzone untouched for a 2-yard score.


The ensuing Trojan drive showed off the brilliance of true freshman running back Joe McKnight. He dazzled the Oregon defense as he bolted around and past defenders on a 63-yard touchdown run, but all for not. A USC holding penalty negated the touchdown run and brought the Trojans all the way back to their own 28-yard line.


Another special teams miscue gave the ball right back to the Trojans however. The punt caromed off the leg of Garren Strong during his block and USC capitalized by pouncing on the ball for the turnover. USC took advantage of the great field position and got themselves on the board with a David Buehler 30-yard field goal.


Two drives later, the Oregon offense again flexed its muscles. Using a pass interference penalty against the Trojans, the Ducks moved the ball deep into USC territory. Dixon and Jaison Williams weren't on the same page however as three straight passes fell harmlessly to the turf, two of which came as a result of miscommunication on the routes. Matt Evensen would connect on a 41-yard field goal to put the Ducks up a touchdown with 15-seconds to go before halftime.



At the half, Dixon's ability to escape under pressure and pick up yards on the ground proved key for the Ducks. Dixon led the Oregon offense with 11 carries for 54-yards, many of them coming on critical third-down plays. Despite USC's defense seemingly keying on Jonathan Stewart, he was still able to grind out 41-yards on 11 carries.

Dixon led the way with 133-yards passing, going 13-19 using several different targets. Ed Dickson established himself early on as a huge weapon for Dixon as they hooked up four times for 61-yards. Oregon's offense seeminly moved the ball at will for much of the first half, outgaining the Trojans with 224-yards of total offense to USC's 111-yards. At the half, Oregon went into the locker room 6 for 9 on third down conversions and despite two turnovers, a 10-3 lead over the vaunted USC Trojans.

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