Oregon vs. USC - Second Half Recap

During the Pete Carroll era, the road to the Pac-10 title has gone through USC. But by the end of the day, the Ducks have all but solidified their position as the favorite to run away with the conference championship, and maybe even much, much more.

In a game garnering a remarkable amount of national attention and discussion, today's matchup with USC was a make or break game for the Oregon Ducks. To proclaim the game as huge would be an understatement. With the spotlight squarely on the Ducks, a win over the Trojans could not only signal a changing of the guard in the Pac-10, but ensure Oregon's emergence on the national stage as well. Under the guidance of head coach Mike Bellotti, Oregon did just that and came away with an impressive and dominant 24-17 victory over the #12 USC Trojans.


After taking a 10-3 lead into halftime, Oregon knew full and well that the Trojans would not go down without a fight. On USC's first possession, QB Mark Sanchez led his Trojan team all the way down the field to tip the momentum back in favor of USC. Patrick Turner made several huge plays with big grabs of 22-yards, 21-yards, and the eventual touchdown strike of 9-yards to knot up the score.


The ensuing Oregon drive saw the Oregon offense move the ball swiftly down the field, but ended on an incomplete pass intended for Jaison Williams. Dixon picked up 15-yards on the ground on the drive while Jonathan Stewart hammered out 21-yards. After a 34-yard punt by Josh Syria pinned the Trojans all the way back at their own 5-yard line, a Stanley Havili fumble on 3rd-and-1 was recovered by Will Tukuafu giving the Ducks great field position at the USC 16-yard line.

After being stalled for no gain on first down, Jonathan Stewart took a handoff the next play and navigated his way around and through defenders for a 16-yard score.


With momentum clearly shifting back to the home team, the Trojans attempted to claw back. QB Mark Sanchez continued to connect with WR Patrick Turner, extending the drive on 3rd-and-13 by hitting Turner on a 19-yard reception. A Sanchez pass to Fred Davis for 11-yards and a Chauncey Washington 9-yard scamper marched the Trojans down to Oregon's 29-yard line. Free safety Matt Harper had different plans however. Harper stepped in front of a Sanchez pass for a critical interception when the Trojans were driving. Harper returned the ball 27-yards to the Oregon 42-yard line.


The next drive for the Ducks would once again reach paydirt. Jonathan Stewart moved the Ducks out past midfield to the USC 47-yard line on a 15-yard run. Dennis Dixon was then able to locate a wide open Aaron Pflugrad for a 17-yard catch and run moving Oregon down to the 30-yard line of USC. The Trojans were then called for a personal foul as USC defender Brian Cushing was caught for facemasking on Dixon. Under the nimble legs of Dixon, Oregon pounded their way down to the USC 1-yard line. Jonathan Stewart muscled his way into the endzone capping a statement drive for the Ducks.


Both Oregon and USC went three-and-out on their next two respective possessions. One assumption that always holds true, however, is that a Pete Carroll coached Trojan team may be down, but they always fight back. With 5:25 left in the game, it was crunch time for the Trojans who needed a score and quickly. That's exactly what they got. Sanchez hit WR Vidal Hazelton on receptions of 19-yards and 28-yards, and then connected with Turner for 24-yards to put the ball at the Oregon 14-yard line. Despite a pass interference penalty against Walter Thurmond III, WR David Ausberry was able to come down with the ball and two feet in the endzone for a Trojan touchdown. The drive not only produced points for USC, but took merely 48-seconds off the board.


Oregon's ensuing drive went three-and-out when Jaison Williams bobbled and dropped an easy first down catch that would have extended the drive. USC took the field with a potential game-tying possession. Any hopes the Trojans had of escaping from Autzen Stadium with a victory rested squarely on this final drive. USC seemingly moved the ball at will with time running down past the 1-minute mark on the scoreboard. With fans biting their nails, Sanchez continued to buy time in the pocket and find open receivers moving the ball all the way down to the Oregon 33-yard line on a Joe McKnight 10-yard catch and run. But the Oregon defense stiffened and had a huge, game saving play in store for the 59,277 in attendance. With pressure coming from both sides, Sanchez released a ball over the middle only to have today's player of the game, Matthew Harper, step in front once again for a game-ending interception.

----FINAL SCORE: OREGON 24, USC 17----

After dominating much of the second half, the Oregon Ducks were able to come away with a monumental victory despite the late game flurry by the USC Trojans. The Ducks, aided by a loud and boisterous home crowd at Autzen Stadium, came out fired up and ready to prove to the rest of the nation how good they really are. For pollsters, maybe there is another team besides USC on the West Coast. Today's game proved that. Oregon dominated the Trojans in almost every aspect of the game, including the ever-important turnover margin. USC's two interceptions and one lost fumble proved to be critical factors in the Duck's win.

Oregon finished the game with 339-yards of total offense to USC's 377, most of which came late in the game on the arm of Mark Sanchez. Sanchez finished the game going 26-42 for 277-yards through the air. Dixon finished 16-25 for 157-yards but added 76-yards on 17 carries on the ground, including a crucial touchdown run. Jonathan Stewart topped the 100-yard mark once again with 103-yards on 25 carries today. Ed Dickson ended the game as the Duck's leading receiver with 5 grabs for 69-yards. Player of the game honors fittingly went to senior Matthew Harper who's two interceptions saved the games for the #5 Oregon Ducks.

From a national standpoint, today's victory for Oregon is huge. With next week's giant matchup with undefeated Arizona State (barring a loss today to Cal), Oregon could slip its way potentially into the top three in the nation. Speculation aside, Coach Bellotti and the Ducks made a statement today defeating a USC team that is always tough and well coached. Oregon dominated the Trojans in all facets of the game and have now won three in a row after dropping an early game to then #6 Cal Bears. With the victory, Oregon improves to 7-1 on the year and 4-1 in Pac-10 play.

Oregon takes on the #4 Sun Devils of Arizona State next Saturday in Autzen Stadium with kickoff scheduled for a 3:45pm start.

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